Putting on a few pounds over Christmas is as inevitable as a trader Twitter frenzy during the NFP's, right? Well, not according to the fitness gurus at Psycle London (psyclelondon.com), as their CEO Rhian Stephenson provides us with 6 tips to ensure that the man with the white beard and red suit is the only belly you'll see this winter...
Dark days are here and the Christmas lights have officially been lit. The change in seasons bring on changes in habits. Everything from food habits to exercise, time outdoors to time in bed - even our metabolism changes.
In fact, weight gain in the winter is surprisingly high, and sits in the range of 2-4 kg for most. And while it's not a huge amount, it's still substantial (picture 14 jars of peanut butter!), mainly because it's far more difficult to lose than it is to gain. Why are we prone to packing on pounds?
- Seratonin Drops
Seratonin (aka the happy hormone) levels can fall in the winter – especially for those of us who are affected by SAD – and when blood serotonin falls, we crave the things that give us an instant boost. This translates into cravings for carbs, sugar and other stodgy treats.
- Less sunlight = less Vitamin D
Vitamin D isn’t just important for immunity, it also influences our metabolism, insulin sensitivity and neurotransmitters that signal our brains to tell us we’re full.
- Social events trump exercise
Perhaps most importantly, people tend to exercise less in the winter. With darker nights, fatigue, winter weather and holiday parties, many people take a bit of a break once December rolls around and commit to sorting themselves out in the New Year. This is like the trifecta of lethargy, anxiety and weight gain – more alcohol, more (unhealthy) food & less exercise. Which leads on to the next point….
- We drink more
Did you know that fat metabolism post alcohol consumption can be decreased by up to 70%? Sleep is also heavily affected by alcohol consumption (remember the Glutamine rebound in anatomy of a hangover?) which is a big no no for the metabolism. Studies have shown that subjects who get less than 5 hours of sleep a night metabolise glucose 40% slower than those who are well rested.
- We don't sleep as well
Temperature has a significant impact on the onset of sleep. In order for us to get into a solid sleep, our body temperature needs to drop slightly. Research has shown that blasting your heat on full in the winter can contribute to poor quality sleep – and not only that, but it can affect immunity. Hot, dry rooms can dry out our mucous membranes, which is a first line of defence when it comes to the immune system.
The good news is, there's so much you can do to stay happy, healthy and confident this winter:
1. Increase Your Exercise
This may be the exact opposite of what you want to do, but keeping it consistent throughout the holidays is essential for your mood, energy, appetite and body composition. Adding in a few extra sessions will also help the body process the more calorific, heavy winter foods. An extra morning session each week can help boost your metabolism, improve your mood and also helps you make more positive choices throughout the day.
2. Increase Cooked Foods
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a major salad lover. But a cold salad on a cold winter day just doesn’t do it for me (or my metabolism). Now that winter is here, shifting the proportion of cold to hot food will do wonders for your appetite and energy. Swap your salads for roasted veggies, stews or warm bean dishes
3. Drink ‘Healthier’ Alcohol
The purest alcohol in terms of congeners and fillers are good quality clear spirits like vodka, gin, and tequila. Tequila on ice with a splash of water and fresh lemon or lime is my drink of choice, and will be less disruptive to your metabolism. 100% agave tequila is low in net sugar & therefore calories, the lemon provides vitamin C and is good for the liver and mixing it with water means you aren't adding any extra sugar or chemicals. If you love sipping on cocktails, try to minimise the sugar content. Ask for sugar free margaritas, sour mojitos and try lower sugar mixers like fever tree naturally light tonic. Try to reduce beer, brown spirits, cocktails and excess wine/champagne.
4. Have a Post Night-Out Reset Ritual
It’s essential to enjoy the holidays, but it’s also essential to feel great throughout them! So even though we may indulge more in the winter, it's essential to balance it with more self care to help your body and mind cope. Always plan a workout and your nutrition for the day after you’re out drinking. Vitamin C & electrolytes can be a saviour for getting your metabolism back on track and make sure you eat fibre and nutrient rich foods to balance your blood sugar the following day.
5. Add in a Longer Outdoor Workout
Ironically, winter is also one of the best times to BURN fat – and getting outside is a great way to make it happen. Exercising for longer sessions in the cold has been shown to burn fat more quickly, so adding in longer winter jog (or even a brisk walk) can help boost your metabolism. Longer sessions in general also help to increase appetite suppressing hormones, so even if you can't face the cold, a double session will help get you in the fat burning zone.
6. Include Fat-Burning Superfoods
EGCG is the potent antioxidant found in green tea that has been shown to help with appetite control, fat burning and metabolism. Apple cider vinegar helps boost metabolism, improves insulin balance and lowers blood sugar and can also help with digestion and bloating. Cayenne is a circulatory stimulant, appetite suppressant, anti-inflammatory and natural stimulant that is great for energy, appetite and general winter immunity. Lastly there's cinnamon, the perfect boost to your smoothie as it; regulates blood sugar, circulatory stimulant and reduces cravings.
You can follow Rhian on Twitter at @RhianStephenson