Top Nutrition Tips for Maintaining Energy Levels this Winter

You know how important proper nutrition is to your overall health and wellbeing, but may not quite realize that wintertime, especially, it’s vital that you’re mindful of your food choices. Why? In colder months, it’s quite common to feel lower energy levels and less motivated; you might even be more tempted to reach for comfort foods that are less nutritious and more fat laden.  

Blame it on the freezing temperatures and the snow and ice covering the ground outside that prevent you from being able to take your daily walks—or the ease of which you can order in takeout instead of cook when all you want to do is snuggle under blankets. 

While most nutrition experts acknowledge that indulging once in a while is not going to make or break your overall health and wellness, ensuring that you’re getting the proper dose of nutrients on a consistent basis to reduce your risk for illness, deficiency and disease, notes Emily Tills, R.D.N., virtual nutrition coach in New York. “In the winter time, we are more susceptible to illness with increased time indoors, decreased nutrient exposure with most of our fruits and vegetables that provide the nutrients for immunity are out of season and stunted,” she says. “If we aren’t getting what we need nutritionally, we are at risk for cellular damage, along with increased illnesses.” 

If you’re feeling low on energy in the winter, it may actually be due to your food choices. In fact, functional dietitian Jenna Volpe, R.D.N., L.D., C.L.T., points out that, in most cases, our food choices can make-or-break our energy levels day-to-day. “From a macronutrient standpoint, getting enough energy from the right balance of carbs, fats, and proteins is essential for energy production,” she says. “To take things to the next level, blood sugar balance is also important for maintaining steady energy levels throughout the day, as an imbalanced diet that is too high in carbs, and/or too low in fats, proteins, and fiber, will send people on a blood sugar rollercoaster.”

What happens when your blood sugar is out of control? You experience short-term energy spikes followed by energy crashes throughout the day. 

Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are also important for maintaining optimal energy levels, Volpe explains. “For example, fatigue is a common symptom of being deficient in certain types of vitamins and minerals such as iron, vitamin D, and B vitamins,” she says. “Dehydration (not drinking enough fluids throughout the day) can also lead to dips in energy.”

If you’re looking to maintain your energy levels this winter, but aren’t quite sure where to start, follow these nutrition tips from experts.

Include at least 3-5 servings of fruits and veggies per day

One of the most direct ways to make sure you’re getting adequate nutrients is to fill your meals and snacks with fruits and veggies. “In addition to providing us with fiber and fluids, fruits and veggies are also packed with micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) which give us feelings of vitality (life-force energy),” says Volpe. “What’s more: Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are a little-known but very common underlying root cause of fatigue.” While salads and smoothies aren’t appealing during colder months, she recommends leaning more into soups and stews packed with cooked veggies. 

Use caffeine to your advantage

As you probably know, if you’re a coffee drinker, caffeine can give you a helpful energy boost. However, it’s important to make sure you’re keeping your caffeine intake to less than 400 mg per day; otherwise you might put yourself at risk for trouble falling asleep at night, warns Megan Meyer, Ph.D., Science Communication Consultant. “Four hundred mg of caffeine translates to about four cups of coffee—so aim for that and try to limit consumption in the morning or early afternoon,” she adds. 

Don’t skip meals

Skipping meals is a sure-fire way to experience energy dips from blood sugar imbalances throughout the day, warns Volpe. “Going more than 4-5 waking hours without eating during the day causes blood sugar levels to drop too low, leading to an energy crash followed by feeling hangry,” she says. She recommends eating every 3-4 hours throughout the day and, ideally, including something from every food group at meals. “This will go a long way to help maintain and optimize energy levels, especially since our brain runs on glucose for energy!” she adds. 

Stay hydrated

You’ve heard that drinking enough water is important, but you might not realize that fatigue, lack of focus and even light-headedness can be common symptoms of dehydration. “During the colder months, it can be easy to forget about drinking water because cold water is less appealing,” says Volpe. If you’re not a big fan of water, she recommends sipping on hot or warm water with a squeeze of lemon or a hot, caffeine-free herbal tea (such as rooibos or ginger).

Workout a few times a week

Emma Laing, Ph.D., R.D.N., national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the director of dietetics at the University of Georgia, recommends engaging in regular physical activities that promote enhanced energy levels, cardiovascular health, and muscle strengthening. “If it’s safe to head outdoors, take advantage of traditional winter activities like ice skating, skiing or sledding—or, if you prefer indoor activities, walking is an effective way to stay moving (perhaps at a mall, in hallways at your place of work, or opting to take the stairs whenever possible instead of the elevator or escalator),” she says. “Going to the gym is an option to stay active, or you could work out to an exercise or yoga video or join an online class in the comfort of your home.”

If you’re looking for workout inspiration, check out Aaptiv. There are 15 different categories of workout classes, like walking, yoga, and strength training, so you can find what suits your style and goals.



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