Winter weight loss is something our bodies are pretty much programmed not to do, but you shouldn't let genetics and a million years of evolution stand between you and a trim bod. That's why we've put together this guide to losing weight in winter.
Particularly under the current circumstances, it can be hard to motivate yourself to get fit and lose weight in winter. Going outdoors can also seem, shall we say, daunting. However with these tips on winter weight loss, you should be able to see in the summer – as far off as it may currently seem – in style.
Of course, the first step to weight loss is to look at your diet, and reduce the calories coming in. Alongside that, it's also very useful to burn off additional calories. Here's how…
- Indoor cycling guide: how to get started training indoors
- The best Zwift setup for every budget
- Here’s why winter training is key to summer success
Take on the winter outdoors…
Yes we know it's cold and it gets dark early, and it's probably raining too. However, the best winter running gear leverages scientific developments in fabrics, clothing design and reflective technologies to keep you warm, dry and visible – sometimes for miles around, with certain bits of reflective kit.
This is even more true for cyclists, who are now equipped with NASA-level, cold-beating clothing, as well as sophisticated lights of an eye-piercing intensity that was impossible 10 years ago.
If you are willing to brave the elements, you will reap the benefits. The phenomenon of thermogenesis means you will burn more calories in cold winter weather than in summery heat, for the same amount of effort.
Yes, this is balanced out to an extent by the fact you are wearing super-advanced, warming clothing and that the exercise will, in itself, raise your body temperature back up. And you may find yourself compensating by eating more hearty, warming and fat-laden stews, and guzzling more egg-nog and mulled wine once you get back indoors. But overall, most people should see more benefit from training in cold weather.
No? Not sold?
…Okay, retreat indoors for home cardio
Alright, it's too cold, wet and dark; you just don't fancy blazing across a snowy field in your shorts. That's okay, we have the best home gym equipment to draw on.
As well as weights and bodyweight exercises, there are a wealth of exercise bikes, treadmills, rowing machines and even elliptical trainers to draw on at home. They can be found at the gym too, of course, but gyms have been having a difficult time of it this year.
There are different points of view on what the 'best' cardio machine is. It largely comes down to your individual taste, but we could sum it up like this:
• Treadmills: research suggests these can be the most efficient way to burn calories for most people. However, paradoxically, to get the most out of them it is necessary to run faster than most people are comfortable with. Running is also fairly high impact, and treadmills require quite a lot of maintenance from having their conveyor belts pounded over the years.
• Rowing machines: these are hands down the best full-body workout, but also by far the most demanding in terms of form and technique.
• Exercise bikes: arguably, these provide the best mix of cardio workout, low impact and ease of use. As the boom in spin classes has shown, they can even be used as part of a full-body workout. You just need to get used to using dumbbells as you pedal. That's not for everyone, admittedly.
• Elliptical machines: another excellent workout that is low impact yet effective. However, these machines tend to be the most expensive, take up the most room, and require the most maintenance. There is also the small issue that you will look more stupid using them than any of the other machines.
Those wanting to go down the cycling route – and, more recently, running as well – should look into the benefits of smart training with apps such as Zwift. These draw on smart trainers – a sort of treadmill for your road bike – or advanced exercise bikes such as the next generation Wattbike Atom.
With data provided by the smart trainer or bike, these training apps put you in training and racing environments in sprawling, virtual worlds, filled with hills and sprints. So as you reach a hill, more resistance is applied. This 'gamified' realism, and the element of competition against real people – including pro cyclists! – is extremely motivating.
Add some weight training
Nothing gets the blood flowing on a cold day like a bit of calisthenics or weight training. You can get a full body workout with just a pair of cheap dumbbells and five, classic weight-lifting moves. Although it is of course essential to do so with good form, if you want to avoid injury.
Weight training, whether with the best home weights or just your own bodyweight, via press ups and the like, does not burn calories like the cardio workouts we've looked at above. However, used in conjunction with cardio, strength training really comes into its own. You should not only lose fat more quickly but also build muscle mass. This needn't mean turning into a side of prime beefcake; it can simply mean toning up, without bulking out.
Whatever you choose, your winter weight loss will pay off. It'll reduce the impact of all those mince pies, and ensure that you are in shape for summer.
This article is part of a series on fitness, supported by Wattbike (opens in new tab)