Sometimes feeling cold is a natural response to the environment you are living in. But what about if you are feeling cold all of the time, even if you are in a relatively warm climate? Feeling cold all of the time, especially feeling cold in your hands, feet and nose is a sign that your metabolism is not functioning as well as it could be. If you are feeling chilly, chances are you are not feeling your best either. Probably you feel tired, low in stamina and moody. Maybe you have dry skin and hair or slow growing, brittle nails.
Your metabolism is all of the processes that convert the food you eat and the air you breathe into energy. This is the life force, or prana, which fuels your activities in the world. This includes physical activity and growth but also mental processing and creativity. Your metabolism also generates heat in your body, helping your enzymes to function optimally and killing off harmful bacteria. Ideally, you want your basal body temperature, that is your temperature upon waking (before eating, drinking or moving) to be above 36.6°C (97.8°F).
If you are feeling cold all of the time, your basal temperature may be below this ideal. To learn about how to test how well your metabolism is functioning, from the comfort of your own home, check out my previous post. There I describe two simple tests that can indicate if your metabolism is sluggish. If your tests suggest a low metabolism or if you are feeling cold all the time and want to know how you can warm up and boost your energy, keep reading!
Stop feeling cold all of the time – Eat enough calories!
If you are feeling cold all of the time, the first thing you want to check is that you are eating enough calories. Unfortunately, as Western societies, we are obsessed with weight loss and dieting. These days, everywhere you look you see low calorie foods advertised as the way to ultimate health and happiness. It is true that we have a problem with obesity, however the story is not as simple as cut calories and eat less to lose weight. Our bodies are smarter than that!
If you do not eat enough calories over a long period, you are likely to be feeling cold all the time (1). Probably you have heard of “starvation mode” when your body goes into energy saving mode? Another word for this is metabolic adaptation and it means exactly what it says on the tin. It is a functional state in which your metabolic processes are slowed down in order to conserve energy in a perceived famine.
When food is scarce, your body’s number one priority is to survive. It doesn’t care if you feel cold and tired or if your hair isn’t as luscious as it usually be. Neither does it care about reproduction as it deems the current environment unsafe or inadequate to support a family. Therefore, you might also experience a lower libido or a complete loss of interest in sex. All of these can be a sign that you are not eating enough calories.
How many calories should I eat to stop feeling cold all of the time?
But what is enough calories? That really depends on your unique physiology. But I can guarantee that if you are following a 1200 or 1500 calorie diet as a grown woman, you are not eating enough calories. If you are on a low calorie diet and feeling cold all of the time, working towards increasing your calories to an amount which supports a healthy metabolism should be your number one goal.
A good place to start is to use a Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) calculator this this one to estimate your calorie needs. For example, to maintain my current weight, I need a minimum of 1500 calories per day if I am completely sedentary and nearly 2400 calories per day if I exercise to an athletic level. And I am a petite woman (158cm and 54kg). If you are taller or heavier than me, your calorie needs will be even higher than this.
Many women are working out intensely several times per week and trying to get by on less than 2000 calories per day. If this is you, no wonder you are feeling chilly! If you are doing this and still not losing weight (if you are above a healthy weight range for your height) then it is a big red flag that your metabolism needs some support before weight loss will be possible.
Stop feeling cold all of the time – Eat a pro-metabolic diet
Nutrients to improve metabolism and energy
The second part to the nutritional equation to increase your body heat is ensuring you are also eating the right foods. If you are eating enough calories and still feeling cold all of the time, it might be that you are not eating a pro-metabolic diet. A diet which supports your metabolism is nutrient dense and includes vitamins and minerals which act as co-factors in your bodies’ energy generation processes, i.e. your metabolism.
Some of the common nutrient deficiencies that can lead to you feeling cold all of the time include iron and vitamin B12 (2). Lacking in these nutrients, can cause anemia which is a reduction in red blood cells. As red blood cells carry oxygen around your body which is needed to generate energy, anemia can lead to feeling cold all the time. Other nutrient deficiencies which can lead to feeling cold include vitamins A and D, selenium, iodine, zinc and calcium which are all necessary for a healthy thyroid function (3)(4).
Foods that are high in these nutrients include animal products, in particular red meat, eggs and seafood. So perhaps your “healthy” vegan or vegetarian diet could be responsible for you feeling cold all the time. Vegetarian metabolism supporting foods include dairy, coconut, root vegetables and fresh fruit which provide healthy carbohydrates and saturated fats to support your metabolism and energy generation processes.
Foods which can lead to feeling cold all of the time
On the other hand some nutritious foods that can lead to you feeling cold include cruciferous vegetables such as kale, broccoli and cauliflower. These contain compounds called goitregens which can impact your thyroid function when consumed excessively. Similarly, foods high in poly-unsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds and vegetable oils can inhibit energy production (note that hibernating animals eat these foods before going to sleep for the winter).
This is not to say you should avoid these foods altogether, I am not about restriction or extremes here. However, if you are consuming tonnes of these foods or if they make up the majority of your diet, it could explain why you are feeling cold. Consider reading my previous post on foods to support your metabolism and work on adding some of these foods into your daily diet. If you need support with this, I offer 1-2-1 nutrition and holistic health coaching.
Balance your water consumption
My final point on nutrition to keep you feeling toasty and warm is an important one! I won’t go into too much detail here as I have written another post on exactly thing topic. But to summarise, if you are feeling cold all of the time it is possible that your water-food balance is off. I know we are told to drink more water to be healthy and yes some people could definitely benefit from some extra hydration.
However, this obsession with drinking litres and litres of water in a day has gone too far. It is simply common sense that if you are drowning yourself in cold water every day, or even hot water in the form of tea and coffee, it is not going to support a high functioning metabolism. Of course, you don’t want to experience dehydration either. But over consuming water just adds unecessary workload onto your kidneys and your body in general. If you are peeing every hour and your urine is clear, this is a sign you are over-doing t on the water front.
In order to warm up your body, you want to “Eat for Heat”. That is to balance the amount of minerals (salts) you consume in your diet with the amount of water that you drink. A good balance should lead to a warm body, high energy, good sleep and calm mood. An imbalance can lead to feeling chilly, tired, anxious and difficulty sleeping.
Metabolism supporting exercise
Another common mistake people make is believing exercise will increase their metabolism. Ok, this is partly true. But it depends entirely on what type of exercise you do. Chronic cardio such as intense running, swimming or cycling for hours on end will not increase your metabolism. Yes you heard me right. Over-exercise is one of the main reasons for feeling cold all of the time. It causes stress in your body and decreases your basal metabolic rate. Lower metabolism = less heat generated at rest.
Cardio exercise burns calories whilst you are moving therefore can increase the total amount of energy you burn in a day. However, this type of exercise trains your body to do more with less energy i.e. causes metabolic adaptation. This means that you might feel warm and energised during the activity but after wards you can feel tired and cold all of the time. Sound familiar?
Excessive cardio is also a stress on the body. To maximise oxygenation levels in your cells and therefore energy and heat production, you want to minimise stress to within your bodies acceptable range. This does not mean eliminating all physical activity but rather operating within your capabilities and choosing metabolically supporting activities. Generally this would look like low impact cardio such as walking, easy cycling or dancing combined with resistance training to build muscle. This could either be weights but also body weight activities like yoga and pilates (5).
Reduce stress through proper breathing
As I mentioned, exercise can lead to feeling cold by causing stress in the body. When you are chronically stressed, your body becomes tense and stiff. This reduces circulation (blood flow) around your body and can lead to you feeling cold, especially in your hands and feet. Moving and stretching your body can help to relieve some of this tension but why not also focus on reducing your stress? You always want to ask yourself whether what is stressing you is worth losing your wellbeing over and act accordingly.
Another way stress can leave you feeling chilly is by changing the way you breathe. When when we are stressed, we tend to breathe much shallower and also more quickly. Set a timer for 60 seconds and count how many times you breathe (in and out is one cycle of breath). A healthy breathing range is around 10-15 breaths per minute. Anything above this is mild hyperventilation which can be a sign that you are stressed.
Also note which part of your body moves most as your breathe. Ideally you want your belly to rise and fall as your diaphragm moves. Stressed breathing is more likely to expand the top of the chest in the area around your collar bones. Breathing in this way reduces the amount of oxygen which reaches your cells.
As I mentioned earlier, more oxygen means more energy and heat generation. But it is not as simple as just breathing more deeply or quickly to increase your oxygen intake. Actually, deep slow breaths can definitely help to calm down your nervous system and relax your body. This is a good thing! But to get even more benefits from your breath, you can use specific breathwork (pranayama) techniques. These include retaining the breath at specific points in the cycle to expand your breath and life force.
So there you have it, my top tips on how to feel nice and toasty if you have been feeling cold all of the time. Let me know if you try out any of these tips and if you experience positive results. Remember, try out my home assessment of metabolic function to get an insight into your current state of metabolic health. Check out the other posts linked below for more on the topic of feeling cold and metabolism.
Over to you…
If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.
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