How to know if your body's just doing its job, or if something's off.

By Maggie O'Neill
August 27, 2020
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Britney Spears took to Instagram on Monday to give the world a look at what she's been up to in quarantine—and, newsflash, she's just like the rest of us.

Spears, 38, shared that she's been "working on [her] body," but that it's been a difficult thing to do lately. "It’s very hard at this time because there’s really nowhere to go and everything is closed," she wrote. She also added something extremely relatable: "I swear to God food has never tasted so good," she wrote.

Eventually, Spears, who's currently going through legal battles regarding her conservatorship, got back on track for her Instagram post. "Ok now back to my point," she wrote. "I used to feel ice cold after a work out 🥶 …. now I’m learning I actually sweat when I work out and I enjoy it."

That comment got us wondering: Is it normal to feel cold after a workout? Apparently, yes, Nathaniel Jenkins, PhD, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health and Human Physiology at the University of Iowa, tells Health. During a workout, your body's likely getting sweaty and hot—and, to help it get back to its normal, cooler core temperature, it has to do something with that extra heat.

“Your body does a couple of pretty cool things that actually deal with that heat and dissipate the heat,” Jenkins says. During a workout, your body increases blood flow to the skin and begins to sweat—and by doing both of those things, it releases some of the heat it's built up during a workout out into the environment so you don't overheat, Jenkins says.

After you're done with a workout, your body normally recognizes you no longer need to sweat, and your body temperature goes back to normal. But sometimes, your body doesn’t always immediately register the end of your workout, and it can keep working to cool you off, even when you don't need it. That's where feeling cold after a workout can come into play. “You might have a time delay between when you’ve stopped producing heat, but yet you are still dissipating heat because you still have sweat on [your] skin," Jenkins says.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “[It's] good in order to get your body temperature down to baseline,” Jenkins says, adding that it’s possible that this happens more often after a really sweaty workout, like hot yoga. How large a person's body is also contributes to the possibility that they'd be cold after a workout. “People that have greater body surface areas would probably be more prone to this,” Jenkins adds. Tall people, for example, might be more likely to need a light jacket after an intense workout. According to Jenkins, because they have more skin and overall surface area, their body will sense more sweat and continue working to bring down the body temperature after they’ve completed their workout.

But while feeling cold after a workout is pretty normal, if you feel cold during a workout, it's a sign that something's off, Jenkins says. In that case, your body is communicating one of two things: that you’re dehydrated, or that your blood sugar is a little low. “If you’re feeling cold during exercise, it’s one of those two things that’s happening,” Jenkins says.

The good news is that if you are one of those individuals who sometimes feels chilly at the gym, there’s a simple fix. First, make sure you’re drinking enough water before you work out. If you tend to stay pretty hydrated, then your blood sugar levels may be the issue. If that’s the case, you’ll want to make sure you start eating a little something before your workouts, Jenkins says, like a piece of whole grain toast with some peanut butter or a banana with some almonds, for a bit of protein, too.

The bottom line: If you're cold during a workout, you might want to think about what your body needs that you haven't been getting enough of, and if you're cold after a workout (like Britney used to be) you're probably just experiencing the way your body adjusts its temperature after breaking a sweat.

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