Montrealers are a funny bunch, aren’t we? Our little micro-climatic island spends half the year complaining about being too cold, and the other half about being too hot. Friends, it’s about time we step outside of our little, air conditioned rooms and face summer head on! Don’t let a little heat wave bring you down! To help you take summer by the horns, here are a few fitness and nutrition tips that will help you manage your internal temperature and allow you to take full advantage of this sensational (yet scorching hot) season. No more sprawling out in front of your air conditioner all day long!
It’s true that it’s hot out. However, if we refused to exercise every time we were bothered by the weather, we’d barely do it at all! During a heat wave, you CAN and SHOULD be moving, unless you happen to be some sort of creature made out of chocolate. You just need to adjust your workouts and make sure to avoid situations where you’re basically asking for heatstroke. That being said, it is possible to avoid these weather-related worries by working out in an air-conditioned space: try spinning, zumba, gym, etc. If you really need a fresh air fix while working out, keep these three golden rules in mind:
- Take it easy. On hot days, our perception of effort is heightened. It’s normal to have a harder time completing your regular routine. Don’t let your ego get you into trouble: take the intensity, duration or level of difficulty down a notch during overly sunny sessions. For example, take a long walk instead of your regular 5k run, play 30 minutes of tennis instead of a full hour or substitute your boot camp training for something more relaxed, like yoga.
- Take a (longer) break. Listen to your body. Give yourself time to catch your breath and hydrate properly (more on that later!) during your workout. If you feel dizzy or start seeing stars, it’s time to take a break!
- Shade is your friend! Obviously, you should avoid doing a burpee marathon on black asphalt under a blazing hot sun, all the while forgetting your water bottle at the office. Try exercising early in the morning or during evening hours as often as possible, and always seek out shade during the day. Better yet, get moving in the water!
The human body is a well-designed little machine, isn’t it? Each and every one of us has been blessed with our own heat regulating system. It’s true! When temperatures skyrocket, our internal system transfers excess heat to little droplets of water that are drawn towards our skin’s surface and sweat out. The hotter it gets, the more heat our body eliminates, and the more water we lose. Up to 2 or 3 litres per hour, in fact! In order to replace the water we’re losing every hour and to keep our internal system in good shape, we’ve got to hydrate properly.
Now that you’ve got a handle on the importance of hydration during a heat wave, it’s time to move on to how the different macronutrients that make up your diet (carbs, proteins and fats) can help you beat the heat all summer long. Concentrated sources of sugar (a type of carb) won’t help you all that much when it feels like a sauna outside. Through the process of osmosis, sugar draws water towards the inside of your digestive system, adding another hurdle to the hydration process. Plus, while protein is essential for building muscle and satiating hunger (among other things), consuming it in excess actually produces heat. This is what we call the thermic effect of food, a phenomenon that also occurs with carbs and fat, but to a lesser degree. Basically, your body has to activate a complex mechanism in order to properly digest, say, a big steak. During summer months, it’s better to limit yourself to one portion of meat or fish the size of your palm per day, or get your protein from plant-based sources (legumes or tofu, for example). Finally, large meals that are rich in fats leave you in a post-meal slump that, along with the heavy weather conditions, can make anyone feel extra exhausted and more miserable than usual.
If you’re wondering how to fill your belly best during a heat wave, here are a few good suggestions:
- Drink regular or flavoured water, iced tea or coffee (black or lightly sweetened), real fruit juice diluted with sparkling water, etc.
- Snack on foods that are rich in water: radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes, melon, peaches, strawberries, citrus… basically, any fruit or vegetable!
- Fill up on smoothies, yogurt, cold soups and simple sorbets (frozen fruit puréed in a blender)!
- Integrate modest portions of lean protein into your meal: legumes, tofu, egg whites, fish, chicken breast, Greek yogurt, etc.
- If, and only if, you work out for over an hour under the hot sun, have a homemade or store bought sports drink to restore electrolytes and rehydrate (ex. Gatorade).
And… some not so great ideas:
- Concentrated sources of sugar: soda, energy drinks, heavily sweetened ice coffee, fruit cocktail, fruit juice from concentrate, dried fruit, candy, chocolate, etc.
- Excess of protein and fat. You should probably pass on that triple cheeseburger with a side of poutine and hot fudge sundae for dessert. If not, you’ll regret it later!
- Excessive alcohol consumption will dehydrate you beyond belief, turning you into a walking prune!
When it’s crazy hot out, you have to stay cool. Maximize your comfort during Montreal’s beautiful (but blistering) summer months by following the tips above!