Want to keep up your fitness level during the summer, but it’s just too hot? Keep reading for tips on how to eat light but eat right to fuel your muscles, keep your energy up and keep you going.
TIP ONE: begin and end each day with higher protein meals. Protein requirements change based on our age, health and stage of growth, but an average 150-pound adult needs about 56 g per day to maintain muscle balance. Protein is a building block for muscles, bones, skin, hair, blood and cartilage. You have no storage areas in your body for excess proteins or its building blocks- amino acids. What you don’t use up is stored in your fat cells. Excess protein can over work your kidneys, is dehydrating, and can deplete calcium. Protein is also a component of most food items, not just meat, fish and poultry. So, don’t get caught up into the high protein diet craze. Eat what your body needs and no more.
When it is hot, we often don’t feel like consuming heavier foods, like protein and fats. Eat larger portions during the cooler parts of the day to avoid over taxing your digestive system in the heat. Protein slows carb digestion allowing your body the ability to better utilize the energy generated from this nutrient. Your body uses protein to repair itself. Extra protein does not build muscle, only exercise can tone or enlarge your muscle cells. A smaller protein snack right before and right after a workout will help support muscles during the workout but not weigh you down.
Examples of the Protein Content of Foods:
4 ounces (think quarter pound) contains the following amount of protein:
Red meat- 32g
½ cup Greek yogurt- 11g
½ cup cottage cheese- 14g
½ cup pinto beans- 11g
½ cup black or kidney beans- 8g
½ cup raw oatmeal- 13g
1 cup quinoa- 8g
1 cup lentils- 18g
1 cup green peas- 8g
1 ounce of nuts/seeds (1/16th of a pound)- 4-12g
1 cup cooked broccoli- 4g
1 cup cooked spinach- 13g
Since we buy in bulk in ounces and pounds in the U.S., conversion from grams to ounces is appx 28 grams to 1 ounces of pure protein. There are 16 ounces to a pound.
TIP TWO: eat small snacks of nutrient dense fruits and vegetables during the day to supply healthy carbohydrates which keep your energy up and replace vitamins and minerals lost by sweating. Electrolyte imbalances can cause unwanted symptoms like muscle cramps, fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, and an irregular heartbeat. Great foods to replace electrolytes include the following: potatoes, bananas and melons are high in potassium; spinach, black beans and avocado are good sources of magnesium; tomatoes, lettuces and olives replenish lost chloride; collard greens, spinach and kale. Last but not least, your salty sweat contains sodium. A fresh dill pickle or even a little sea salt added to your food will help replace this important nutrient. (I think I see a nice salad or stir fry shaping up here!)
TIP THREE: hydrate early and hydrate often to replenish water lost from sweat and evaporation. Sweating helps keep your core body temperature within normal limits. Begin each day with an 8 ounce glass of water combined with a squeeze of lemon. After that, drink a ¼ cup every 15 minutes for best absorption of water into your cells (and not simply eliminated by constant urination). This combined with increased fruits and vegetables will keep you well hydrated and healthy (without too many extra trips to the bathroom!). Yes, there are times when you need to drink larger quantities of water at one time when your fluids run low.
Have you heard the advice to drink hot beverages on a hot day to help keep your temperature down? Well, this can be true sometimes. According to research at University of Ottawa’s School of Human Kinetics, consuming a hot cup of tea on a hot day will stimulate your body’s innate temperature control system and cause your body to sweat more to move heat out. This works best if you are in an environment with low humidity. You will feel cooler. If you are in a humid environment or wearing a lot of clothing, you will not be able to evaporate sweat as efficiently. You will just become hotter and risk putting stress on your cardiovascular system. Also remember, the more sweat you produce, the more electrolytes you are likely losing, so be sure to follow Tip Two and consume those electrolyte rich foods.
TIP FOUR: If possible, schedule workouts and games for early in the day or later in the evening when the temperature is cooler and there is a greater chance for breezes to keep your body cool, and to limit or avoid electrolyte loss and fatigue.
This summer I was introduced to a yummy new mid-day treat for hot days:
Pack several leaves of Kale and Spinach into a blender.
Add Ice to fill the container.
Pour Coconut water over all until it covers well the greens and some of the ice.
Blend and drink with a straw!
I find this suits the adult palate more than children. For children, add a frozen banana and a handful of raspberries and it will be well received. Enjoy your summer!
Meredith McClanen, ND