Do you burn more calories running in the heat? We explain

Exercising in the heat has its positives and negatives.

Exercising in the heat has its positives and negatives. Photo: Getty

It’s a question many of us are likely to ponder over the holiday period: do you burn more calories exercising in the heat?

After all, we’re likely to be indulging a little bit more at this time of year, particularly when it comes to functions and Christmas lunches.

So, needing to burn a few more calories, the news is good news.

Put simply, yes, you do burn more calories – and fat – when running in the heat.

Why? It’s all about the sweat factor.

In short, to help regulate its temperature, your body usually sweats more when working out in hot conditions.

And, the more you sweat, the harder your heart – and body – work to pump blood to the surface of your skin to keep you cool.

What’s more, according to the Australian Institute of Sport [AIS], men sweat more than women, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that women do a better job of regulating their body temperature than men.

In fact, because women sweat less – they might not burn as many calories as men, plus it means there’s less opportunity for the body to expel heat.

This means women might need to do more than simply hydrate to cope with running in the heat. The AIS suggested: “sponging the body with cool water, wearing clothes that do not hold heat and if all else fails, reducing exercise intensity”.

Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA), added you are also likely to sweat more if:

  • You are on the larger side;
  • Temperatures are hot and humid;
  • Your exercise intensity increases; and
  • Fitter runners generally start to sweat sooner.

While running in the heat might sound like a simple way to drop a few buckets of sweat and therefore kilos on the track, it is a pursuit that should be carried out with caution.


Be careful when running long distances in the heat and take breaks when you need. Photo: Getty

If your core temperature gets too hot, you might begin to experience fatigue, weakness, dizziness, nausea and muscle cramps.

These could be signs of dehydration and, worse, heat stroke.

The risks? For some people, this can be life threatening.

If you do experience any of these symptoms, you should stop running, cool yourself with water and shade, rehydrate and see a doctor.

To avoid reaching this point the first thing to focus on is correct summer training hydration.

According to SDA guidelines, fluid is critical for maintaining blood volume during exercise, regulating body temperature and for muscle contraction.

The key is to begin your run well hydrated.

Try to sip water regularly the day before your run and during the day leading up to your session.

Then, follow an individual hydration plan while your run – this could include sipping water or sports drink depending on the type of training you do, advised SDA.

Afterwards, rehydrate as you are unlikely to replace 100 per cent of fluid loses during exercise.


Don’t forget to stay hydrated. Photo: Getty

Remember, a good way to tell if you’re well hydrated is the colour of your urine – if it’s dark you are not getting enough fluid.

Secondly, what you eat before, during and after running in the heat is important to ensure sufficient energy, body function, muscle repair, and an adequate supply of vitamins and minerals.

“Training diets should be set out by an accredited practising dietitian and be based on quality carbohydrate (from breads, cereals and pasta), moderate amounts of protein, small amounts of fats (such as those found in oily fish, poly and monounsaturated fats and oils), and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables,” SDA outlined.

Finally, train smart when running in the heat.

Stick to loop tracks that pass by water fountains and shaded sections.

Run to feel rather than pace to allow for variables in the forecast and your adaption to high temperatures.

Hit the trails early and late in the day to avoid peak temperatures.

And, take it indoors and use a treadmill if it’s too hot to run outside.

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