Ever wondered why the seasons affect your performance? Or why you may feel less motivated in winter and more productive in summer?
When entering autumn and then moving into winter, it is common to experience a decline in drive and energy levels. Do you recognize the following pattern?
- You’re waking up feeling sluggish and with a fuzzy head
- You want to eat more and move less
- Your motivation is waning
- Elasticated pants suddenly seem like a great idea
- You’re rocking the judgmental / emotional streak
According to science, these subtle shifts in energy, mood and appetite are linked to the changes in temperature and dark/light cycle that occur in the colder seasons.
At biological levels, we are wired in a similar way to animals – essentially, lower temperatures mean food scarcity and a threat to survival. To overcome this challenge, evolution has gifted us and our furry friends with a neat adaptation mechanism.
Similar to other species, the human body has adapted to undergo a shift towards insulin resistance as the cold weather sets in. Think of insulin as the handle that opens your wood burning stove inside your cells. It lets glucose from food inside the stove so your cells can burn it to make energy. Our brain in particular thrives when this mechanism is optimised.
When we’re insulin resistant, the handle gets rusty, letting less glucose in, leading to an energy deficit. As a result, we can feel tired, cranky and constantly in search of the next sugar/carbohydrate hit.
In the wild this is designed to let the body perform for longer periods of time with little food in our belly. However, it’s not designed to work well under modern-day overfeeding patterns.
In fact, it is the quickest way to:
- Low physical energy
- Low mental performance
- Low emotional management
Everybody has this built-in mechanism that kicks in during Autumn. Individual genetic variants in your DNA then add in an extra layer of challenge: are you predisposed to weight gain, poor blood sugar regulation, low moods in winter?
My favourite way to hack this is to follow what nature intended for us. When it gets colder, assume there’s going to be food scarcity and remind yourself that hunger pangs are your fastest way to regain control of your performance.