Say No to Winter Weight Gain

running in winter

Year after year, we face the same problem: Temperatures drop, we start putting on more and more layers of clothing, and before you know it, extra fat appears out of nowhere on our hips and thighs… In today’s blog post, we want to share with you some of the reasons for this pesky winter weight gain. In addition, we have several useful tips for keeping those extra pounds off during the cold time of the year.

home workout

Why do you tend to gain weight in winter?

There are several reasons why you put on weight when the mercury drops:

  • The number of holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s – in winter, there is one holiday after the other. They often tempt us to consume all kinds of savory, sweet or alcoholic delicacies that are hard to resist. The additional calories you consume on these days can quickly go to your hips.
  • It’s cozier inside: Fall and winter are cozy times of the year. In many regions, it gets very cold, so people prefer the comfort of their warm living room wrapped up in a blanket on the couch. It is easy to ignore endurance activities like running or cycling, and a trip to the gym often seems nearly impossible when it is cold, windy and snowy outside.
  • Seasonal fluctuations: You may not believe it, but it’s actually true that we eat more during the cold time of the year than we do in spring and summer. A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found seasonal fluctuations in calorie intake, exercise and weight. People tend to eat 100 calories more per day in winter than they do in spring. Plus, they consume more saturated fat. The researchers also found that people’s activity levels are lowest in winter, which once again brings us back to the temperatures outside: higher calorie intake + less exercise = more winter weight gain! 😉

So how can you avoid gaining weight during the dark and cold months of the year?

5 Tips to avoid winter weight gain

1. Take time to cook

We know it is often hard to find time in your busy schedule to prepare a proper meal, but maybe we can convince you to spend a little more time in the kitchen in the future. Researchers at John Hopkins University in Baltimore conducted a study on whether cooking at home was associated with better diet quality and weight-loss. And what they found was that those who cooked at home several times a week consumed less calories, sugar and fat than those who ate out frequently. Thus, it is definitely worth taking time on Sunday to prepare your lunches for the week.


2. Make smart decisions

A balanced diet during the cold time of the year doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice variety. There are many tasty and colorful foods that can spice up your holiday feast. Plus, they add a healthy touch to your meal.

Make smart decisions when choosing what to eat. Ensure that you get a steady supply of protein throughout the day and select high-fiber sources of carbohydrates and high-quality fats.

And if you get a craving for something bad, just remember that people who eat properly, can treat themselves to something “sinful” once in a while – but in moderation, of course! So don’t deny yourself the occasional piece of dark chocolate. Let it melt on your tongue and enjoy the taste of the cocoa to the fullest. Have you gone overboard a bit? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. Heck, you’re only human 😉 Forget yesterday and focus on getting a good start to a new day!

3. Brave the outdoors

Strengthening your immune system is not the only argument for exercising outside in the fresh air. Running in the cold winter months (or other cardio sports) actually burns more calories than running in summer. The reason why has to do with your fat tissue. Fat is not just fat. In the human body, there are two types of fat tissue: white and brown. We store extra dietary fat in the form of energy in the white fat tissue. This tissue is associated with obesity. It is located directly under the skin and is responsible for visible flab like “love handles”.

Brown fat tissue, on the other hand, can produce warmth through the oxidation of fatty acids (thermogenesis). Your body is heating up like a stove. In the past, it was assumed that only newborns had brown fat tissue to protect them from hypothermia. Nowadays, we know that adults also have active brown fat cells.

To cut a long story short, regular exercise in the cold can activate your brown fat tissue and thus increase your energy metabolism. This then leads you to burn more calories. But make sure to wear the proper clothing!

running outdoor

4. Mix up your training

If the weather is really too cold and wet, then try out some new indoor activities. This adds variety to your training plan. Possibilities include bodyweight training right after waking up, an hour of Bikram yoga with your best friend or a trip to the swimming pool. Nip boredom in the bud and push your body to new limits!

5. Get plenty of sleep

It is scientifically proven that people who do not get enough sleep tend to put on weight. However, researchers are not entirely sure what causes the extra pounds. They are currently discussing the effect of inadequate sleep on appetite, exercise and thermoregulation. Particularly in winter you probably need more sleep (because of the darkness in many parts of the world). The reason is the lack of sunlight. In the presence of darkness, your body produces the hormone melatonin. This hormone regulates your sleep-wake cycle and makes you tired. Listen to your body and spend a couple of extra hours in bed during the cold time of the year. Additional sleep is not only great for keeping a trim figure, it also improves your athletic performance. Conversely, regular exercise can improve the quality of your sleep.


Julia Denner Julia is a dietician and sports nutritionist. Before she began her position as Communications Specialist at Runtastic, she spent several years working as a dietician in the surgical department at Vienna General Hospital. Julia is passionate about inspiring others to eat a healthy, balanced diet. View all posts by Julia Denner