Here are a dietitian’s top five tips for getting the most out of your activity during the warmer months:
The body needs energy to perform optimally, regardless of the activity, including whether it’s just for fun or exercise. Before you engage in movement, aim to eat something that contains simple forms of carbohydrates — like a banana, pretzels, crackers, bagel, or toast — about 30-60 minutes prior.
This pre-workout fuel, especially when it’s coming from quick-acting carbohydrates (broken down into sugars), allows you to feel more energized and can improve your performance. Your body can break down these simple carbs into sugars more quickly than a meal that contains complex carbs (think whole grains with fiber, which slows down the digestion of the sugars) or a lot of protein or fat (which also slows digestion).
The heat can be very exhausting on the body and can even increase cortisol levels (a stress hormone), leaving you feeling depleted after your workout. It can also increase your risk of dehydration due to excessive sweating. To feel better during your workouts, consider getting outside for your activities in the early morning, late afternoon, or evening when the outside temperatures are cooler. This reduces the sweating and stress on your body from the heat and allows you to feel more comfortable during your workout.
Getting enough sleep is a great way to make sure you have enough energy to engage in movement that you find joyful. This may also make it easier for you to get up earlier to engage in activity before your day starts, or could allow you to have more energy to be active later in the evening. Sleep is also when our bodies go into a state of rest and repair, allowing your muscle tissues to regenerate for your next activity.
Try to consume foods that contain both a carbohydrate and a protein source after your workouts. After a workout, you want both quick carbs to restore the depleted glycogen (or energy stores) in the liver and muscles and you want protein to repair your muscles. In fact, it is important to get both because carbs are “protein sparing” – that is if you get enough protein but no carbs, your body will convert some of that protein into carbs for energy, so less of the protein will go to repairing and building muscle!
A few great post-activity snack options include Greek yogurt with fruit, a fruit smoothie with protein powder, or a granola bar with added protein for a quick on-the-go option.
If engaging in movement outside in the heat, especially if you are sweating a lot or outside for long periods, consider refueling with electrolytes (think sodium and potassium), which have been depleted from sweating, through sports drinks or electrolyte powders/tablets.
Adding in 5-10 minutes of yoga, stretching, or walking can make a big difference in how you feel and in your overall health. This could be as simple as using a standing desk or taking a five-minute break to walk around the house or stretch. Just breaking up the stillness of sitting or lying down can benefit our health by allowing our blood to flow properly and our muscles to be engaged.