Don’t worry… you won’t have to take off your clothes…if you don’t want to, that is!
It’s no secret that temperatures are rising.
Here in Charleston, SC, we’ve already reached 90°F and it’s not even technically summer.
So the big question is...should your nutrition change any with the rising heat?
The summer is a tough season. For many of you, myself included, your appetite drops significantly because who wants to eat a full, hot meal when you’re already feeling overheated and sluggish. However, at the same time, the heat is affecting your recovery and increasing your activity especially if you’re exercising outside.
This means that it’s just as important to eat the right number of calories…even when it’s 100° outside.
What happens when it gets hotter?
Most of my clients checking in this past week or two have reported a drop in energy levels and in recovery.
They’re more sore, fluffier, and sluggish.
Workouts don’t feel great.
It’s harder to hit those macros.
Sleep isn’t great.
You need to eat properly…and enough!!!…even in the heat because your bodies still need fuel. Just because it’s hotter out and your appetite drops doesn’t mean you can stop eating. Underfueling yourself causes all of those feelings mentioned above…and that’s with proper nutrition. Now if you’re experiencing these heat-related side effects AND under-eating, then you’re in for a really miserable time and it’s likely to get in the way of your goals.
Why is this important?
Eating below maintenance for too long will cause your metabolism to slow and adapt to its new “normal” intake. Let’s say after the summer, you decide you want to go into a cut and lose some weight. This means you’ve now got to go further in a deficit. Let’s say your maintenance is 2000 calories but you’re only eating 1500 in the summer months. When you go to start cutting any time after, you now have to cut from 1500 calories and eat around 1000 calories. This comes with its own slew of problems: hormone downregulation, further loss of appetite, cravings, binging, etc.
So...what do you do to combat the rising temperatures and still reach your daily calories and macros?
Our bodies are amazing. Our bodies like to live in homeostasis, which basically just means “normalcy”. When something foreign gets into or around our bodies, our bodies will either fight off whatever change it’s faced with OR it will adapt to its new normal.
When you’re sick, your body’s immune system fights off the infection.
When you’re stressed, your body produces cortisol and adrenaline to fight off the stress.
Now when you’re hot, your body does a couple of things
1. It responds immediately.
It produces sweat to cool off. It takes in fluids and electrolytes from food and water and excretes anything unnecessary via urine
2. It responds over time.
It adapts to the new normal and re-establishes homeostasis.
The lesson here is that your body ADJUSTS to the heat…and all you have to do is support it and give it time to do so.
If you aren’t familiar with my gym in Charleston, let me take a chance and describe it. It’s a big warehouse in downtown Charleston, SC. It has all black interior. One fan. Two doors. No heating. No air. Charleston gets to 100+°F in the summer…making it close to 115-120°F in the actual gym during the summer months. Oh and it’s 80-90% humidity most days just to make things even worse!!
I’ve been at this gym going on three years now. This will be my third summer. I can tell you with 100% certainty that the first 2-3 weeks in April/May are 10x worse than the two months of July and August when temperatures are at their highest.
This is because our bodies haven’t yet ADAPTED to its new normal. It takes generally 10-14 days of DAILY exercise lasting 60-90 minutes to acclimatize to the heat. For most of you, myself included, you don’t workout 10-14 days in a row. You’ve got a couple rest days thrown in there…so this actually turns into 3 if not 4 weeks to adapt.
During this period of adaptation, you should support its natural adjustment system and also listen to your body and the signals it’s telling you. Once your body has adapted, then maintain all of the following you did during the adaptation period.
So without further ado, how to survive the heat both during the acclimatization period and beyond!!
Electrolytes are the key to recovery from heat. Electrolyte deficiency will cause dehydration, bloating, and loss of appetite. Replenish electrolytes within 1 hour of exercise. You can do this with recovery drinks such as FitAid or KillCliff, sports drinks such as Gatorade or Propel, or powders/tablets such as Propel or Nuun Tablets. Majority of electrolytes can come from fruits and vegetables so eating veggies at every single meal is especially encouraged.
Salt is essentially just electrolytes but it deserves its own category because of 1. how easy it is to incorporate and 2. how much of a bad rep salt gets. You need the components of salt (sodium Na, and chlorine Cl) for almost every process in your body. They are some of the main drivers in energy production and usage and cellular processes. The easiest fix you can make to your diet in the summer is simply adding 1 tsp of salt to each meal, especially post-workout. Salt should only be limited or considered for people with preexisting kidney conditions and is generally perfectly safe for most individuals.
Studies have shown that carbs or protein+carbs 1-2 hours post-workout prevents heat-related illnesses significantly more than water alone. It is SO crucial to consume food post-workout…especially those carbohydrates. Now the kicker, most of you AREN’T hungry after a hot, sweaty workout. If that’s you, then drink your protein+carbs. Immediately following your workout, add a scoop of protein powder and carb supplement (I use and recommend highly branched cyclic dextrin) to 10-12 oz water and enjoy. Make sure the water is cold!!!
Water is 4th on the list. It’s not higher because it often has too much involvement in managing the summer heat. Drinking too much water will essentially dilute your body and the electrolytes present, putting your body in a pseudo-dehydrated state. It tricks your body into thinking it’s low in electrolytes and other nutrients because it’s bogged down by the extra water. In normal temperatures, you want to drink half your body weight in ounces of water PLUS 15oz for every hour you exercise. For most, this comes to 90-120 oz water. In the summer months, all you need to do is add another 10-15 oz for each hour you exercise. This would be half your body weight plus 25-30oz of water per hour of exercise. It’s more important to prioritize food and electrolytes so do that before you start chugging 2 gallons of water.
5. Extra rest and recovery
Your body is taxed. Recovery is going to lag. Energy levels will lag. This is because your body is working to adapt. During that period, understand you may have to take an extra rest day. You may have to prioritize a bit more recovery and stretching. Take advantage of cold showers or contrast showers to help cool your body off and recover even more.
Summer doesn’t have to suck!!! Make sure you follow these especially during the 2-3 weeks where your body is acclimatizing to the rising temperatures to support it. The more you support your body and help it adapt, the quicker you'll be back to crushing it.