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Showing posts with label Calorie Myths. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Calorie Myths. Show all posts

How do Cold Showers Burn Calories?

Cold showers don't directly burn calories, obviously, but there is an indirect causal effect that leads to the burning of calories.

If you read the old blog post Cold Showers Burn Calories we go into the reasons why a little bit, but it is past time that we explain in more detail.

When exposed to cold temperatures, the body triggers thermogenesis, a process in which it generates heat to maintain its core temperature. This thermogenesis can be achieved through two main mechanisms:


When the body experiences cold, shivering is one way it generates heat. Shivering involves rapid muscle contractions that generate heat as a byproduct. While shivering may slightly increase calorie expenditure, the overall impact on weight loss is minimal.

Brown fat activation

Cold exposure may activate a type of fat tissue called brown adipose tissue (BAT) or brown fat. Unlike white fat, which stores energy, brown fat is specialized in generating heat through a process called thermogenesis. The activation of brown fat is associated with increased energy expenditure, as it burns calories to produce heat. However, the amount of brown fat in adults is relatively small compared to other tissues, and its overall contribution to calorie burning is not yet fully understood.

The amount of fat/calories that gets burned per shower isn't a lot, although it does vary upon the size of the person, and the cumulative effect of daily cold showers over the course of a year is actually significant.

How many calories are burned?

Honestly, it varies upon the person, how cold the water is, and what methods people use to try and calculate the amount of calories burned.

Here's a conservative estimate of how many calories are burned:

The additional calories burned during a 10-minute cold shower for a 100 kg person would range approximately from 20 to 30 calories. So roughly 25 calories.

It isn't a lot, but if the person had daily showers over the course of a year then they would burn roughly 2 to 3 extra pounds of fat per year.

Over a 10 year period that could be a difference of 20 to 30 lbs.

But remember that is a conservative estimate for a person who weighs 100 kg (220 lbs).

There's also an argument that a thin person would actually burn more calories in a cold shower than an overweight person, because they have less body fat to insulate themselves from the cold. So the number of calories being burned could be inversely connected the percentage of body fat a person has.

Thus someone who weighs perhaps 50 kg (110 lbs) with only 12.5% body fat might actually be burning two or more times the amount of fat by having cold showers than someone who weighs 100 kg (and has perhaps 25% body fat or more) because they are more easily made colder due to a comparative lack of insulation. Thus people who are already thin could potentially prevent themselves from gaining weight by having cold showers regularly.

But it also means that someone who is losing weight would encounter a case of "increasing caloric burn" as they continue to shed body fat, thus seeing a gradual acceleration of weight loss over the long term.


Cold Showers + Healthy Diet + Exercise = Pretty much guaranteed to lose a lot of weight quickly, and over the long term see the health benefits. The real trick in that situation is to stay motivated. Not everyone wants to have cold showers ever day, eat healthy all the time, and exercise daily.

So what you really need is cheat days:

That 1 day of the week where you allow yourself (as a treat) to have a hot shower.

A high carbs day where you're allowed to eat as much as you want.

A day of relaxation when you can just chill and don't have to exercise.

Having cheat days, combined with tracking your weight/counting calories, are just two ways to stay motivated and keep going.

Dieting - How much dieting is actually necessary to achieve results?



I have noticed in the past that sometimes people don't actually diet or exercise that much and yet still manage to shed the pounds they were looking to shed. What are they doing differently? How much dieting [or exercising] is actually necessary to achieve results?

- Vanessa R."


Hello Vanessa!

Honestly, it varies with the person obviously, but the quick and easy answer is "not that much".

People can sometimes achieve amazing results just by reducing their caloric intake to the recommended amount for their body type (if they were over eating this will be more difficult for them to do because they will get cravings for their favourite foods) and combining their new "reasonable and balanced diet" with an exercise routine - something simple like jogging for 30 minutes every day or doing yoga for 30 minutes, or swimming, bicycling, or any kind of cardio activity.

30 minutes out of every day is a tiny portion of the 1,440 minutes a person has available in a day - we use 480 minutes just for sleeping. 30 minutes is only 2% of your day, but that 2% can make amazing differences if you use it for exercising.

For food it is all about calories in and calories out. The average female only needs approx. 1800 calories per day, and the average male only needs about 2000 calories per day. The exact number a person needs varies with their body type and their level of physical activity, which is usually based on their occupation. Athletes for example often consume 2500 to 3000 calories per day because they need the extra energy. But for the Average Joe, those numbers are unnecessary extra calories.

Unfortunately many people often eat out at restaurants, order pizzas, snack on junk food, etc - and their diet might be closer to 3,000 to 4,000 calories per day.

Let's pretend you're a man who we will call Average Joe who only needs 2,000 calories per day. At his normal weight he weighs 170 lbs.

But Joe likes eating junk food regularly and consumes closer to 2,100 calories per day, but he is only burning 2,000 calories per day during his daily activities.

Now here is the important part: 1 lb of fat is 3,500 calories.

Ergo if Joe keeps eating an extra 100 calories per day he will gain 1 pound every 35 days. He would gain roughly 11 lbs of fat in a year - and possibly start developing health problems if he does this over many years without changing his routine. In a single year (plus overeating during Xmas) he might go from 170 lbs to 185 lbs.

But lets pretend that Average Joe decided he wanted to reverse the process. By going on a healthy diet, and only eating 2,000 calories per day.

Joe's weight would then stabilize and stop going up. He would stay at 185.

Now he could try reducing his diet to 1,900 calories (or lower, which is problematic for your health if you go below 1,500) and would lose weight doing that (some of that would be muscle mass however, due to a loss of protein in his diet).

A better solution for Joe is to maintain that 2,000 calories / day routine - but ADD more exercise to his routine.

So for example if Joe weighed 185 lbs and then got into cycling and cycled 6 miles (or 10 km) every day then he would burn approx. 350 calories each time. (Note: It takes approx. 25 to 30 minutes to cycle that far at a leisurely pace - it isn't even cycling that fast.)

At 350 calories per day Joe would lose 1 lb (3500 calories) every ten days.

Which means Joe could be back at being 170 lb "Average Joe" in only 150 days.

And have more muscular legs to show for it. So truth be told he might actually be closer to 175 lbs, because he might put on 5 lbs of muscle (or more).

Note also that Joe could have also just skipped the diet and gone straight to cycling. At 2,100 calories - 350 calories, Joe would be losing 250 per day. Or 1 lb every 14 days. Thus it would take him longer to lose the weight, but he would eventually achieve his results (and still be able to enjoy the snacks he loves).

Eventually Joe would reach his goal and then would actually need to either decrease his cycling or increase his eating habits to balance his exercise activities with his diet. Preferably with healthier food so he puts on more muscle.

He might even add weightlifting to his exercise routine later - becoming a cycling and weightlifting aficionado. No longer is he "Average Joe". He would become "Hunky Joe".

So yes, back to Vanessa's question, people can make dramatic changes with relatively minor (but permanent) changes to their diet and exercise routine. It is really just a matter of math. Calories in vs calories out.

Note - The guy in the photo below is just a model. His legs are too skinny to be a cyclist.

Understanding Weight Fluctuations

When it comes to dieting and exercising a person's weight is going to fluctuate dramatically from day to day. Weight fluctuations can be frustrating if you don't understand why it is happening, and why you sometimes seem to be going in the opposite direction.

A common myth is that exercise always equals weight loss. Except it is not always true. Often exercise equals muscle gain, which means weight gain. You might also be losing fat too, but it will be confusing as to how much muscle you are gaining and fat you are losing.

During a strict diet where a person is consuming less calories than their needs but still using the same amount of calories for their daily activities you will see constant weight loss as the body consumes fat stores to make up the difference. (During such a diet it is recommended they eat a fair bit of lean protein and supplement their diet with weightlifting in order to maintain muscle tone.)

During a less strict diet wherein a person doesn't know how many calories they are consuming then they might sometimes be eating more than they actually need and see combinations of weight loss on some days and weight gain on other days.

Note - Remember to weigh yourself in the morning before breakfast to get more accurate results. If you eat a meal, especially a large meal, weight measurements will give you an inaccurate glimpse of your true weight.

Large meals, extra water retention, binge eating are some of the biggest contributors to weight fluctuations, but there are other factors as well such as:

#1. Muscle Gain - Muscle weighs more than fat so even a little muscle gain can result in overall weight gain. This frequently happens when people are exercising, as people often gain muscle faster than they lose fat due to a combination of factors. Learn more by reading How Fast Can You Grow Muscle?

#2. Muscle Loss - It is common for people on fad diets to also lose muscle due to a lack of protein, vitamins and minerals in their diet. This can create a false sense of fat loss because your scales don't know whether you are losing muscle or losing fat. Often people gain the weight back after they quit the diet because their muscle weight can regrow at a faster weight due to muscle memory. See also Two Alternative Models for Predicting Muscle Growth.

#3. Inaccurate Scales - We've all done it at some point. We stepped on the scales and got a reading that was hugely inaccurate. To remedy this step off the scales and step on again to see if it gives the same results twice. You may need to double check 3 or 4 times to get a truly accurate reading. Electronic scales often need to recalibrate if they have been stored sideways, haven't been used for a long time, etc. Thus you need to give it some time to recalibrate.

Personal Note: I have to this myself often because I store my electronic scale sideways so whenever I plop it on the floor to check my weight I have to first wait for it to recalibrate by stepping on and off it a couple times and then finally getting an accurate reading.

Another possibility is that you have an old set of scales that uses a tension spring to measure weight, and the spring is old and worn out (and losing tension). Best option is to recycle it and buy a new set of scales.

If you have access to an old fashioned scale like the one below then absolutely use it. That is the kind of scale used by doctors because they are the most accurate.

#4. Too Much Salt / Sodium - Eating too much salt / sodium causes your body to retain more water and also more fat. Simply cutting all your salty foods from your diet can cause a sudden shift towards weight loss and fat loss. Eat more veggies and less salty foods and you can see a dramatic change. A constant over abundance of salty foods will cause your body to store more fat on a daily basis.

#5. Constipation - Nothing a quick laxative wouldn't fix. Otherwise try eating more foods that are high in fibre. Having a good bowel movement on a daily basis is definitely a good thing. Try to weigh yourself AFTER you've had a bowel movement and before you eat breakfast.

#6. Hormonal Changes - Women and men both suffer from monthly hormonal changes that can cause their weight to fluctuate. Hormonal levels can even be effected by your mood, as feelings of depression cause various hormones to be released which causes weight gain. In contrast feelings of happiness and contentment cause hormones which induce weight loss.


#1. Don't weigh yourself every day. Instead pick a day (eg. Tuesday) and always weigh yourself on that day after your morning bowel movement and before breakfast.

#2. Keep track of your weight fluctuations from week to week by tracking them on a piece of paper that you keep near your scales.

#3. Avoid large meals, parties where you might overeat, binge eating, etc the day before you weigh yourself. Also avoid salty foods, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, sugary treats and anything else you know is bad for you.

#4. Drink more water to bring your sodium levels down. Water also helps remove contaminants in your system from toxins, as water acts a natural detoxifier. Other natural detoxifiers include lemon juice, green tea, broccoli (although many other vegetables also work wonders), dandelion tea, fresh cranberry juice. Learn more about lowering your toxin levels.


A better way to judge your true weight is to look at how well your clothes fit. If your clothes feel roomier or baggier, then you've lost weight.

If possible try to also get monthly measurements of your body fat. This will give you a percentage of your total weight which is fat and a better idea of whether you are losing or gaining based on the percentage.

Try using fat calipers.

An old fashioned route is to use a tape measure. The tape measure will be less accurate around your middle (as you might gain muscle there if you are doing abdominal exercises) so I recommend also measuring your hips (as your body often stores fat in your buttocks instead) and keeping track of both your waist and hips measurements.

Do Hot Saunas burn Fat? Myth Busting


It is true that people lose weight while in the sauna. But it mostly water weight and sodium, which your body quickly replenishes when you drink water and eat anything with salt in it.

Sweating, by itself, does not burn fat. It doesn't even burn calories.

It is true that many people exercise, their muscles overheat, and they get very sweaty because their bodies releases sweat in an effort to cool them down.

The problem however is that excessive sweating can lead to dehydration, heat stroke - and even death. What happens is once a person sweats out a lot of their water reserves they have so little water left in their system that if they overheat they will start to feel the effects of heat stroke. Mild heat stroke causes confusion, headaches, dizziness. Severe heat stroke can cause a person to faint, and if left untreated it can kill them.

The problem with saunas is that due to the heat and humidity sweating doesn't actually cool the person down. So a person can overheat in a sauna very easily - and fainting is not uncommon.

All of this is exacerbated by the myth that people can lose weight by sweating a lot in the sauna. Sweating doesn't burn fat. It removes water and sodium ( and it is good for the pores ), which the body quickly replenishes later when you drink and eat - often causing the dehydrated person to over-drink and over-eat.

The Benefits of Saunas

- Good for cleaning the pores.

- Kills bacteria (the sweat kills bacteria on the skin).

-  Sweat flushes away toxic metals from the skin.

- A good way to heat up after being outside in the winter.

But burning fat is not one of the benefits.

Nutrition is More Important than Exercise

Not long after I became certified as a personal trainer in Toronto I began to wonder if I should have been a nutritionist instead.

If you read the title of this post you've probably guessed why.

Its because nutrition plays a huge role in whatever fitness goal you are attempting to achieve. Some estimate that the role is as high as 90% nutrition / 10% exercise. And the reason is because without proper nutrition, regardless of whether your goal is weight loss or muscle gain, you won't reach your goal anywhere as quickly as you would if you were eating properly for that specific goal.

So for example if your goal is weight loss then you want to cut back on carbs and sugars, avoid toxins entirely, and you want to limit your diet to approx 1800 to 2000 calories daily while taking in lots of vitamins, nutrients, minerals, protein and fibre.

If your goal was muscle gain you would want to do the same thing, but up the percentage of protein (possibly by using supplements) in an effort to match your weightlifting regimen.

Now you might think its possible to achieve great results without changing your diet. And depending on your current diet, that might be possible, except most people in North America probably eat a lot more calories than they realize. Try counting all your calories for a week and keeping a daily record and you would get a better idea of what you are really eating.

Lets say for example you had two twins named Jeff and Greg and they both do weight lifting and exercise the same amount daily.

Jeff eats healthy, gets lots of veggies and makes certain he is getting enough protein for his weightlifting regimen by drinking 3 raw eggs every morning Rocky Balboa style.

Greg meanwhile eats lots of greasy food. He is still getting some protein, but comparatively little, and his intake of nutrients / minerals from fruits and veggies is almost non-existent.

Which one do you think will get the most muscle gain and which one do you think will have some belly flab? The answer is pretty obvious.

Here's another anecdote, this time for weight loss.

I know a colleague who is also in the fitness industry. She lost 45 lbs back in 2004 by making some drastic changes to her diet and coupled that with running 3 - 4 times per week.

She later became a personal trainer here in Toronto, and took up weight lifting and a variety of other exercise activities to stay in shape, but her initial weight loss she credits completely to the lifestyle change with respect to her diet. She admits the running helped, but it was the dietary change that made the big difference.

Lets stop and calculate how many calories she was consuming and burning while running.

Before she changed her lifestyle she had a yo-yo diet and when she wasn't on the latest fad diet she was consuming 2500 to 3000 calories per day. So lets average that out to 2750. So by changing her diet to 2000 calories per day she cut out 750 calories per day and stabilized her diet. Thanks to that change she prevented herself from gaining 1.5 lbs per week.

Next she started off weighing 185 lbs and ended up at 140. So her average weight during that training period was 162.5. So if I feed that into a calorie calculator and estimate that she did an average of 5 km in an hour each time she ran then she burned an average 382 calories per run.

And if she did that 3.5 times per week she burned 1337 calories per week... which is a little over one third of a lb.

Now imagine if she had NOT changed her diet and was still eating an extra 5250 calories per week. Even with all her running she still would have been gaining weight because she hadn't changed her diet.

By changing her diet she cut out a lot of extra unneeded calories and began a fat burning process.

In her own words:

"I had not done any weightlifting yet and the idea of doing physical activities for fun still had not registered in my brain. In retrospect I can guarantee that it was not all the running that helped me to shed all of that weight in under a year. It was changing my diet and my lifestyle!"

Research now supports that nutrition plays a much larger factor in weight loss success. Don't get me wrong, exercise is certainly necessary and important and speeds up the process. And exercise will help you to tone up so that when you lose weight your skin will be tighter and not loose or saggy. Not to mention, you won't get a hard-body or six pack by nutrition alone!

So far in my career as a personal trainer I have found that many people not only underestimate how much they eat, but don't have a good handle on food quality. The  real trick to eating really healthy is to make the most out of your daily caloric intake by looking for foods that are highly nutritious - or making more nutritious choices even when choosing a tasty snack. It's a huge difference in both the quality and the quantity of food, and thus creates a better overall nutritional profile.

If you're having trouble shedding weight through your exercise regimen, the answer to your weight loss problem may be rooted in the nutritional choices. The extra calories you are consuming are holding you back from your dreams.

It only take 21 days to make a new habit, so changing your lifestyle doesn't really take that long to change.

Walking Burns more Calories than you think

It might surprise you but the simple act of walking daily burns quite a few calories.
Exercise & Calories Burned per Hour
130 lbs
155 lbs
180 lbs
205 lbs
Walking 2.0 mph, slow
Walking 2.5 mph
Walking 3.0 mph, moderate
Walking 3.5 mph, brisk pace
Walking 3.5 mph, uphill
Walking 4.0 mph, very brisk
Walking 4.5 mph
Walking 5.0 mph

However it is very silly when you realize that most people don't think of walking as a good exercise. Mostly I think because its not as quick as jogging or running, but if you read the chart above you will see that if you just walk briskly or almost jogging then you can burn quite a few calories in a single hour.

Part of the problem is that people do it everyday and it seems so easy... But for those of you looking to get the most out of your walks here are tips to step up your walk to make it a highly beneficial cardiovascular exercise:

1. Walk Faster

It seems like a no brainer but a fast walk really makes a difference. You're walking fast enough when the breath increases and the heart rate is elevated. You should feel like you're exercising!

2. Move your arms / Power Walking

Those speed walkers are not just swinging their arms to look determined. Pumping the arms brings more blood to the heart and therefore, offers more cardiovascular benefits.

3. Do Intervals

Just like a run. Speed walk super fast for a couple of minutes and then do a minute at a less intense pace for recovery. Here is a sample timing:

Fast Walk 4 minutes, Slower Walk 2 minutes. Repeat 10 times for 1 hour.

4. Walk Often

One or two walks a week is better than nothing but for results aim for 4 to 5 one-hour walks per week.

5. Eat like any other activity

Walking requires fuel. Eat a good meal before and take in food for recovery afterward.

6. Get a Walking Stick for Hiking

If hiking in the woods get a walking stick so that you are moving your arms more while you walk. It will also benefit your back and core muscles.

Follow these tips and pump of your walking regimen for a non-impact, healthy and result-promoting exercise.

The Fat-Burning Zone Myth

You may have heard that if you go over a certain heart rate while doing cardio or aerobic exercises that you do not burn fat.

This is however an urban myth. It is one of those misconceptions that should be put to rest once and for all when it comes to fat burning aerobic exercises. The idea got its start in the mid 1990s when scientists reported that during high-intensity fat burning aerobic exercises, the body burned mostly stored carbohydrates for fuel, as opposed to burning stored fat as it did during lower-intensity activity.

The key word is 'mostly'.

Unfortunately a few unintelligent exercise instructors took the news and ran with it, encouraging people to pay for low-intensity "fat-burning" classes... classes that ultimately didn't help people much.

It is true that the body burns a higher percentage of calories from fat during more mellow exercise like walking and easy cycling... but the actual number of calories is very little.

When you pick up the pace for a higher-intensity cardio workout you burn a greater number of overall calories of both stored fat and stored carbs... and thus burned much more fat period.

For example, say a 140-pound woman performs either a fairly easy walk or a high-intensity jog. After 1 hour, she would have burned the following in total and fat calories:

Walk = 200 calories (75% fat for a total of 150 calories of fat)

Jog = 300 calories (60% fat for a total of 180 calories of fat)

Thus the higher intensity workout always burns more fat. Its really the result of your body drawing upon all available reserves to get as much energy to the muscles as it can.

NOTE! High-intensity aerobic exercises kick your metabolism into high gear even after you're done working out. That means that even after you stop exercising you are stilling burning calories because your blood is being pumped faster for a longer period in an effort to heal muscle tissue.

"When you exercise vigorously, you get a robust hormonal change, which causes your body to burn more fat during your recovery time," says Janet Walberg Rankin, PhD, professor of nutrition at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg. Your metabolism also stays revved up five times longer after a vigorous workout than after an easy one. Over time, this can add up to burning an additional 100 to more than 200 calories a day.

High-intensity exercises are difficult to sustain, especially if you're just starting out. But practice makes perfect and you can build up more intensity and duration as you get better at it.

The easiest way to infuse intensity into your existing routine is to start adding 5 minutes of higher intensity exercises to whatever you are doing.
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