As we discussed in last week’s blog, stress can have a hugely catabolic effect on your body. This means that, rather than burning fat and promoting strength gains, you are actively storing fat and breaking down lean muscle tissue. Your body elicits this response as part of a series of internal mechanisms to cope with imbalances - avoiding it is simply a case of counterbalance.
Winter is a particularly stressful environment and its energetic changes impact the body: cold, wet, damp & wind, and even central heating are contributing factors that have a profoundly stressful impact, making it difficult for your body to rebalance on its own. This tax to your system, no matter the exact source, elicit similar results: a sluggish metabolism, misfiring adrenals, and a depleted immune system; the feeling of being run-down.
If you’re getting sick, feeling depressed, or struggling to complete your workouts, chances are you’re feeling the effects of the season. It’s also likely that some of the quick-fix options you’re used to turning toward to pick you up like juices, green protein shakes, citrus fruits and drinking more water are slightly less appealing and you’d rather be cosied up with some comfort food on the couch. This isn’t surprising but also isn’t at all helpful to your goals, or helping to make you feel better. Here are some awesome, easy, immune & metabolism boosting solutions that are warm, comforting and nourishing alike.
1. Warm, Spiced Apple Cider
Apple cider vinegar is hailed in the holistic world for its endless health benefits, however not all of these are backed up by science. As much as the internet will have you believe that apple cider vinegar is a miracle cure for everything, the truth in fact is that almost every vinegar contains Acetic Acid which can aid your health in a handful of particularly helpful ways: increasing assimilation of vitamins & minerals from food, reducing digestion of starches, boosting the immune system, balancing blood sugar, and helping muscles convert energy more efficiently. The difference between normal vinegars and apple cider vinegar is it has potent alkalising properties that help your body’s metabolism function more effectively, and also that it can be used to replicate a healthy version of a familiar North American seasonal favourite: warm spiced apple cider.
Unlike its UK counterpart, cider in the US is non-alcoholic, and made by boiling apples with sugar and spices. Our version is made by mixing 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar with a squeeze of lemon, pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, along with some warm water (not boiling as this can affect the Vitamin C content), and is best drunk first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, then sipped throughout the day. If you like your beverages a little sweeter add a couple of drops of stevia to taste.
2. Hot Lemon, Honey & Ginger
A grandma-classic. I for one was begrudgingly force-fed this as a child every time I caught a cold. Actually, the best time for this immune-boosting beverage is before you have a cold, during that period of time you’re feeling run-down and like someone’s taken a power sander the back of your nasal passage.
Lemon juice has an alkalising effect on the bloodstream that will help keep your body’s pH in check, counterbalancing the acidic residue left behind by city life and stress hormones, then factor in its high vitamin C content and you’re already winning. Combine the juice of 1 lemon with 1 tablespoon of fresh, grated ginger, (which contains chemical compounds that have a thermogenic effect on the body, warming you up from the inside out) and lastly 1 tablespoon of raw or Manuka honey for probiotics and its stimulating effect on the immune system.
3. Tumeric Lattes
Turmeric tackles literally every issue you’ll face this winter: it is anti inflammatory, anti viral, anti bacterial, it’s good for digestion, good for alkalisation, good for the immune system, good for the metabolism, nutrient-dense, full of antioxidants, and frankly, good for the soul. As far as I’m concerned, turmeric was sent to us directly from God. Not only does it taste amazing in stews, curries, soup and with eggs, but it's easily converted into a delicious, warming, sweet beverage. Mix 1 tsp ground turmeric with 2 tsp honey, some steamed non-dairy milk, and a pinch of traditional masala chai spice. For this use spices like cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, cassia, and be sure to add black pepper as this works in conjunction to some of the active compounds in the turmeric that make it worth your while. As soon as you discover this, coffee will be dead to you.
4. Spiced Protein Hot Chocolate
If you didn’t catch the Neat Nutrition protein hot chocolate before Christmas, you missed out. But its okay, based on it being included in this short-list, not only do you have permission to drink it outside the holiday season, consider it a necessary component of your metabolic survival. You can find the original recipe here; or experiment with substituting peppermint essence for a pinch of some of our spotlight thermogenic spices: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice.
5. Bone Broth
Okay, we have options here, because this isn’t usually one for the vegan’s and vegetarians! Bone broth has been around forever as a means of harnessing the maximum nutrition from the animal, and deeply nourishing qualities locked within the bones. Bone broth is made by slow cooking beef or chicken bones (from a high-welfare sources) with Apple Cider Vinegar, Lemon, Bay Leaves, Fresh Herbs, Sea / Rock Salt & Pepper on a very low heat. It is a great way to extract high quantities of B-vitamins, Vitamin D, and Amino Acids like Arginine and Glutamine that aid formation of collagen, boost cellular healing, brain synapsis, and support healthy joints. You can consider this meal a liquid supplement to counterbalance all aspects you are depleted of during the winter months. It is fantastic served with eggs (for that extra B-Vitamin boost), noodles (rice or kelp variety) and greens, and chopped vegetables. The vegan alternative is a vegetable broth, cooked on the day for shorter periods of time to retain the nutrients. This version is made with water, 2-3 tbsp apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, fresh herbs, sea salt & black pepper, Pack it full of the vegetables of your choice as well as natural sources of Vitamin D and B Vitamins like Mushrooms and edible Seaweed.
6. Slow Cookers
If you’re missing your daily dose of super-veg from a morning juice, but there just isn’t a place for it in your life when its 8am, -1’C and still dark outside, there’s an easy solution. Flip your schedule on its head and use this time instead to chop up every vegetable you own including a few tomatoes and throw it in a slow cooker. Turn the heat setting on low with a little bit of water and a ton of chopped fresh herbs and spices, and you’ll come home after work to a warming, delicious stew that is already cooked, and just as nutritionally beneficial as your morning juice was. Better still, you don’t have to come home and cook anything!
Zoats are another fantastic way of getting extra nutrients from warming, comforting food options. Add one grated zucchini (courgette) and 1-4 egg whites into one half - a whole of your normal portion of oats in the morning, along with any spices and flavourings you prefer. It can be a great tool to limit excessive carb intake if you’re trying to lose weight and boosting your protein intake no matter your fitness goals. You also benefit from the nutritional qualities of the zucchini, and (with the right combination of toppings) still get a breakfast that tastes like dessert.
8. Protein Truffles
Sometimes this time of year (when Zoats just don’t cut it), we just want a treat! And thank god there are now a thousand ways to get your treat fix without completely undermining your nutritional goals. That isn’t to say there isn’t room for balance, because in order to sustain healthy eating habits, you sometimes need to go off-track. Here, however is my favourite recipe for truffles that tick both boxes: healthy and incredible all at once.
- 1 Cup (Softened) Coconut Oil, Coconut Butter or Nut Butter of Choice
- 6 Tbsp Maple Syrup
- Pinch Sea / Rock Salt
- 1.25 Cups Chocolate Flavoured Neat Nutrition Protein Powder
- 0.25 Cups Raw Cacao Powder
- Optional: a few drops of vanilla, orange, peppermint or almond essence
Mix together all the ingredients by hand or in a food processor, and roll mixture into truffle-sized balls. Coat in toppings of choice (e.g. chopped nuts, desiccated coconut, matcha powder, chopped dried fruit, cacao nibs, cocoa powder). Cacao itself is packed full of immune boosting Iron and Vitamin C, combined with any of the above will add the extra boost of winter-busting nutritional qualities.
This blog was written by Phoebe Wynn-Jones. In 2011, hit by a moderately-sized truck travelling at a less-than-moderate speed, Phoebe was told she would never walk again. Using holistic nutrition, yoga and boxing as a means of recovery, she went on to complete her education in Biochemistry and became a qualified nutritionist in 2012.
Phoebe has since consulted on, opened and developed multiple locations within the food and fitness industry in Los Angeles, London, New Jersey and New York. She is now working out of her fight gym MBOX and other venues across East London as a nutrition coach and industry consultant, specialising in nutrition for combat sports competitors and endurance athletes.Find her on the web at impressedhealth.co.uk or on instagram @phoebej_nutrition