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THE DEBATE: Does wearing a sweater to workout help you burn more calories?

Posted Apr 06 2012 8:57am

HOW THE DEBATE STARTED:

So yesterday on Facebook, we had a bit of a heated discussion over a picture I posted of my sweaty self in a hoodie. My caption said “Workout w a sweater on. Sweat more. Burn more calories in the same amt of time.”

The statement caused some uproar and I understand why. I know you read it as “If you sweat more it means you are burning more calories.” Okay, misleading. What I should have said is “Wear a sweater to workout to increase your heart rate and burn more calories in the same amt of time.” I was typing this quickly on my iPhone just as I got off of the crosstrainer. Then we got people saying that this was unhealthy because I am just dehydrating myself which will make me just lose water weight not fat.

THE FACTS:

Yes, sweat = water loss not fat loss.

Yes, I am “dehydrating myself” but not to the point of unhealthiness. I have a water bottle with me, so that’s not a problem.

Yes, I am burning more calories than I would if I were not wearing a sweater.

EVIDENCE ON BOTH SIDES:

I spent about 2 hours researching this to make sure I did the topic justice in this post. I found evidence on both sides. Here’s the interesting thing – when I typed in “wear sweatshirt to gym to burn more calories” I got all of these FALSE or MYTH type articles. Then when I typed in “working out in warm vs. cold conditions” I got a 50/50 debate. Some said yes you burn more calories when it’s hotter because your body is under stress and needs to cool itself down. The people on the other side said that you should just workout in a freezer because the involuntary shivering makes you burn even more calories than in hot weather. [AceFitness]

Okay people.

Let’s talk about the REALITY of this all.

The truth of the matter is that you will never workout in a freezer. If you live in a snowy place and go running outside, you’re already going to bundle up a little to regulate your body temperature anyway. So don’t go running around in a bikini in the snow to shiver your fat off. Trust me, that workout aint gonna last very long. Shivering is not how you want to burn calories even though it can burn about 400 calories per hour! The reaction depletes glycogen stores and leaves you feeling fatigued!  [AceFitness]

Andddd! Even if you were working out in a freezer (hopefully not as cold as Antartica), you’d be able to warm yourself up somewhat so that you would be naturally regulating your body temperature after several minutes of a warm up.

If you’re in a warm environment, whether it’s heat from the sun or heat from wearing a sweatshirt, the body’s natural reaction is increased heart rate and increased blood circulation in an effort to maintain body temperature. The faster your heart beats, the more energy is required, and therefore more calories are burned than if you were not wearing a sweater. [Livestrong][SHAPE]

It all boils down to body temperature regulation. If it’s too hot or too cold, your body has to work a little harder to bring it back down/up to a comfortable temp. That’s it. Extra work = extra calories burned. You may or may not sweat. That’s up to an individual’s ability to create sweat in such situations. Some people sweat when they eat chili peppers (my dad) and some people don’t even sweat after they run (me).

Read this from Dr.Mirkin.com ,

Do You Burn More Calories in Hot or Cold Weather?

You burn fewer calories when you exercise in cold weather than you do when it’s hot. The hotter it is, the more extra work your heart has to do to prevent you from overheating. More than 70 percent of the energy produced by your muscles during exercise is lost as heat. So the harder you exercise, the hotter your muscles become. In hot weather, not only must your heart pump extra blood to bring oxygen to your muscles, it must also pump hot blood from your heated muscles to your skin where heat can be dissipated.

On the other hand, in cold weather, your heart only has to pump blood to your muscles and very little extra blood to your skin to dissipate heat. Your muscles produce so much heat during exercise that your body does not need to produce more heat to keep you warm. So your heart works harder and you burn more calories in hot weather. This information should not discourage you from exercising when it’s cold, because staying in shape is a year-round proposition. However, it may help to explain why so many people find the pounds creeping on in the wintertime, even when they stay active.  [DrMirkin]

And now some quick Q&A if you got lost in all of that.

SO IS IT SAFE TO WEAR A SWEATER TO WORKOUT?

In my opinion, yes, I think so (but ask your doctor, don’t take my word for it!) – the bad stuff only happens at extremes. I mean, really, who wears a sauna suit to workout. First of all, that’s just weird-looking. And THAT could really heat you up to a point of exhaustion because of how quickly the heat will build up and stay. Wearing a cotton blend sweater? It’s breathable and it creates a little extra heat that is BEARABLE. If it gets to a point where you feel like it’s affecting the intensity of your workout then take it off! Wearing a sweater will increase your heart rate and therefore make you burn some more calories, who knows by how much, get a heart rate monitor and see for yourself. But again, if you find that while wearing a sweating you have to run for only 20 minutes instead of 30 then don’t do it. I’d rather you increase your duration and feel comfortable. At the end of the day, an enjoyable workout is a sustainable one, and one you will stick to.

DOES WORKING OUT IN A SWEATER HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT?

Hopefully you can answer this question by now. If you’re sweating a ton, then YES!!! You lost weight! Lots of water weight.

DOES WORKING OUT IN A SWEATER HELP YOU LOSE FAT?

If you normally do the elliptical for 45 min in a tank and then you try doing the elliptical in a sweater the next time, at the same intensity, then your heart rate will be increased, which means you’re expending more energy, meaning you’re burning more calories. Whether you’re burning fat or not is kind of dependent on what you had to eat before. If you ate a carb and sugar filled banana then you might just be burning off the calories from that!

DOES WORKING OUT IN A SWEATER HELP YOU BURN MORE CALORIES?

Compared to the same workout (same intensity and duration) without a sweater, yes!

HOW MANY MORE CALORIES DOES WORKING OUT IN A SWEATER BURN?

I can’t answer this for you. But according the studies, it is not THAT much. Get a heart rate monitor and run your own experiement. But the consensus is that YES more cals are burned.

SHOULD YOU WORKOUT WITH A SWEATER?

Up to you. If you’re in a crunch time situation where every pound matters like getting ready for a bikini contest or a weigh-in as a wrestler, then use this method. If not, then don’t bother if it affects your duration, intensity, and most importantly, happiness, during the workout.

PHEW!

Hope that makes sense. Now I would like to hear what you have to say on this! Please post any journal articles or links to stuff saying otherwise if you don’t agree.

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