By Tia Norris, July 2017 Issue of Echo Magazine in Phoenix, AZ.
Love it or hate it, the summer sizzle is upon us. With seasonal temperatures soaring to 120 degrees and beyond, Phoenix is regularly one of the hottest metro areas in the country. And, unfortunately, heat plays a huge, unavoidable role in all parts of your training program.
Here are the facts: Heat causes our core body temperatures to rise, and is compounded if you’re outside in the sun. Our bodies attempt to cool off by expanding our blood vessels to bring more blood toward the surface of the skin. As more blood is transported to the surface for cooling, less blood is available to internal organs and processes. In short, this can turn into a medical disaster! This is how heat exhaustion turns into heat stroke. And remember, heat stroke is extremely dangerous.
Keep your cool this summer by not only learning what the heat does to you, but also how you can work with it. Here are the biggest effects heat will have on your diet, fitness and lifestyle in the coming months, and how to prepare accordingly.
Most people don’t drink enough water, regardless of where they live. However, when you consider that we live in one of the hottest and driest places cities in the nation, our water intake – in particular – becomes even more critical.
As we all know, the body’s first line of defense against heat is to sweat. And, of course, as you continue to sweat (which is made from water), your body loses water in the process. Less water internally, means less efficiency internally, and this can quickly lead to a hydration crisis.
The bottom line is that hydration will allow all of your internal systems to work better, longer, and to slow the effects of the heat. My minimum recommendation is 100 ounces of water per day, with an additional 10 ounces per 30 minutes of activities outdoors. And don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink! Start first thing in the morning and stay ahead of your hydration to avoid a crash.
Elevated Heart Rate
With heat exposure, your thermoregulatory systems must work much harder than normal to stay cool. To support this increased activity, the heart must pump more blood, more quickly, to all internal structures.
On one hand, this means that you’ll burn significantly higher calories in the heat. This can be a powerful weapon for weight loss, but only if you are careful. Boxers, martial artists and bodybuilders all know the power of a “sauna suit” and the calorie burn that comes with heat.
However, an elevated heart rate in response to heat can spiral out of control very quickly – particularly if you are outdoors (think: hiking in a remote area with little to no shade). Your best bet to combat this factor is to hydrate, eat and try to not be a dumbass about hiking out so far that you’re hours from your car when your heart rate starts spiking. Always take your phone and/or a friend when you’re out for long hours in the heat because you never know when your body will react adversely.
Heat has been proven to significantly zap your appetite. This is a double-edged sword: on one hand, most people would find eating less to be a GOOD thing; but on the other hand, considering that 80 percent of my clients don’t eat enough as it is, I would call this anything but good.
Be aware of your caloric goals, and be sure to track your intake in some fashion. I always recommend the free tracking app, MyFitnessPal. Watch your habits and consider moving your heavier meals to the end of the day when it is cooler, or after your workouts when your appetite is highest.
There are countless other factors that are worth considering in the heat – electrolytes and salts, productivity, sleep quality, skincare and sun exposure – just remember that awareness is power and planning is everything. So, don’t use the heat as an excuse to slack off – just be prepared!