T Nation

What Causes Seasonal Bulk/Cut?

I think many members of this site will agree that their body fat percentage increases to some extent during the colder winter months. And as soon as you take that first breath of spring air, there is an innate urge to “cut” by reducing caloric intake.

Evolutionarily this makes perfect sense. Our ancestors stored fat during the winter because of inactivity and scarcity of prey, and lost it during the warmer months in order to hunt, forage and bang rocks together.

My question is this; from a physiological standpoint, what contributes to this behavior? I imagine it may have to do with hormones being manipulated by decreasing sunlight and temperature. Does anyone more endocrinologically-inclined than myself know exactly what hormones or pathways control this phenomenon?

I wonder if it could be manipulated, somehow. I want those pancreas-busting Christmas foods to stop tasting so good, damn it!

Interesting question.

<–Staying tuned for someone more knowledgeable.

I’m not sure we exactly know what’s going on in humans. It’s a lot easier to figure out in other animals - they have more concrete patterns (bear hibernating, snowshoe hair changing fur color) and we can chop them up any time.

i think that makes alot of sense but also in the summer, at least here in cali, everyone wants to go to the beach and when you go to theneach you kinda want to take your shirt off and when you take your shirt off people see your body and with natural tendency u want to feel like your the hottest out there and u want to look good.

Also for me winter is the offseason for my two sports

I think relating to a lot of people on this site and the general bodybuilding community, it’s a case of mis-information.

Yes naturally we may have needed fat in the winter and not so much in the summer, but the main reason people do it now is vanity - to look good without a shirt in the summer.

I couldn’t care less what others think regardless of the time of year; I plan my goals around when it suits me not the seasons.

I bulk through summer too.

I’m not really referring to an aesthetic “I wanna get beach abs by July 15th!” mentality. Rather, I meant an innate tendency to eat more during colder months and eat less during warmer months, regardless of physique goals. I believe there must be some sort of hormonal contributor to this in most people.

I think it may be due to the endorphin releasing properties of eating food, which helps to comfort us during the cold, miserable, winter months.

This is HOW we managed to put on more fat back in “cave times” and lose it during summer too… along with the increased activity in the pleasures of summer. I dont believe the need for food decreased in the winter however, Humans are not really storage animals - other than a big kill kept in the shade. That hasnt really changed with the advent of fridges and weekly shops!

Just like wanting to violently attack others who move in on your woman, threaten your off-spring or break into your house… it is driven by territorial and primal emotions.

And i would say of course it is hormonally controlled, adrenalin, dopamine, seratonin, cortisol are all action and reward hormones, base hormones.

I truly do not think Humans have changed a great deal in the past 5 thousand years. I think we would like to think we have, but that only proves one thing - that we are just that conceited.
We are following the same exact drives and emotions as then only surrounded by different things. Video games, pornography, clothes/cars/houses-consumerism, alcohol and drugs, murder, construction, technology advancements. All these are things that we want/use/do driven by a few base reward hormones of satisfaction or fear.
All that has changed is the advancement of the things surrounding us and our learning to use those things.

We are exactly the same - always had the potential to think a great deal, and to achieve alot in relation to this one planet; but we are so disgustingly dis-respectful to every.single.one of earths other living organisms - we deserve nothing but the fate that is awaiting us soon… total annhilation by our own hand.

Joe

During especially hot summers, often I don’t even feel like eating, so it does become more of an effort to maintain quality calories from real food (I’ll take a lot more shakes due to lack of real hunger during summer months).

S

i was wondering the same thing recently. like i dont go through “bulks and cuts” i just eat as much as i need to year round because with my metabolism i cant really bulk, you know. anyway, i noticed that i seemed to already have lost some weight and havent been eating as much. i thought maybe i was just stalling on progress but the summer/winter natural cut/bulk thing makes sense.

i love these types of discussions about primitive instincts and how we are the way we are because of our genes. i like learning about different things like breeding signals, how eating is affected by bodytype, a ton of different shit. i noticed Poloquin talks a lot about primitive stuff in his articles too which is what i usually enjoy about them.
people are animals just like anything else, i dont understand why so many people dont like to just come to grips with that. good topic though.

Sometimes I’m just preparing to hibernate though.

S

A shot in the dark here-

It could have something to do with the hypothalmus.

The hypothalmus is a region in your brain that among other things is responsible for controlling circadian rhythm toward light and dark, temperature regulation, and hunger.

So…perhaps during winter when it gets colder and darker earlier your hypothalmus kicks into overdrive, in a sense to make you hungrier to eat more, and also to make you sleepier earlier since it is darker earlier- which may in turn store extra calories.

Just a thought, but I am not totally even convinced that you naturally gain any additional weight during winter. I can ask my neurology professor and see what he thinks.

Thanks for the responses, everyone.

Some interesting stuff on PubMed. A couple articles mention what you posted, Varanid, about pineal-hypothalamic changes induced by lack of light.

I thought this one was kind of interesting.

Horm Metab Res. 2006 Jun;38(6):434.
Plasma leptin in men and women with seasonal affective disorder and in healthy matched controls.

Cizza G, Romagni P, Lotsikas A, Lam G, Rosenthal NE, Chrousos GP.
Pediatric and Reproductive Endocrinology Branch, Clinical Psychobiology Branch, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, NIMH/NIH, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA. CizzaG@mail.nih.gov

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a specific clinical entity characterized by recurrent episodes of depression, which typically occur during the winter with periods of remission during the spring and summer. These depression episodes are accompanied by hyperphagia with cravings for carbohydrates and moderate weight gain, and usually respond to light therapy.

We examined potential relationships between leptin, a hormone known to affect appetite and weight regulation, and seasonal changes in mood and appetite by measuring plasma leptin, clinical severity of depression, appetite scores, and body mass index (BMI) in 19 women and 8 men with SAD and matched controls (20 women and 8 men) in the summer and winter.

Plasma leptin was positively correlated with BMI in patients and controls during both seasons. Women and men with SAD both experienced depression in the winter, which was associated with increased appetite, caloric intake, and carbohydrate craving.

Increased body weight during the winter in subjects with SAD was paralleled by a lack of concomitant changes in plasma leptin, which suggests that leptin sensitivity to changes in body weight may be influenced by seasons in subjects with SAD, similar to seasonal mammals.

Seasonal variation in lipoprotein lipase and plasma lipids in physically active, normal weight humans.

Donahoo WT, Jensen DR, Shepard TY, Eckel RH.
Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Diabetes, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver 80262, USA. william.donahoo@uchsc.edu

Adipose tissue lipoprotein lipase (ATLPL) provides free fatty acids (FFA) for storage in adipocytes, whereas in skeletal muscle LPL (SMLPL) provides FFA for oxidation. In hibernating animals, the level of SMLPL is relatively higher in summer than winter (promoting fat oxidation), whereas the opposite is seen with ATLPL.

A patient-controlled study was designed to determine whether such seasonal variation occurs in normal weight humans. Eighteen subjects were studied in the summer and winter. After 2 days of a standardized diet, they underwent muscle and adipose biopsies for LPL activity, assessment of fitness by VO2 max, and determination of body composition by hydrostatic weighing.

The percentages of body fat, body mass index, VO2 max, insulin, glucose, FFA, glycerol, and leptin were not affected by the season. Total cholesterol was higher in the winter than in the summer (157 +/- 5.5 vs. 148 +/- 4.2 mg/dL respectively; P = 0.03).

The ATLPL activity was also higher in the winter than in the summer (4.4 +/- 0.8 vs. 2.3 +/- 0.6 nmol FFA/10(6) cells-min; P = 0.04). SMLPL activity trended to be higher in the winter than in the summer (1.9 +/- 0.5 vs. 1.0 +/- 0.1 nmol FFA/g x min; P = 0.06). In summary, ATLPL is seasonally regulated.

It appears that SMLPL is similarly regulated by season. For physically active lean subjects, this increase in SMLPL may be a compensatory mechanism to help protect from seasonal weight gain.

Good job finding those articles pimpbot.

I will be interested in giving those a quick read over.

[quote]Varanid wrote:
A shot in the dark here-

It could have something to do with the hypothalmus.

The hypothalmus is a region in your brain that among other things is responsible for controlling circadian rhythm toward light and dark, temperature regulation, and hunger.

So…perhaps during winter when it gets colder and darker earlier your hypothalmus kicks into overdrive, in a sense to make you hungrier to eat more, and also to make you sleepier earlier since it is darker earlier- which may in turn store extra calories.

Just a thought, but I am not totally even convinced that you naturally gain any additional weight during winter. I can ask my neurology professor and see what he thinks.

[/quote]

pretty good thoughts for a shot in the dark. i was thinking this would lead to a higher obesity rate on the easgt coast than the west/south but the south has the highest rate…which is probaly due to food choices but even still.

[quote]LiveFromThe781 wrote:
i was thinking this would lead to a higher obesity rate on the easgt coast than the west/south but the south has the highest rate…which is probaly due to food choices but even still.[/quote]

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing after my post.

There is probably just too much variability in environmental factors to account any seasonal body weight changes to be due to biology alone…like the regional differences you mentioned.

It doesn’t really hold water to me. Not evolutionarily anyhow. Climates and seasons have changed interlacingly throughout human evolution.

Basically, not every genetic path or “people” have had the standard winter/spring/summer/fall kind of climate change.

See it like this. When you’re cold, put on layers, when you’re hot, take them off. Purely psychological.

During winter, when it really gets cold here (-25 to -40) my hunger goes through the roof, probably because my body is trying to keep warm and is burning more calories. Interestingly enough I don’t drink as many shakes in the winter due to the hunger, but in the summer they are a huge part of my diet.

I bulk during the summer. I think it might have to do with our more ape like ancestors. Gaining weight during times of scarce food supply. ab_power your avatar makes me randy, baby yeah!