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Healthy Habits for Summer healthy habits


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, home-made lemonade)
  • 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 hydrated.

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 after exercise.

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.


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