With short daylight hours, cold weather and dark afternoons, our mood and energy can take a bit of a hit. Here’s the good news: there’s plenty you can do to boost energy levels through nutrition, training and lifestyle choices. Here’s your 10-step guide to an energised winter.
With just a few tweaks to diet, exercise, supplementation, stress management and lifestyle, you can enjoy feeling happy and healthy all winter. Try our top 10 and let us know how you feel.
1) Energise your mornings
Start your day with a burst of energy and feel better all day! Set aside just 10 minutes in the morning and either go for a quick run outside (the fresh air and light will be a bonus) or do a quick body weight circuit at home. Play upbeat music to boost your mood. Whatever you choose to do, just get the blood pumping and fill your lungs with oxygen. Watch your mood soar and enjoy an energised start to the day.
2) Eat a champion’s breakfast
Winter is no time to be skipping breakfast. Your body and mind need the energy and nutrients. So make sure your breakfast is a great choice of slow release carbohydrates and protein, with some added caffeine in the form of coffee if that’s your thing. We’re loving Complete Protein Porridge™ (although we still can’t agree on which is the best flavour) and Complete Protein Coffee™ for the ideal breakfast which is ready in minutes. Even the busiest morning is no reason to skip breakfast!
3) Have more protein
You probably eat more protein than non-gym goers, but pay close attention to your macros in winter months. Protein intake is linked to the body’s ability to excite orexin cells, which boosts energy. Try to avoid too much sugar (even though it can be more tempting than usual at this time of year) – sugar will give you a quick hit of energy, but the crash and slump which follows is no fun at all. Did you know that turkey meat is a natural source of the amino acid Tryptophan, a natural mood-booster?
4) See the light
Sufferers of SAD (seasonal affective disorder) don’t need to be told that low light in winter can really affect mood, sleep and hunger. Even if you don’t feel the effects of mild depression at this time of year, you can benefit from using light therapy to keep your body and mind happy. Bright light stimulates our brains and encourages production of the hormones which control our natural daily rhythms including sleep patterns, hunger cues, appetite and energy. During winter months, make the effort to get outside every day during daylight hours for a walk, a bike ride or simply to sit with your face tipped up to the sky. If this isn’t enough, consider supplementing with light therapy by using a lightbox or a natural light alarm clock.
5) Drink up
Downing litres of water isn’t always appealing at this time of year, but it’s very important to pay attention to hydration levels. Even the smallest amount of dehydration can affect concentration, mood, gym performance and the health of internal organs. Don’t rely on the body’s thirst cues (you’re already dehydrated by the time they kick in). Instead, make sure you drink water or herbal/fruit tea throughout the day. Keep a bottle of water with you at your desk, in your car and in your kit bag. Start and end the day with a glass of water or cup of herbal tea. And never start a workout thirsty. Reach for Complete Hydration™ or our Electrolyte powder if you need a bit of a boost.
6) Take up Yoga (or Broga!)
Not just for the ladies, yoga is a fantastic addition to your workout schedule. It has a host of benefits (and is more challenging than you think!), including stimulating blood flow, banishing feelings of lethargy and sluggishness, and improving breathing and lung capacity. It’s a great way to manage stress, helping you sleep better and cope with low mood and mild depression which can accompany these dark months. And it’s not bad for strength and flexibility, either!
7) Vitamin D
It’s important to get all your vitamins and minerals in during winter, but Vitamin D is one to pay particular attention to. Why? Because the body can only produce Vitamin D when it has access to adequate amounts of the UVB rays in sunlight. At this time of year, in this climate, that’s not really happening. So top up your body’s levels with a quality Vitamin D3 supplement. Aim for at least 5,000 IU/day. And don’t forget that Vitamin D is fat-soluble, so make sure your dietary fat intake and absorption is adequate.
8) Don’t overtrain
This might surprise you, but we’re going to suggest that you take it easier during winter months! We’re all for working hard in the gym, but it’s also important to recognise that the body can suffer during cold, dark winter months. If you are feeling particularly tired, and can’t shake off feelings of fatigue, listen to your body. Opt for a less rigorous workout, take a rest day, or switch your attention to recovery strategies like foam rolling, massage or cross training. Head outside for some low-level cardio and benefit from natural light. Rest is important – without it, the immune system can suffer and you could end up losing more gym time to a winter illness.
9) Boost micronutrients
It’s really important to look at the micronutrients in your diet at this time of year. Real food options are great, but it’s not always easy to load up on all the vitamins and minerals you need from nature’s bounty in Winter. Supplement your nutrition with greens powders as an insurance policy against winter illnesses and keep your immune system in great health. Something like our Complete Multivitamin Complex™ might be just the boost you need.
10) More good-quality sleep
This time of year can play havoc with sleep patterns. The clocks going back, shorter daylight hours, cold mornings and low mood are all reasons to stay in bed, but ironically it can be harder to feel well rested in winter. Make sure the sleep you do get is good quality, enabling your body and mind to rest and recover. You’ll see benefits in fat loss, muscle gain, stress levels, hormone balance, appetite and hunger. Get a good bedtime routine in place to help you wind down, try to be in bed by 11pm, and go to bed at the same time every night. Supplements such as ZMA and Tryptophan are both known to promote better quality of sleep, so give these a try if you need some help nodding off.
About the Author:
Nicola Joyce has been writing for (and about) sport, fitness, nutrition and healthy living since 2004. She’s also a keen sportswoman: her background is in endurance sport but she now competes as a natural bodybuilder, most recently winning a world title with the INBF. When she’s not writing content, she can be found blogging at thefitwriter.wordpress.com. Follow her on Facebook & Twitter (@thefitwriter) too.