Many assume that the belief we eat more throughout the colder months is a myth. However, it is indeed true. ‘There are several factors that play a role in individuals consuming more calories in Autumn and Winter’, says Chris Gillett at WatchShop. Here, Gillett reveals the science behind why we alter our diet in the winter as well as why our activity levels fall.
Work to survive the winter
Our bodies respond to our habitual environment. It interprets a shift in surroundings as a signal to readjust its current state in order to repair, energise or relax. ‘Research suggests that cooler climates activate the internal relic in the same way as it does animals’, states Gillett. ‘Essentially, the body craves more calories to gain fat in order promote internal insulation and survive the cold’.
‘When the bodies internal temperature drops, we burn more calories in an effort to raise it again. As a result, we naturally reach for high calories foods. Ultimately, calories are needed to fuel the body with energy which in turn, will maintain its temperature. However, it is worth remembering that if you consume foods that are high in on the glycaemic index, then your blood sugars will speedily spike and fall rapidly. As a result, you will feel colder and hungrier than you were previously, leading you to crave an intake in calories all over again. Ensure that your calorie intake is through nutritious foods such as veg, grains and fruits. Building the likes of stews throughout the winter months is a great way to fuel the body with nutritious foods but also serve as a means to curb the craving for comfort food’.
Dehydration is commonly associated with warmer climates but, we sweat just as much in the winter as we do the summer. ‘We immediately associate autumn and winter with feeling cold and forget that we actually spend a lot of the time warm’, says Gillett. ‘As the radiators are turned up and we adopt jumpers, scarves etc leading us to sweat. Consequently, dehydration can ensue just as rapidly as it does in the summer. A symptom of dehydration is hunger. Therefore, it is no surprise that we will reach for additional calories to consume whilst we are feeling hot. Even throughout the winter, ensure that you keep hydrated, even if it is with hot teas and soups.’
Fall sees exercise habits fall
SAD (seasonal affective disorder) has gained a lot of media coverage over the last few years, and according to Gillet, for good reason! ‘SAD defines a depression that is aligns with seasonal patterns. The symptoms of SAD are usually more severe throughout the Autumn and Winter months and subside throughout the warmer seasons. Those who are affected by SAD tend to experience low mood, little motivation, and excessive tiredness. A common symptom is also feeling little joy in activities that you usually appreciate. Consequently, activity levels can drop, and workouts can become a less frequent. Inevitably, our calorie intake will rise as we fill time.’
‘Throughout the winter months, use the time to engage in activities that you may not usually participate in. Taking walks ensures that you obtain your daily vitamin D levels and also maintain activity levels. Step trackers can be a great option here as they present insight into your activity levels and also how many calories you are burning’.
Waking up tired
Many people report that they feel more tired in the colder months regardless of how much sleep they obtain. ‘Those of us in the northern hemisphere can really feel the impact of less daylight’, states Gillett. Shorter days see that our circadian rhythms become out of whack and tiredness ensue. The feel-good hormone serotonin aids in the production of melatonin. Melatonin is crucial in regulating our sleeping patterns and ensuring that we gain sufficient hours rest. If our melatonin levels rise, our production of serotonin falls, leaving us tired and inevitably unmotivated.’
‘When you are physically tired, your body craves sugary snacks. Fatigue increases your brains sensitivity to smells as research reports that there is more activity in the piriform cortex and the orbitofrontal cortex, meaning that food literally smells more appealing. Consequently, a higher intake of calories is inevitable. Lack of sleep also leads to a peak in lipid in the bloodstream, seeing that the taste of food is more pleasurable. This ignites the pleasure of comfort eating’.
‘Sleep trackers are a great way to monitor sleep and enable us to calculate when we should be aiming to get to sleep and how to alter our evening routines. Adopting a sleep routine is a great way to ensure that you gain sufficient rest as your body responds to regular structure.’
Social drinks soar
The winter months are often filled with festive drinks. As a result, alcoholic beverages that are laden with sugar can lead to our calorie intake soaring. However, hangovers can also lead to us craving more foods than usual. ‘Alcohol temporarily reduces our blood sugar levels leading to the body to compensate in an attempt eat more to readjust blood glucose levels’ Gillett. ‘I recommend stocking up on nutritious foods pre drinks so that you have go to products to cub those hunger pains.’
All data is accurate at the time of publishing