When the cooler weather strikes, it's easy to fall into the trap of comfort eating and ultimately, losing sight of your goal. Beat the winter weight gain with these six tips.

 

 

Unlike the weight gain that follows a luxe resort vay-cay (where a couple of extra kilos of carry-on could be considered a fair price for a fortnight of cocktails), kilo creep seems like a rough deal. Chances are, you won’t remember the extra lattés and cheese sauce that added up while you were busy getting the heater fixed. According to a Swedish study published in journal Nutrition & Metabolism, a single month of overeating and being less active can impact weight for years hence. Even when subjects forced to be sedentary for four weeks returned to exercise and healthy eating, they kept the three-plus kilos they’d gained off season. Two and a half years later, the extra weight was still there.

While the obvious strategy is to swear off cheese, wine and takeaway, extreme and unpleasant measures ignore the big picture. (When have crash diets ever worked before?)

“Weight loss is not just about calories in and calories out anymore,” says celebrity nutritionist Matt O’Neill from Metabolic Jumpstart. A better tactic is to optimise your metabolism so the odd second helping, dessert or cocktail doesn’t push you into the red.

Here are 6 winter weight cheats to help you stay on track:

1. Hit up the weights rack

The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest, so get building. “Your body automatically burns 10 calories for every kilogram of muscle per day,” says O’Neill. “If you gain five kilos of muscle by going to the gym and lifting some weights, you can burn five kilos of body fat off over a year.” In a study at Southern Illinois University, exercisers who performed a 15-minute resistance routine burned around 420 kJ above their usual expenditure for three days post gym. As well as lifting, try adding one to three sets of five bodyweight moves such as squats and push-ups on three days per week.

2. Cycle class

Cyclists who pedalled with all-out effort with high resistance for five 30-second sprints (that’s just 2.5 minutes) burned a whopping 840 kJ according to Colorado State University research. Remember to recover between intervals. Participants recouped with four minutes of slow pedalling with low resistance after each burst.

3. Find your om

Yoga clears a major obstacle to fat burn. Studies show that a 50-minute yoga sesh reduces levels of stress hormone cortisol, which promotes fat storage and undermines use of adipose tissue as fuel.

4. Snack

Digesting food counts for about 15 per cent of daily energy expenditure, so it makes sense to eat more – not less – frequently. “It costs you chemical energy to break down, digest, absorb and store food,” says O’Neill. Rather than going hours without food (which incidentally tends to mean you consume more calories when you do eat), snack on nutrient-dense, high-fibre foods, which are satisfying without adding huge amounts of kJs.

5. Trade in the saturated fats

Saturated fat builds more fat and less muscle than polyunsaturated fat according to research from Uppsala University recently published in the American journal Diabetes. That’s despite comparable calories (as a macronutrient, fat yields 37 kJ per gram). Trade up to omega-3 polyunsaturated fat, which O’Neill says can help burn more fat, regulate blood sugar and insulin levels and keep hunger at bay. “Shifting the balance away from unhealthy saturated fats to more healthy unsaturated fats will definitely enhance how the metabolic chemicals in your body function.” High intake of EPA and DHA, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, may boost metabolism by as much as 400 calories per day according to scientists from the University of Western Ontario. If you’re a carb fiend, swap out some of your carbs for protein. “It costs more energy to digest and absorb protein, such as meat, fish or eggs than it does for carbohydrates and fat,” O’Neill says. If you struggle to prepare meals with a decent protein quotient, consider one or two protein shakes as snacks.

6. Sip on your green teas

There’s a reason that matcha’s so hot right now. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests the antioxidant chemicals called catechins found in green tea might give metabolism a slight kick. When participants in a study sipped green tea extract containing 50 mg of caffeine and 90 mg of epigallocatechin gallate, their 24-hour energy expenditure increased by four per cent. The combination of caffeine and catechin polyphenols has thermogenic properties and promotes fat oxidation. 

NEXT: Discover 8 ways to control your appetite and avoid overeating.