Avoid The Winter Blues

How adapting your diet and training to seasonal changes can deliver the best results

Do the long winter nights and chilly daytime temperatures make you sad? Well, it is possible that it is not all in your head.

The cold and dark of winter can affect us mentally, physically, emotionally, and hormonally. Some of these seasonally-linked psychological and physiological symptoms are even associated with a medical condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or seasonal depression.

While SAD is most common in climates where there is less sunlight during winter and more adverse weather conditions, seasonal changes can affect anyone.

Body and mind

The psychological effects associated with a seasonal change can include fatigue, cravings for carbs and sugar, and a lack of motivation, with more severe cases linked to SAD experiencing depression, feelings of hopelessness and social withdrawal.


Hormonally-driven physiological changes also occur during seasonal shifts which can increase our propensity to gain weight while impacting our ability to metabolise fat.

As a survival mechanism, the body's hormonally-driven metabolism shifts to promote fat storage by blunting our insulin response during winter. This can also alter how effective we are at burning glucose for fuel.

This was helpful for our hunter-gatherer ancestors who had to survive long periods with little food. But in an era of food abundance thanks to modern agriculture and farming practices, globalised food supply chains, and refrigerators, it's an evolutionary adaptation that no longer holds much relevance in our lives.

Sleep changes

Other hormonal changes can make us feel tired, sluggish and lethargic during winter, even after a solid 7-8 hours of sleep. Our circadian rhythm – our sleep-wake cycle – shifts in winter in response to changes in hormone levels, including dopamine and melatonin.

These fluctuations can occur due to factors such as decreased sunlight exposure, which can lower vitamin D levels, and night-time hours.

Some scientific evidence suggests that low vitamin D levels can influence several different hormones, including energy-regulating hormones, mood hormones and sex hormones like testosterone, oestrogen and progesterone because it acts as pro-hormone in the body.

Light up your life

From a hormonal perspective, getting more exposure to sunlight and increasing your sleep duration slightly can naturally boost levels of the feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine.

More exposure to sunlight can alter levels of certain mood-controlling hormones in your brain, such as melatonin, which can improve sleep quality and regulate mood.

You can also combat seasonal depression with some exercise, a healthful diet, certain supplements and a positive mind-set.

Committing to a regular training schedule through winter is an effective way to maintain your fitness and help keep that winter weight off. Exercise also releases feel-good hormones like serotonin to help boost your mood.

Food fix

From a dietary perspective, it is preferable to avoid refined carbohydrates and sugar because you're inclined to crave these foodstuffs more in winter and they can affect your insulin levels and metabolism.

Eating seasonal produce is another good idea. These foods are more readily available, are often cheaper and typically ripened naturally. These fruits and vegetables will aid digestion, and provide your body with various nutrients, antioxidants and enzymes.

Supplement support

If you experience a deficiency in any specific vitamin or hormone, you can incorporate supplements into your winter nutrition plan to make up for these shortfalls.

Supplementing with vitamin D3 is a proven way to boost vitamin D levels in the body if you struggle to get sufficient sun exposure during the day.

Mood-boosting and sleep-enhancing products like 5-HTP and melatonin may assist to alleviate certain seasonal symptoms and possibly improve your sleep quality.

And don't forget that mind-set reset! Maintaining a positive outlook during the winter months can help you make and stick to beneficial lifestyle changes.

Content Disclaimer:
You understand and acknowledge that all users of the Dis-Chem website or app are responsible for their own medical care, treatment, and oversight. All of the content provided on the website, are for INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The content is not intended to establish a standard of care to be followed by a user of the website. You understand and acknowledge that you should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health. You also understand and acknowledge that you should never disregard or delay seeking medical advice relating to treatment or standard of care because of information contained in or transmitted through the website. Medical information changes constantly. Therefore the information on this website or on the linked websites should not be considered current, complete or exhaustive, nor should you rely on such information to recommend a course of treatment for you or any other individual. Reliance on any information provided on this website or any linked websites is solely at your own risk.
Back to top