With the weather heating up and the sun coming out in full force, it’s time to start thinking about nutrition principles for summer workouts. You’ve already read some general principles and guidelines for sports nutrition on this blog. But exercising in the heat is a whole different ball game than exercising in the cold! If you’re not careful, then you might find yourself melting in a puddle of sweat and your workouts deteriorating into nothing more than a slow crawl in the blazing heat. Some important aspects of summer workouts are pretty basic and, if I dare say, rather obvious. Wear breathable clothing in a light color that won’t absorb heat. Don’t exercise during the hottest part of the day, which is usually between 10am and 3pm. Wear sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, etc. as needed to protect your skin and your eyes from the sun’s powerful rays. But you already knew those things, didn’t you?? So let’s move on to talk about food and fluids.
Drink up! Our bodies work harder throughout the summer months to prevent overheating, and it’s easy to get dehydrated as a result of increased sweat rate during this process. This can cause decreased athletic performance, dizziness, confusion, unconsciousness, and, in severe cases, even death. In order to prevent these complications, follow some simple guidelines:
– Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to start drinking! Keep drinks nearby during exercise, and sip small amounts of fluid consistently throughout your workout.
– Water is appropriate for short bouts of exercise (< 1 hr). For longer workouts, you can also consider a sports drink or diluted juice that provides some carbohydrates and sodium.
– Avoid milk-based drinks since these sit heavily in the stomach and do not hydrate as effectively because of their protein content (which uses up water during the digestion process).
– Cold liquids are best because they help keep your insides cool. (Seriously!) Try freezing a bottle of water or other liquid overnight so that it will melt slowly as you exercise. Alternately, you can use a cooler to keep drinks from warming up during an outdoor event.
– Remember to sip on liquids throughout the rest of the day, not just during your workout!
– Not sure if you’re dehydrated? Urine color is a simple way to monitor hydration status. Other signs of dehydration include more than 2% body mass loss during a workout and salt on the clothing or skin.
Eat in the heat. Many people find it easier to diet in hot climates because they experience a natural decrease in appetite. But if you’re an endurance athlete, don’t be fooled—your body still needs fuel to get through long workouts without losing speed or strength! There are lots of great mid-workout snack ideas that won’t sit in your belly like a ton of bricks.
– Fruit is a refreshing seasonal option. Try lower fiber fruits like grapes, orange slices, watermelon, peeled apple slices, pineapple chunks, or bananas. They taste great fresh or frozen!
– For those who prefer starchy, salty snacks, try pretzels or bland crackers… just remember to wash them down with plenty of fluids. Granola bars are also okay, but they might sit heavily in the stomach. Choose low fiber bars for easier digestion.
– Got a sweet tooth? Jelly beans are easy to freeze for a cool treat along the way! There are also some delicious commercial gels and chews that serve the same purpose… I won’t name names, but you can find them in your local grocery store.