As the active, outdoor days of summer give way to autumn’s cooler weather, busier schedules, and more indoor time—not to mention the holidays—our bodies undergo a sort of shock. We experience greater levels of daily stress, and it becomes more difficult to make consistently good nutritional choices and to get all the rest our bodies need to rejuvenate each day. Here are a few proven techniques to combat the dreaded Fall-Winter effect and related long-term health risks:
Add indoor activities. Many popular summer activities—from swimming, running, walking, golfing, shooting hoops, even rock climbing—have indoor equivalents. If your preferred summer activities cannot be enjoyed indoors, try exploring new ones! Join a Zumba or other heart-pumping dance class, or, if that doesn’t suit your budget or schedule, consider adding an inexpensive online option (such as Daily Burn).
Sleep more (but don’t hibernate). When a body is at complete rest in REM sleep, it burns calories, rebuilds tissues, and rejuvenates itself. Sufficient REM sleep also engenders greater capacity for managing and recovering from stressful situations, such as getting caught in traffic when you’re late for school or work.
Consume protein whenever, fruits early, veggies late, and water 24/7. Our evolving understanding of human nutritional needs suggests that sugars, refined carbohydrates, and saturated animal fats are best avoided in favor of high-quality, lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, and veg. Here is a rationale for timing your consumption of each throughout the day:
PROTEINS. Eat these whenever you like. While carbohydrates are your main energy source, protein calories are the most satisfying and are the building blocks of virtually everything: hair, skin, fingernails, muscle, connective tissue, and more. What’s more, the body rarely stores protein calories as fat and, when energy from carbohydrates is lacking, will happily utilize stored fat to carry protein molecules around the body to do their work as building blocks.
FRUITS. While fruits provide many health benefits, they are still a source of sugar. Eating fruits raises blood glucose levels, which cannot remain elevated for long. The body reacts by producing insulin to deliver glucose either to muscles for energy or—if no energy is needed at the time—to fat cells for storage. Eating fruits early in your day when you are most active gives your body more opportunity to burn the glucose as energy.
VEG. Vegetables, especially low-starch varieties, are a whenever food, but it’s good to eat at least some veg later in the day because their high fiber content helps to lower and suppress insulin levels when you are winding down your day toward sleep.
WATER. Drink more water period as it’s essential for all chemical reactions in the body. While it is technically possible to consume too much water (leading to electrolyte imbalance), your body will let you know long before you reach such a point.