How to eat in the heat
The heat can be testing and - especially in the UK - something we are not used to! While we have had a couple of months of practice, there is always something to be learned, or days when the heat still gets a one-up on us. I have pulled together some handy tips on how you can use nutrition to your advantage.
Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet can be a tricky task in the heat. Warm temperatures can lead to a reduced appetite because digestion is a thermogenic process, meaning the body generates heat. In an effort to keep body temperature to a minimum, the brain orchestrates signals to reduce your appetite so digestion won’t impact the cooling efforts of the body. While from a heat point of view, this can be beneficial to us, it can really take its toll on us physically and mentally. Especially for us in the UK where high heat is an extreme physiological condition we aren’t used to, our bodies will be working hard to maintain normal function, which means they need constant replenishing of the right nutrients.
So, how can you make sure you stay cool whilst also staying on top of your productivity by fuelling your body + brain to the best they can be?
There are a few different tips I thought I would share if you struggle with feelings of fatigue throughout a warm day:
- Schedule meals more carefully → Foods that require more effort to breakdown will generate more heat. This is things like proteins and wholemeal or complex carbohydrates with high fibre content.
- TIP - try marinating your meat in a citrus based marinade, this will help to break down the tough cell structure so it is easier to digest. Or, opt for more plant based protein sources where you can soak them prior to eating + they are a little easier to digest without compromising protein intake.
- TIP - have a high protein breakfast ahead of the peak heat. Having a more protein-loaded breakfast can also have a positive effect on your blood sugar levels which lines you up perfectly for the rest of the day and helps to avoid any sugar crashes.
- Consider what is in your meals at each time → familiar with the post carb-coma? That is because consuming carbohydrates increases the availability of a molecule called tryptophan in the body. Tryptophan is an amino acid which can influence our sleep.
- TIP - While it is important to have a balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates in each meal, try and save the more carbohydrate-heavy meals til the evening when you will be winding down for bed anyway.
- Eat little and often → everyone has different eating patterns that work for them but one thing that might help in the heat is to spread your meals into smaller portions throughout the day.
- TIP - Make sure each of these portions include a variety of fruit + vegetables! They are water based so can contribute towards hydration + provide you with essential vitamins and minerals for staying on top of your game throughout the day.
- Another added challenge the heat brings is sleep. It is much easier to get to sleep in a cooler room (if you have access) but you can also make it easier by eating accordingly. As mentioned above, having a higher load of carbohydrates for dinner to make the most out of the tryptophan response is a great way to use food to your advantage. You should also aim to eat no later than 2 hours before bed time - this will allow for the dietary induced thermogenesis (warmer body temperature from digesting food) to pass so your body is a little cooler when trying to sleep.
I hope this is somewhat helpful! We are not used to heat like this, but finding little hacks to cope are super important! Let me know how you get on + please feel free to send in any suggestions you have of ways you cope with the heat to firstname.lastname@example.org - I always love to hear from you guys!