Habits for Summer
By Dr. Stacey Bell
Everyone looks forward to the summer months, as more
time is spent outdoors enjoying the warm weather.
However, our bodies need to get accustomed to the heat
after a long, frosty chill. To help your body adjust to
the heat of summer, here are a few tips on ways to eat,
hydrate and exercise more effectively:
What you should eat. Heat slows the
body’s metabolism. This means that you need fewer
calories to stay alive. If you continue eating the same
amount of calories as you do during the winter months,
you’ll gain weight. During cold times, the body shunts
the energy from some food to generate heat. In the
summer, there is no need to generate heat, and any
excess food is stored as fat. To avoid gaining weight
during the hot summer months, you need to reduce your
total calorie intake without sacrificing essential
nutrients. If you just ate less, you could reduce your
caloric intake, but that strategy usually results in not
getting all the vitamins and minerals the body needs.
Here are some tips to eat healthier in the summer:
- Eat nutrient-rich foods like fruits and
vegetables. You should eat about two pieces of fruit
and five different types of vegetables each day.
During the heat, raw versions of these foods cool
your body off and keep you away from a hot stove.
They also supply a rich source of water and
potassium, which are lost in sweat.
- Make sure to get enough protein from vegetarian
sources like soy and lentils, as well as limited
amounts from fish. Your protein needs do not go down
in the summer, so be sure to get enough.
- Limit your intake of foods that are
nutrient-poor. These include anything that is found
in a package, rich in fats and carbohydrates, and
lacking in essential nutrients. Since your
metabolism slows down during the summer, you can’t
afford frivolous intakes of these sorts of foods or
else you’ll gain weight.
What you should drink. Similar to
your nutrient needs, your fluidic needs change as well.
During the summer months, your body will lose more water
through perspiration than it will during the winter. You
also lose water through breathing, which doesn’t change,
but the amount of water lost through the skin can
increase dramatically, depending upon the amount of
perspiration you generate.
How much water does one need?
- Males: 125 ounces = 15-1/2 cups
- Females: 91 ounces = 11 cups
In order to compensate for the extra water lost while
perspiring, you need to drink extra water. Sweat also
contains salt (sodium) as well as potassium. These are
two essential nutrients found in foods, which also need
to be replaced. But don’t recompense all of your fluid
needs with water because you won’t be replacing the
sodium and potassium lost in sweat. Here is a simple
guide to extra hydration during the hot summer:
- Four or more cups of water
- Six or more non-caloric drinks (e.g., iced tea,
- Fruits and vegetables, which are 35-50% water
and are rich in potassium
- Use a little salt in cooking or on your food.
Usually you hear that salt is bad for you, but
during intense heat, it is a necessity. Salt is lost
in sweat and must be replaced. Salt allows for the
water you are drinking to stay in the body. If you
are lacking bodily salt, you can’t retain water.
You’ll end up excreting pure water and not getting
How you should exercise. Exercise
makes you strong and healthy and burns calories. But it
has to be done on a regular basis, even during the hot
summer. The key to maintaining an effective exercise
regimen during the summer is to modify your winter
program so it is doable during the hot months. For
example, if you usually run for an hour, cut back on the
amount of time by 15 minutes.
Otherwise, switch your exercise regimen altogether.
If you are a cyclist now, become a swimmer for the
summer. Changing exercises will “cross-train” your
muscles so that your entire body becomes stronger. Also,
changing the time that you exercise (i.e., not going out
in the hot mid-day sun) may allow you to maintain your
current exercise program.
Whatever exercise you do and whether it is done
inside, or outside in the heat, it is imperative to
maintain hydration. Drink something before, during, and
As the seasons change, we too must adjust our daily
habits in order to maximize the enjoyment that comes
with warmer weather. Even small modifications in how we
eat, hydrate, and exercise can make a big difference.
Dr. Stacey Bell, formerly on the faculty of
Harvard Medical School, collaborated with Tony and Sage
Robbins to create the
Inner Balance line of dietary supplements. A
research scientist for Idea Sphere Inc., she has written
100 scientific articles that show the effect of
nutrition on disease.