Think back to the 80s and you might remember a particular movie about a street wise Detroit cop who travels to the ultra-posh Beverly Hills to look into his childhood friend’s murder. This movie’s opening credits featured a song with a prominent lyric proclaiming…The Heat Is On. Well, for most of the country that holds true for the months of June, July, and August. Whether you are training or simply living your day to day life, special considerations should be made when, pardon the intentional pun…the heat is on.
The scorching summer heat can be just as dangerous as a frigid winter. This holds especially true if you reside in excessively dry and hot places like Southern Nevada and Arizona, or areas with excessive heat coupled with staggering humidity like Southern Florida. Dealing with heat should never be a show of how tough you can be. Sorry to tell you this, but the heat will always win. The following are some considerations you should seriously consider adopting and adapting to for those hot summer months.
Living and Training in the summer heat
We all know it is important to be hydrated so I won’t bore you with the “drink enough fluid” speech, because how much is enough?
The National Academy of Science recommends males consume 100 ounces of water a day and women just over 72 ounces. What these figures do not reflect is the fact that during intense physical activity, especially in heat, individuals can lose 6-10% of their bodyweight in water. If that was not staggering enough, athletic performance can be hindered at as low as 2% water loss. Studies have shown as low as 2.8% fluid loss is not only well into the realm of dehydration but is enough to impair cognitive function.
Fitness Tips: A good rule to abide by is to consume water (about 20 ounces) leading up to your workout and more throughout. Make it a point to at least sip water after each set or for the first 3 seconds of your rest period. These are just loose estimates because everyone’s water needs are different.
This holds true of going about your normal day as well. Dehydration is not only a threat to athletes or during workouts. Tasks as simple as shopping or walking in the park during the summer months need proper hydration. A good guide to abide by is thirst. The first sign of thirst is effectively the onset of dehydration. It is your body sending up a red flag saying it needs more fluid.
And finally while water is king, it does not reign alone. Hydration in the body is more than just fluid intake, it is fluid balance. This balance comes from electrolytes like sodium and potassium. Actually drinking too much water can flush these vital compounds from the body. This is where sport drinks like Gatorade come in handy. And don’t be swayed by trends or fads. Yes, drinks like coconut water is very healthy, natural, and full of electrolytes, but it is simply another tool in your belt. Tight budgets and convenience are factors. Grabbing a sports drink at your local convenience store is a fine choice for hydration and electrolyte replenishment. Don’t let critics call you out on that. If you are worried about sugar or other additives, companies like Gatorade, Smart Water, Real Water, and AquaHydrate all offer electrolyte enhanced plain water and are readily available at most retailers for between $1.00 and $3.00.
A final note on hydration. If you train you probably use supplements like thermogenics or preworkouts. Or you may even be a fan of energy drinks and coffee. All of these contain caffeine which is a diuretic and causes fluid loss. A good rule to abide by is to save caffeine for early morning or evening ours. Heat is usually highest between noon and 5:00 p.m.
DRESS THE PART
Yes we have all seen those ultra-futuristic bodysuits that are worn to reduce water in the body whether it be making weight for a fight or leaning out for a fitness show. Used in moderation and under care this is fine. This is however a poor choice for workouts or everyday living in the summer months. Same goes for multiple layers or sweat shirts. While those types of suits have a place, an average Joe/Jane on an average day needs to dress smarter.
Fitness Tips: Opt for light color fabric that reflects heat. Yes, that’s right, construction workers don’t just wear white T-shirts or bright yellow/orange to make a fashion statement.
While cotton may be the fabric of our lives and “breathes” there are other options as well.
In the past fifteen years or so wicking fabrics have become common place in athletic, work, and even every day dress. Most of these are made of specially woven and even chemically treated polyester fabric which can hold as low as 0.4 moisture. Believe it or not this works in reverse as well. When training in the cold it keeps moisture away from the body helping against hypothermia.
A new innovation that has arisen is temperature controlling clothing. These fabrics have moisture wicking and other properties to help dispel excess heat from the body and can even provide UV protection. This has been popular for quite some time for law enforcement, military, and fire/EMS. However, it has begun to trickle down into the fitness and active wear markets.
Five years ago moisture and temperature control clothing came with a hefty price tag. Now a days you can find the same quality for less than half the price of the big name brands.
TIME YOUR DAY
If you can it is best to schedule your workouts and day to day activity either before noon of after 5:00 p.m. This is especially relevant if you live in climates with temperatures that exceed 100 degrees. Think of it as intermittent fasting for your day. When you eat for I.F. you fast for a period then pack in all your meals in a smaller window. In what I will coin as Activity Fasting, try to pack your activity into the early and mid-morning hours when heat is on the rise. It is better to fight the heat on the upswing than on the downward. And just remember if you use the term Activity Fasting after reading this, I get a 50 cent royalty.