The human body is stunningly complex and amazing. Among its countless functions are regulating and maintaining a steady core temperature of around 37°C (98.6°F).
Whenever you expose your body to either cold or heat, its tightly regulated temperature control system makes sure to maintain its core temperature to keep your vital organs functioning.
As any other action performed by the body, this burns additional energy, a.k.a, calories.
The question for those interested in weight loss is: how many calories does the body burn when exposed to heat compared to cold? Is there a significant difference?
Since we’re not all the same, there is no definite answer to this question.
Experts over at American Sports and Fitness suggest that cold temperatures are better for enhancing weight loss because brisk temperatures trigger thermogenic response resulting in higher energy demands.
On the other hand, there are some studies showing that heat is better for weight loss for two main reasons :
- You are burning additional calories just like with cold exposure
- You’re also less hungry.
The second item on the list is what typically happens in the heat, people’s appetite decreases. This doesn’t generally happen with cold exposure.
However, cold exposure has an advantage of its own—brown fat.
What is brown fat, you ask?
Brown fat is a specific type of fat tissue, created by your body when exposed to cold temperatures.
The more often you expose yourself to cold, such as through cold showers, you can expect more brown fat to be created by your body. 
Brown fat is healthy. It’s not associated with obesity. The problem is white fat, which accumulates the most and is hard to get rid of. 
Your body uses brown fat for stable energy and burning calories, unlike white fat. Brown fat creates heat in your body without shivering, which is known as thermogenesis.
When you exercise, you convert the stubborn, hard-to-get-rid-of white fat to brown fat. 
Based on my analysis and personal anecdotes, I find cold exposure to be a more effective, safer, and healthier weight loss aid.
As long as you’re smart about it (not taking it to an extreme, we’ll be talking more about that below), it should be highly effective at:
- Making your metabolism burn more fat as it works to heat your body
- Turning white fat cells into brown fat which is more metabolically active
Exercising in Cold vs Heat
Another advantage of cold exposure for weight loss is there’s less health risk, especially when exercising.
Solely exposing yourself to cold or heat can be good for weight loss if you’re a generally healthy person or if approved by your MD. However, when you add exercise to the equation under heat, it elevates health risks.
Heat exposure can be beneficial for weight loss for a limited amount of time, but overdoing it can lead to heat exhaustion, dehydration, and in more severe cases, heat stroke.
Don’t exercise in temperatures higher than 29 degrees Celsius (about 85°F), the risk is simply not worth the few extra calories you’ll burn. There are many more healthier and more efficient ways of burning more calories in less time.
- Moellering DR, Smith DL Jr. Ambient Temperature and Obesity. Curr Obes Rep. 2012 Mar 1;1(1):26-34. doi: 10.1007/s13679-011-0002-7. PMID: 24707450; PMCID: PMC3975627.