I don't know about you, but this heat is feeling pretty relentless now. Im all for a bit of sun worship, but when you have to go about normal day to day life, it gets a bit stifling. The hot weather does bring its own unique set of challenges to our physiology and there are a few ways in which our diet can be a helping hand in managing these challenges. These few strategies can be a useful part of your arsenal.
Increase carotenoid intake
The carotenoids are a group pf phytochemicals in food that give colour pigments. They are the substances that give orange, yellow, light red and pink colour pigments in foods. From sweet potatoes and carrots to tomatoes and prawns, their presence in our food is wide and varied. They are an alternative form of vitamin A. Why eat more of these in the summer? Well, they are a fat soluble antioxidant and as such can accumulate in the subcutaneous layer of the skin where structures such as collagen and elastin are stored. These structures can be damaged by oxidation, particular in the presence of Ultra Violet radiation. Excessive exposure to the sun can accelerate the ageing of the skin, and it is oxidative damage to these structures that is part of that process. Something very interesting that has started to emerge from recent studies is that increased intake of carotenoids seems to offer protection agains sunburn. It seem they can slow burning time. Now, this ISNT permission to lay in the sun for 8 hours slathered in baby oil, but it may help to offer that little extra protection when you are out and about!
Increase salt intake
Wait….before you swear loudly at such nutritional heresy, here me out. Unless you have strange sub Human skin, you are going to sweat more in this weather, and with the humidity being as it has the last few days, the electrolyte loss during the day can be significant. Now a lot of us in the Western World do suffer from a sodium excess, which can create a whole array of problems, specifically for cardiovascular health. But unless you are eating 30 packets of crisps a day, in this weather you will be losing sodium. It is one of the single most important electrolytes involved in regulating every conceivable aspect of extracellular communication, and many aspects of intracellular communication. The movement of electrolytes across cell membranes and their interaction with membrane bound structures is one of the basic foundations that makes us work as a physiological system. If they get too low, we are in BIG trouble.
So what do I suggest? Well, 1st dont just swallow down table salt, get something of better quality. Go for an unrefined sea salt or Himalayan crystal salt. These have the important sodium in, but also other key electrolytes such as magnesium and potassium too. The first and most obvious thing is season your food with it. Secondly, add a good pinch of sea salt to your water. If you drink from a filtered bottle, you will have to transfer this to a glass and then add the salt as the filter will filter it out. The added bonus to this is that the added salt in the water will increase the waters osmotic potential, and help to hydrate you faster...which leads me nicely on to….
Hydration. What IS right?
I wont insult your intelligence and tell you to stay hydrated in this weather…but there is a question i get asked quite a lot. How much water should I drink a day? 1 litre? 3 litres? 8 glasses. When you read different articles and features, you will see all manner of recommendations, and the truth is these are completely arbitrary. Its a case of ‘how long is a piece of string’. Thankfully, your body has a wonderful way of showing you what the state of play is.
Simply drink until your urine runs clear. Thats it. Simples. Nowt more complicated than that. When you hit the point that your urine is running clear, you are hydrated. Stop drinking water. When the urine gets some colour back, top yourself up. Keep this up and you will be hydrated all day. Now, for those of you like me that swallow supplements like they are the secret to eternal life will find a mysterious effect - the bright yellow laser urine that comes from consuming B vitamins. If this is the case then use the second barometer. This is when your urinary frequency increases from its normal rate. When you feel the need to head to the loo every two minutes, thats your cut off point.
Eat lighter meals
One little trick that can certainly help keep you a little more comfortable is eating lighter meals. Big heavy meals simply generate heat! We need to work pretty hard to digest food, there is a calorie burn and we generate heat as a result. Lighter meals that are easier to digest means our body doesn't have to work as hard to digest it and break it down. This doesn't mean eating water melon all day, but nice nutrient dense salads of lean proteins and lots of greens. Try not to have too many protein and carbohydrate combinations. Dont worry Im not getting all faddy and weird, it just takes longer and more effort to digest a meal composed like this. This is exactly why I recommend this combination in my Diet Another Day Programme because it ramps up aspects of metabolism and keeps you full and satiated for hours, but it DOES generate heat as our calorie expenditure needed to process it goes up.
Magnesium & Tryptophan
The final little nugget is one for those of you that struggle to sleep in this weather. That is DEFINITELY me!! Having a meal rich in both magnesium and the amino acid tryptophan will help you to drift off into a restful nights sleep. Magnesium helps your muscles to physically relax so you get into a far deeper relaxed state. Tryptophan is the metabolic precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin in turn converts over into melatonin which is the substance that sets the clock. It gets us off to sleep and helps us get a longer deeper sleep. This magic combination has saved my bacon many a time, especially after a trip to the US which always annihilates my sleep pattern for weeks.
So how do you get this magic combo? Well, for magnesium, go for anything green. Leafy greens are top of the pile. As for tryptophan rich foods, tuna, turkey and bananas are great options. So imagine this, a small open sandwich with a little tuna may and some baby spinach. You get tryptophan and magnesium together. You also have a small amount of carbohydrate present too. This is a necessary addition as we need a gentle rise in insulin to actually push tryptophan across the blood brain barrier.
These simple tips can be a PART of your armoury to getting through the hot weather.
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