We know, it seems like winter will never end. The cold days, the people sneezing on the train in your general direction, and the constant terror that your child will come home bearing ‘gifts’ from Chad in 3rd grade.
With winter comes less energy to do anything. It can come from less sunlight (what, you didn’t like sunset at 4:11pm?) which causes your body to produce more melatonin and can make you sleepy. That lack of sun also causes your body to generate less vitamin D, since sunlight on the skin is what helps to produce it in your body. Lower vitamin D = more fatigue and longer recovery times from exertion. Finally, it’s cold. Who wants to spend 10 minutes bundling up like a caveman (or Eddie Murphy) just to go get a Chipotle fix? Sitting in your jammies watching Friends reruns sounds so much better.
So – what to do? Whenever we start to feel down–whether that be physically or emotionally, we know it’s time to pay a little more attention to our gut. Because when our gut microbiome is out of wack, research proves we feel more lethargic and are more susceptible to winter colds. Remember, gut health is overall health! Here are a few surefire ways to overcome the winter doldrums, boost energy, and become inspired to write the next great American novel. Or at least two of those three things.
First, bring on the vitamin D.
We often don’t get enough in our diet and without the sun, it’s hard to make more. So taking a vitamin D supplement is an easy and effective way to crank up the concentration in your blood. Start with 1000 IU, and if you’re really deficient, you can go up to 10000 IU a few times a week to really boost the effect. Look for microencapsulated vitamin D to maximize absorption in your body (thanks, science!)
Second, try and keep your sleep patterns consistent.
This is a protip for all year, but it’s especially important in the winter months when you’re already going to be tired. Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up about the same time each morning (yes, even on weekends!) You won’t always be able to achieve it (like me right now when I’m 11 hours ahead of the team and still have to work!), but set the goal and do your best.
Third, and I know we sound like a broken record, but get up and exercise.
Even doing 20 minutes three times a week – and we’re not talking Barry’s Boot Camp – has been shown to dramatically reduce fatigue. I know you don’t feel like heading out to exercise when it’s wicked cold – so let me point you back to our blog for some pro tips on how to do this in the comfort of your sweats.
Fourth, if you want a cool hack, try a light therapy box.
These little LED panels mimic outdoor light and researchers believe this type of light causes a chemical change in parts of the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of winter fatigue – including Seasonal Affective Disorder. Good news is you can buy a bunch of these for under $40 on Amazon (like this one here). For more info, check out this page from the Mayo Clinic.
Finally – watch what you eat.
Winter is the time to really amp up nutrient-dense foods. A few of our favorites are:
- Eggs: the original superfood. These little guys are low in calories, have a ton of B vitamins (which your body needs for energy production) and are available just about everywhere. Ideally the yolk isn’t hard, but if that’s all you’ve got, go for it.
- Spinach: magnesium and folate rich, spinach helps with energy production and let’s you pretend you’re Popeye. Again, fresh is best, but even frozen will do.
- Quinoa: this is just crazy powerful – all 9 amino acids you can’t make yourself, more B vitamins, lots of protein and fiber – it really is as good as Gwyneth says. I personally don’t love it, but golden quinoa is pretty easy to dress up and/or hide in things you already eat. And for a quick quinoa fix, these guys are shockingly good (and don’t require a fridge!)
As always, the more whole, unprocessed foods you eat, the better you’re going to feel. Though it might be tempting to Doordash some french fries and watch Netflix on a dark, cold Thursday night, your body will thank you on Friday if you don’t.