An Expert’s Guide to Beating Winter Exhaustion
by Clarissa Lenherr
Getting out of bed in the winter months can be tough, with darker mornings and a significant drop in temperature, it’s understandable why people tend to repeatedly hit the snooze button. From shorter days, to less sunlight, changes in hormones, less activity, and potential nutritional deficiencies, there are so many different factors which can contribute to feelings of exhaustion at this time of year.
We caught up with nutritionist, Clarissa Lenherr from personalised healthcare service bioniq LIFE (www.bioniq.com), who offers her expert advice on how to overcome the unwanted winter exhaustion.
Get Outside into Direct Sun Light: As the days get shorter and shorter during the winter months, your exposure to light is also significantly reduced. Decreased exposure to sunlight can disrupt the delicate balance of your circadian rhythm, often referred to as your “body clock”, which regulates many physiological processes such as when to eat or sleep. In addition to this, when it is darker outside and you are exposed to less sunlight, you produce more melatonin, the sleepy hormone, which can make you feel drowsy and tired, even when it isn’t anywhere close to bed time!
To avoid this, head outside into direct light first thing in the morning, even if it is cloudy or dark. Whether it be a short morning walk, or a run at the local park, getting outside will help to balance your circadian rhythm and trigger the release of cortisol, which will help you stay awake and prevent the further release of melatonin.
Eat Well: Comfort eating and ‘carb-loading’ are very common in the winter months. However, it is important to be mindful of your food choices, as these comforting foods and drinks are often higher in fat, carbohydrates, and/or added sugars than you would normally consume and can have a detrimental impact on energy levels. To avoid consuming the wrong foods, I would recommend opting for comforting warm foods that are packed with nutrients and slow-releasing energy properties. Swap comfort food choices for healthier alternatives which include complex carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits and fibre, such as sweet potato shepherd’s pie, lentil-based lasagne, vegetable filled soups and berry packed porridges.
Drink, Drink, Drink: There is a common misconception that the body requires less water in the winter months. However, despite the drop-in temperature, your water intake must not follow suit. With central heating and increased clothing layers, the body needs as much water to function as it did in the summer, as your energy systems can begin to slow down when the bodies is just 1% dehydrated. Pair that with the desire to consume more hot drinks in the winter in order to stay warm, and you can find yourself partially dehydrated. Many caffeinated drinks such as coffee, green, and black teas can be mild diuretics, leading you to excrete more fluid than you consume.
To offset this, aim to drink the recommended requirement of 6-8 glasses of water per day in order to stay hydrated and keep your energy levels up.
Keep Up Your Exercise Regime: When it is cold and gloomy outside, one of the last things you may want to do is go for a run or the gym, but a healthy dose of morning exercise can release a welcoming burst of feel-good endorphins and actually boost energy levels. I would recommend aiming for at least 150 minutes of exercise per week during the winter, whether this be an indoor group class or even workout videos at home.
Check for nutritional deficiencies: Low Vitamin D levels can lead to decreased energy levels, low mood, and potentially frequent bouts of illness. Checking for nutritional deficiencies can rule out any underlying issues that might be causing your lowered energy levels or even exhaustion and allow you to supplement based on what your body requires. A brand I would highly recommend is bioniq LIFE, who have designed a unique granulated supplement formula, which is personalised based on your individual blood tests, ensuring that the combination you are taking is exactly what your body needs in order to optimise your health and function at its best. With routine testing, bioniq LIFE can track your progress and amend the formula so that your body is receiving the exact nutrients it requires – taking away all the hassle and guesswork (RRP £250 available to buy from www.bioniq.com). In addition to providing a personalised supplement service, you will also have access to consultations with a qualified nutritionist to discuss your progress and general health, as well as a personalised dashboard to see your results, progress and healthcare recommendations.