With Memorial Day passing by, summer is on its way. This means it’s time to start thinking about the best ways to fuel your body to beat the outdoor heat. When it comes to fueling your body healthfully during the warmer seasons, the major focus is on keeping the body as cool as possible. In this article, you’ll discover 3 aspects of nutrition that will help keep you and your family cooler in the months ahead.
From a nutritional perspective, three important factors contribute to feeling better and cooler during activity in the heat.
The three factors are food, liquid, and the timing of food/liquid consumption.
1. The primary types of foods that are best for activity in the heat are carbohydrates (fruits, grains, & vegetables).
The reason carbohydrates are better for you than high protein and fat foods is because carbs are absorbed faster and easier than proteins and fats and they are the main fuel source for physical activity and exercise. High protein foods, on the other hand, may contribute to dehydration because high protein foods require more water for metabolism and this may compromise the body’s ability to cool down.
2. The best source of liquid for keeping the body cool during hot weather is water.
For some children, however, a little bit of Gatorade or tasty juice is suggested because children are more likely to drink flavored fluids. Gatorade, however, does not provide an energetic advantage over water unless you plan to exercise for prolonged periods of time in the heat (more than one or two hours).
For adults, the average daily intake of water is about 2.5 L (or about 5 small Poland Spring bottles). Most people do not know that almost half of their water intake (~1.0 L) comes from the water within foods. As a result, people tend to over drink water and other fluids thinking they need to ingest more fluids than necessary. This is not a danger to the body under normal, healthy conditions.
During activity in the heat, however, liquid intake needs to increase to prevent the body from experiencing any of several heat related illnesses. In fact, physical exertion in the heat can increase liquid demands up to 6 times! And, for those who like to shed pounds in the heat, please note that one pound of weight loss after exercise is equal to ~ 15 fluid ounces of dehydration (~ 1 small Poland Spring water bottle).
3. Lastly, it’s important to understand how the timing of food and liquid intake can affect your ability to stay active in the heat. In order to provide the body sufficient fuel for activity, it’s been suggested to consume carbohydrates at least a couple hours before exercise. During exercise in the heat, about ¼ liter of water (1/2 a Poland Spring bottle) is suggested every 15-20 minutes.
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