How to Optimize Your Nutrition for This Year’s Heatwaves

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Summer has arrived, bringing with it the inevitable heatwaves.

Heatwaves occur when temperatures rise significantly above normal levels for a particular region. While it might seem like the perfect time to stay indoors and enjoy the air conditioning, it’s important to recognize the health risks associated with extreme heat.

High temperatures can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, cardiovascular strain, and respiratory issues. Additionally, heat can affect your sleep, physical activity, and dietary habits.

Research shows that people tend to eat less during hot days due to a loss of appetite. This occurs because the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates body temperature and hunger, works to cool the body down. Since digestion generates heat, the hypothalamus suppresses hunger to help manage body temperature.

Despite a decreased appetite, it’s crucial to nourish your body with the right foods and drinks, especially since heat can impact your mood and energy levels.

Planning meals and snacks or keeping cool snacks on hand is a great way to stay fueled. Being proactive with your eating can help avoid energy slumps and feelings of tiredness or irritability. For instance, if you typically eat lunch at noon, make sure you have a plan, even if you don’t feel hungry. A snack can also suffice.

But the first and most important step is…

Water, Water, Water

Staying hydrated is essential. When it’s hot, our bodies sweat more to cool down, which is why we need to consume more fluids. While it’s rare, it is possible to drink too much water. Our bodies signal us to drink when we need water, so it’s best to drink when you feel thirsty.

Men should aim for about 15.5 cups (125 ounces) of fluid daily, while women should target 11.5 cups (91 ounces). This may seem like a lot, but any beverages that are mostly water are good for hydration. Just try to avoid those with too much added sugar.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are excellent natural water sources. Their water content allows them to be consumed in larger volumes with fewer calories. Top summer picks include watermelon, cucumber, oranges, strawberries, and tomatoes.

Keep these in your cooler or as a snack on the go to stay full and hydrated during the hot months. Adding fruits to your water can also naturally flavor it!

Cold (and Hydrating!) Snacks

Cold snacks are a great way to beat the heat. Anything with fruits and vegetables will provide water and essential vitamins and minerals.

Need some ideas? Try celery with peanut butter, yogurt with strawberries, watermelon or grapes with string cheese, or cottage cheese with cucumber.

Limit Alcohol

Alcohol and caffeine are often thought to cause dehydration, but there isn’t much strong evidence to support this. However, if you’re drinking alcohol or sugary beverages instead of water, it can definitely disrupt your hydration status and increase urination.

Limiting these beverages and focusing on water is best.

Enjoy Meat in Moderation

While “meat sweats” aren’t scientifically proven, eating large amounts of meat may increase your body temperature, although most people likely won’t notice a significant change.

Food digestion generates energy and heat. Protein digestion requires more energy compared to fat and carbohydrates. Unless you’re eating copious amounts of meat and notice an effect on your body temperature, you can continue to enjoy meat. If you’re concerned, consider smaller servings or plant-based proteins.

A Balanced Diet Should Meet Your Electrolyte Needs

Most people eating a balanced diet get enough electrolytes through food. Electrolyte replacement is mainly needed if you sweat a lot due to increased humidity or activity.

In that case, hydration tablets can be a quick way to replenish electrolytes. When choosing an electrolyte beverage, look for water, electrolytes—such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium—and additional minerals. Carbohydrate calories should be around 6-8%.

For daily activities like yard work or walking the dog, and lower-intensity activity that results in minimal sweat loss, sports drinks with lower sodium levels will suffice. Just ensure the one you choose has lower sodium levels. Some tablets have 500-1000 mg sodium, which isn’t necessary unless you’re exercising outside and losing lots of fluids/salty sweat.