Winter can be a bleak time of year, the Winter blues are a common occurrence Birds will fly south for the winter and those that can’t fly will burrow themselves away for a long sleep. It’s little wonder then that at this time of year the gym is quieter and the runners that once pounded the pavements are nowhere to be seen.
It’s a natural Palaeolithic instinct for us to shun the cold weather, avoid activity and eat more. We needed this instinct for survival, but in the age of plenty we live in, this instinct has become an excuse. The gym gets substituted for comfort food and a night in front of the television, and that early morning run turns into an extra hour in bed.
It’s not just motivation that suffers, but our immune system is put to the test as colds and flu start flying around. We feel lethargic as more energy is being spent on maintaining body heat. Our social lives change as the run up to Christmas means more parties, social gatherings and lots of tempting but calorific foods on offer.
In short, it’s during this time of year that everything starts to conspire against the well planned diet and exercise regime. If this picture sounds familiar then read on, we’ll tell you exactly how to buck this frosty trend and keep the heat on this winter.
Let’s start with diet, why? It has a huge impact on how you feel and your energy levels. It’s also important your diet fits the time of year and provides you with the right calorie intake. Myprotein’s elite nutritionist and exercise physiologist, Laurent Bannock, explains why: “When it’s cold your body uses more energy to keep its internal temperatures balanced. It’s therefore important that you eat frequently but also eat nutrient dense foods such as vegetables and lean meats. It’s not an excuse to eat junk or excess calories but you do need to ensure you increase your food intake. Make sure you have a good solid meal a couple of hours before you train and throw in some potatoes or sweet potatoes to keep energy levels up.”
Zoran Dubaic, elite strength and condition coach at Strength and Performance agrees. He has some handy tips for keeping your nutrition on track during the winter: “Preparation is the key to ensuring you don’t get caught out and fall into bad habits. Think about dishes that you can cook on mass and freeze in tubs. That way you’ve always got something you can defrost overnight ready for the next day. Using a slow cooker is also a great way to save time, just throw in some fibre rich veggies and protein rich meat and let it stew all day. Blended soups will also increase your intake of nutrient dense vegetables, especially if this is something you struggle with.”
Choose your meat – chicken, beef, pork, lamb – then dice it
2 onions, red and white
400ml vegetable or chicken stock
Pinch of sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
a squeeze of tomato puree
tin of chopped tomatoes
OK, this is your base and then from this you add anything you want. Choose as many vegetables as you like, these could be:
Put all the ingredients in a slow cooker or on a low oven temp for 3-4 hours and you have the perfect stew.
The winter months are a great time to hit the gym and do some heavy lifting to bulk up. Focus on big compound movements such as the deadlift, bench press, squat and overhead press. They are all perfect exercises for adding strength and size and will generate a muscle building hormonal response from your body.
If you’re new to weight training then it’s worth investing some time to master the correct technique for the above. Poor form and bad technique will seriously reduce the effectiveness of these compound exercises and may even cause injury. Remember, more is not better, better is better, so don’t be afraid to keep your workouts simple. The old ones are often the best and pulls ups, press ups and dips all have plenty of variations to keep you progressing. Once they have been mastered then adding weight vests and chains provide a new stimulus for greater gains.
Adding a finisher to your weight training will also help to keep body fat levels low and maintain cardio. This can be High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) on the treadmill or rower, a barbell complex, farmer’s walks or hitting some sled pulls or prowler pushes.
Once your training and diet are in check, it’s time to look at supplementation.
If diet is the fuel in your tank then supplementation is definitely the oil, and to keep your engine healthy and firing on all cylinders this winter you’re going to need to take excellent care of it. In the diet section we covered the importance of energy levels and keeping them topped but post exercise recovery is more important than ever during the winter.
After training your body is crying out for the necessary nutrients it needs for repairs and growth. You will also have a depressed immune system which will leave you susceptible to infection. Using an all in one like Recovery or Hurricane XS will ensure your body gets exactly what it needs straight after a workout. Recovery XS in particular contains 4.5g of Glutamine, 5.5g of Leucine, electrolytes and Vitamin C that combine with Impact Whey Isolate and Waxy Maize starch to provide fast acting recovery.