My nutritional mentors all have variations on what they believe is the optimal diet. This leads to endless debates from people smarter than me. I have no desire to jump into those nutritional fights. My goal is to improve my health using the Minimal Effort Approach. When I stood back from all the arguing, I began developing a unified theory where one adjusts carbohydrate levels, activity and sleep based upon the season.
I have not read anyone else that is doing a seasonal approach to a low-carb/paleo diet. The premise is that our bodies have growth and repair cycles, just like the planet. During the spring and summer is when the planet grows. Long days stimulate carbohydrate cravings and growth. The fall is when nature rests and repair begins for the following spring. Shorter days will reduce carbohydrate cravings – provided you don’t bathe yourself in artificial light after sunset – and stimulate repair.
Photo Autumn colors – autumn leaves / Colors de tardor – fulles de tardor by Ferran
In the post Summer is Not the Season to Lean Out, I covered how we are designed to get leaner during the fall and winter, not spring and summer. The reason we don’t is cultural. We are exposed to too much artificial light, have poor sleep habits and because of this we never down regulate our carbohydrate intake as nature intended. I believe many of today’s health problems, especially cancer and obesity, are a result not allowing the body to go into a repair mode during the colder months. Repair means more sleep, less carbs and less exposure to blue light.
With that introduction behind us, here are my Fall Strategies For Nutrition and Fitness.
- Increase Sleep – Now that the days are shorter I am sleeping on average an extra 20-30 minutes each night. A study just came out that shows a longer sleep will access more fat than a shorter shorter sleep cycle. You’ll also have a much stronger immune system.
- Removal of Most Sugars – During the summer, I will eat the occasional dessert such as ice cream. Once fall started, I dropped the modern sugars. During the fall, I will eat seasonal fruit such as apples. Dark chocolate (73%+) is always OK.
- Intermittent Fasting – I’m back doing the Intermittent Fasting. A few days a week I will do 16 hour fasts. It feels so much more natural to do in the cooler weather than in the heat of summer.
- Cold Weather Exposure – This has been covered in other posts, but exposing your skin to cooler temperatures will force positive adaptations. The primary one being getting leaner. This is my 3rd season where I will go without jackets or even long sleeve shirts until the temperature drop into the 30s.
- Shorter More Intense Workouts – This is the season where repair starts and carbohydrate levels drop. Save the longer fuel intensive workouts for the spring and summer. Focus on brief high intensity exercises, such as weightlifting (low-rep, higher weight). Maybe some Tabatas or sprints. Keep it brief. I see too many runners and cyclists that get sick and injured during this season. Their body desperately wants more sleep and rest, but they push it.
It has been a month since I started my fall strategies and I’ve already seen improvements. My sleep has never been deeper and I’ve fully recovered from my injury last month.
Oct 20, 2010 — 7:32 pm
I LOVE this approach! I haven’t really given the seasonal fluctuations too much thought, except that I know our metabolism is faster in the winter (when we need to work hard to keep warm) and slower in the summer (when we need to store up for winter). And of course this is touched upon in Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival, which I confess I haven’t finished.
I’ll stay tuned on how this is going, and may begin exploring a bit myself. 🙂
Oct 20, 2010 — 8:18 pm
@Jillian – Thanks. I started the seasonal approach this summer and I plan to do a Winter and Spring posts as we get into those seasons.
I love Lights Out. Well everything but the last 30 pages. 😉