The festive lights are back in their box and the New Year’s champers has been well and truly demolished. January’s here and with it comes the biting cold of true Winter.
There are loads of myths and half-truths about the cold. Today, we’re debunking a few porkies and elevating some interesting titbits.
“YOU LOSE MOST OF YOUR HEAT THROUGH YOUR HEAD.”
No, you don’t. This myth stems from a 1970s American military manual and has no merit. The manual claimed that we lose about 40% of your body heat through our heads… that’s the equivalent to stepping outside without your trousers.
Your head accounts for about 9% of your body’s surface, and research (Pretorius et al., 2006) has shown that you lose about 10% of your heat from your head. Makes sense!
Feet and hands feel incredibly cold because there’s nearly no muscle on them and rarely any fat, either. As a result, they don’t hold heat well.
Our face and ears have the highest concentration of thermoreceptors (what tells the rest of our body that we’re cold), so wearing scarves and covering your ears will minimise how cold you feel. Feeling cold and being cold, however, are two different things.
When it gets chilly, our body prioritises sending blood to the organs rather than our extremities. It does this so we can regulate our body temperature more easily and, uh, not die.
Better a cold hand than a cold heart!
DRINKING IN THE COLD
Hot drinks do nothing more than provide a placebo effect. It’s nigh-on impossible to drink enough hot liquid to raise the temperature of your body’s core.
That said, there’s no denying that hot chocolate is a great shout on a winter’s eve.
Our thirst is diminished by the cold, too. It’s known as arginine vasopressin and is particularly impacted when exercising in low temperatures – one particular study (Kenefick et al., 2004) highlighted a reduction in thirst of up to 40%. That doesn’t mean you need any less water! Be mindful of hydration when you’re Baltic, particularly if you’re working out.
Mildly fun fact: when you see your breath in the cold, that’s water vapour. So, as fun as it is to smoke an invisible cigarette, you’re technically dehydrating yourself with every drag.
Next up, alcohol. This also isn’t beneficial in cold climates – no matter what that Saint Bernard with a barrel of whiskey around its neck may conjure in your mind.
Similar to the hot drinks, it may feel like it’s helping… but it’s not.
Alcoholic bevs cause your blood vessels to open up just below your skin, sending more blood and heat away from where you need them most (your organs). You might get cute rosy cheeks but your kidney’s going to be SCREAMING.
Further, alcohol delays the shivering response and reduces its duration. Given that we shiver to generate heat through muscle contractions, it’s not an ideal bodily function to stymy when you’re facing the elements.
GAINING WINTER TIMBER
It’s likely you weren’t as strict with your diet and training over the festive break. You’re not alone. The holiday season accounts for over half of people’s annual weight gain (Diaz-Zavala et al., 2017), so if you’ve put on a few pounds, take solace in the knowledge that pretty much everyone else did too.
Supposedly the weight gain is an evolutionary response (if you’d like some extra validation) to provide insurance for the risk of failing to find food. This was the case for pre-industrial humans, so even though it’s been hundreds of years we’re not exactly clamouring to shake the inclination.
People with higher BMIs tend to have higher levels of subcutaneous fat, which effectively insulates the body’s core. So, from a pure survival standpoint, putting on extra weight would be beneficial for your survival. When you’re sauntering from radiator to radiator, it’s not helping too much.
Ultimately, our bodies are built to change. Putting on some weight over the winter is no big deal. Eating a pavlova for breakfast on Boxing Day was worth it.
THE SICKEST OF DAYS
2023 saw the highest number of sick days taken by UK workers for a decade. Up to 7.8 days, from 5.8 days pre-pandemic, according to the CIPD.
Supposedly the most commonly used sick day in the UK is the first Monday in February. Coincidentally, that’s the first Monday following the post-Christmas pay day AND Dry January… we’ll leave that one there.
So yeah, you’ve missed your best chance to pull a sickie and fly under the radar.
If you’re looking to fight off real illnesses during these snotty months, we’ve got a suggestion for you: A two-week trial of ZAAG. You’ll feel the difference by the end of the fortnight and have dozens of powerful vitamins, nootropics and adaptogens in your system to help keep the lurgy at bay.