It’s already evident that when cold weather comes along, hibernation mode soon follows. A recent Gallup poll confirmed that Americans steadily eat worse and exercise less during the fall and winter months – and even more so in 2011 than last. In November, only 49.8 percent of adults reported exercising for at least 30 minutes three or more times a week, compared with 50.5 percent last year. Only 54.7 percent of Americans reported eating five or more servings of fruits and veggies at least 4 days a week in November, down from a high of 57.8 percent in July and the lowest recorded for that month in any prior year, including in November 2008 during the financial crisis.
Given these trends, the seasonal “fat creep” seems inevitable – but it doesn’t have to be. You can fight back with these simple steps to rev up your metabolism. Read on for 10 ways to stoke up calorie burn in January and beyond.
Warm Up Your Breakfast
If cold cereal seems less than inspiring on chilly mornings, start your day with a steamy bowl of oatmeal topped with flaxseed instead, recommends Erin Palinski, RD. Eating breakfast, in general, has been shown to boost your metabolism by as much as 10 percent, and oatmeal, in particular, can rev calorie-burning capabilities. One cup of oatmeal contains 13 to 16 percent of your daily recommended intake of fiber, and your body burns up to 30 percent more calories digesting fiber than it does other nutrients because roughage takes such a long time to break down.
Make Cross Training More Fun
Sometimes the hardest thing is to stick to your workout routine during the winter, and one of the most important things to keep your metabolism revving is consistent activity. To fight off winter sloth, take advantage of seasonal activities. “Try dropping one gym workout a week and add a winter sport – ice skating, snowshoeing or skiing. It’s great to mix it up and you’ll get back to the gym with a real spring in your step!” says Gunnar Peterson, a celebrity trainer and spokesperson for Under Armour.
Drink Up to Fight Dryness
Sure, it’s easy to remember to rehydrate when you’re sweating buckets, but it’s equally important – if not more – to get your eight cups of water a day in winter because the dry air can increase your likelihood of dehydration, says Jim White, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios in Virginia Beach, Va. Being mildly dehydrated can slow your metabolism by 2 to 3 percent, according to researchers from the University of Utah. Why? Experts speculate that the rate at which your cells metabolize fat has to do with their size, and when they shrink from dehydration they become less efficient.
Hold Off On the Booze
Keep in mind that alcohol not only adds calories to your diet, but also slows down your body’s fat-burning capabilities. An American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that drinking can slow your metabolism by as much as 73 percent. “Plus, most people don’t make the best decisions about food when drinking and tend to skip their workout the next day,” says White, who advises sticking to a “two-glass class” rule.
Loaded with metabolism-boosting fiber, hearty rye bread might be better to eat than wheat when it comes to losing weight. Swedish researchers found that people who had rye bread for breakfast were less hungry later in the day than those who ate wheat bread. While fiber fills you up without weighing you down, researchers believe that part of the satiety of rye bread might be more mental than physical. The darker the bread, the fuller people expect to feel.
Pop a Fish Oil Pill
By now, the mood-boosting power of omega-3s in fish oil is a well-known way to help fight seasonal affective disorder but it may also give your metabolism a lift, says Palinski. Australian researchers found that in combination with exercise, fish oil can increase the activity of enzymes responsible for fat oxidation.
Sign Up for Spin Class
If the cold, dark days have cooled off your motivation to exercise, think about taking an indoor spin class. You can burn about 500 calories per 40-minute sweat session, and your body will continue to burn calories after class is over, thanks to the metabolism-boosting powers of intervals, which you perform when simulating hill climbs.
Dig in to Potatoes, Grains and Beans
Eating a diet rich in resistant starch – a type of dietary fiber found in many carbohydrate-rich foods such as potatoes, grains and beans – can help rev fat burning and reduce overall hunger. Your body doesn’t digest or absorb this supernutrient, so it does not contribute to body fat. Instead it’s fermented when it reaches the large intestine, which creates beneficial fatty acids that block the body’s ability to burn carbohydrates. One study found that replacing just 5.4 percent of total carbohydrate intake with resistant starch created a 20 to 30 percent increase in fat burning after a meal. Just be sure to avoid fatty extras like butter and cheese when preparing and watch your portions.