Q: This is kind of an odd question, but does hot weather help grow muscle? I've noticed that in the summer, when it's blazing outside, I make my best gains. In the winter, my gains are much slower, sometimes nonexistent.
While it could simply be more summer-time motivation--you train harder because you want to look good at the pool or lake--or it could be leanness and darkness--being more ripped and tan makes you look bigger and better--heat and/or sunshine may have something to do with it, along with sweating. Perspiring more sheds water from under the skin, and that means more vascularity more often, which adds to your bigger, more-shredded look. But heat may be the key...
An animal study immobilized the subjects to force muscle shrinkage, then they divided them into groups and reloaded the leg muscles with weight plus heat or with weight alone. The animals that got heat showed approximately 30 percent greater soleus muscle regrowth, while oxidant damage was also lower. The researchers believe that heat, "improves the rate of skeletal muscle regrowth" and that heat-shock protein overexpression may increase muscle mass through a decrease in local oxidative stress and damage. Very interesting.
That's a recent study, but back in the days of Vince's Gym in Hollywood, owner/trainer Vince Gironda refused to have an air conditioner--and it wasn't because he was cheap. He swore that a hot gym created better, faster results. Apparently, he was onto something, considering the above study. It may be one reason he had some of the best bodybuilders in the world training there, and he had a ripped physique that was ahead of its time...
And while heat appears to be a muscle maker, sunshine may also be an anabolic catalyst, aside from the fact that it raises body temperature. There's new evidence that getting more sun exposure--at least 15 minutes every few days without sun block--helps boost testosterone, which may have something to do with triggering the body's production of vitamin D. That vitamin is very important for immune function and optimal hormone levels. According to the latest data, one in three Americans is vitamin-D deficient, and those low levels are being linked to everything from cancer to heart disease (you need to be as healthy as possible to build muscle quickly).
So what can you do to grow more during the winter when it's cold outside? Here are a few tips:
1) Take a vitamin D supplement; new data suggests about 1,000 milligrams a day is adequate.
2) Train in sweats--it's like working out in a hot gym (like Vince's) in the summer.
3) Do cardio, and be sure you perspire; that means you raised your body temp.
4) Crank up the hot tub or sauna often. Heat boosts muscle-building factors, as the study above indicates.
5) If the sun is out, sit in it for 30 to 45 minutes (rays are low intensity during the winter, so a longer exposure is necessary); if it's cold, bundle up, but expose your head and neck.
Till next time, train hard