Beat the Heat: Meals and Workout Tips from the Pros

Posted by Emilie von Unwerth on

In the seemingly-never-ending heat wave that is summer 2016, we thought we’d try to figure out the best ways to beat the heat, so to speak. While summer is a magical season full of vacations and holidays, it’s also full of, let’s face it, a lot of sweltering temperatures and sweat.
Especially for us east-coasters. Trust us, we know from experience that one of the first things to get interrupted by summer heat is our diet and workout routine. So, we consulted with experts to see what you should be eating, drinking and doing to stay cool and healthy during the summer months.

Water water everywhere
“Everyone has a different threshold of how much heat is too much for them” says RD Shari Portnoy. But if there’s one thing that’s certain: the key to staying comfortable is hydration. “Water is the most important beverage! Staying hydrated starts before exercise. If you know you are going to exercise in the heat, start drinking extra the day before.” Having participated in several triathlons, the athlete and registered dietician says the inconveniences of pre-hydrating are worth it. “Having to constantly go to the bathroom to urinate is a good thing for athletes the day before a race! Before racing in the heat, know your body and what you can handle. A minimum to drink, depending on your size, is 2 cups of water an hour.”

Add Salt.
Both personal trainer Jeff Miller and nutrition coach Nancy Popkin recommend adding a bit of salt to your water. “For maximum hydration add a pinch (just a pinch) of Himalayan salt for minerals and electrolytes,” says Jeff. “Avoid sports drinks like Gatorade; they contain a lot of additives that may be harmful and the sugar can help dehydrate you.”

Eat your water, too.
“I recommend eating plenty of fruits and vegetables which naturally have a high water content,” says Popkin. “Melons, berries, tomatoes, grapes, stone fruit and greens are all good choices.”

We all know that the heat of the stove isn’t exactly inviting in the summer time. “In the hot weather, we don't feel much like cooking,” says Nancy. Her suggestion? Salads and soups. “Salads as main courses with some protein make great hot weather meals. A cold soup such as gazpacho with some added beans for protein can be filling, cooling and hydrating. Cold soups with melon are another cooling option. Grill chicken or fish outdoors to keep the kitchen cool and enjoy leftovers cold the next day.”

Alter your workouts.
“If you're exercising in weather that's too hot for you to tolerate, you're not doing your health any favors,” says Miller. “If you step outside and it's uncomfortably hot, it's not going to feel any cooler after you've run a couple of miles. When your body tells you ‘It's too hot out here,’ what it's telling you is to take it easy.  Strenuous exercise will add heat that your body will have to dissipate, and if you add more heat than you can sweat off, you're going to get yourself into trouble.”

Jeff’s advice? Play it safe, exercise indoors, especially in the air conditioning. “That said, everybody has different levels of tolerance to physical stress, and some people want to get outside and move because they enjoy it more or it's part of their training for a sport. If you are going to train in the heat, make sure you drink plenty of water. Make sure to wear a hat to keep the sun off your head, and if you feel light-headed, nauseated, or experience pain of any kind, especially cramps or headaches, stop exercising right away and get yourself cooled off.”

Soak up the Salt
To enhance recovery, athletes should take a cold shower or an ice bath directly following an intense workout. On of the nation’s top fitness and nutrition experts and author of Get-Fit Guy’s Guide to Achieving Your Ideal Body, Ben Greenfield, says adding epsom salts to a warm bath also helps speed up recovery. “If I’m sore post-workout, or after a long weekend of training, I’ll draw a bath and throw a few cups of Epsom salt in to help relax the muscle, decrease swelling and inflammation, and speed up recovery,” says Greenfield.

After cooling down a bit, add 2 to 3 cups of Epsom salt to a bathtub of warm -- but not super hot -- water. “Every muscle operates via a fine electrochemical balance,” says Greenfield. “The electrolytes in Epsom salt can help to displace some of the charges across the muscular membrane, particularly those from calcium, which causes a contracted muscle to relax.”
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