As with most organisms, the human body likes a very balanced internal temperature. It should come as no surprise then that sweltering summer days, can really fatigue a person quickly. Everyone knows that to keep cool, one needs to stay hydrated, drink cool beverages and limit sun time. Yet, most people don’t realize there are other strategies that can help a person not feel so bogged down by really hot days.
Part of the reason heat makes people tired, is because hot weather does more than just dehydrate a person. It also sucks away daily vigor in multiple ways. Really hot days affect sleeping habits, mood and even how hard one perceives activity to be. This is why a person’s strategy to stay cool needs to include more than just drinking cold water.
What You Eat Affects the Heat
Believe it or not, foods play just as important of a part as drink choices do when it comes to keeping cool. Firstly, a good strategy to keep cool is to eat watery fruits such as pineapple, melons, citrus and peaches. Having a juicy, watery fruit for a snack may actually help keep the body hydrated longer than just drinking water or a hydration drink. Also, these fruits are good source of important minerals which are lost in sweat like magnesium, potassium and phosphorous.
Hot & Spicy Foods to Stay Cool
An odd phenomenon is the effect of hot foods causing one’s body to cool down. Normally, hot soup or steaming hot appetizers don’t seem appealing in the heat, but it’s actually a really good strategy for keeping the inside of the body cool. This has to do with certain receptors in the mouth and digestive tract which detect when food is hot or cold. When activated through heat, they send signals inside and outside the body to cool off through sweating more and other processes.
These same receptors which trigger the cooling process are also activated through spicy foods like hot peppers and spicy seasonings. So sprinkling some chili powder, cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes may cool the body from the inside out as well. This may help explain why in some of the world’s hottest regions like South America, Africa and The Middle East, the local cuisine often includes spicy dishes.
The Right Drinks for Keeping Cool
Finally, there’s the question of what to drink. Obviously keeping hydrated is important, but the best drinks might not be what are commonly sought after on hot days. While water is easy, drinks with more electrolyte content such as herbal tea or coconut water will actually do a much better job at keeping a person energized as well as hydrated. Sweetened sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade aren’t necessary for most people who are engaging in workouts lasting 60 minutes or less and will probably just contribute unwanted calories.
For waking up in the morning, one might be surprised to hear that caffeinated beverages such as coffee and tea are actually great for hot weather! Researchers have found that some caffeine, even though it can be dehydrating, can prevent the fatigue associated with being in hot weather and even extend exercise performance. There is an upper limit though, so keep it to a max of 2 tall coffees or 4 cups of tea daily, otherwise the caffeine is going to be pulling significant fluids from the body leading to dehydration.
Normally, summers with extreme heat get the best of people, slowing down their activity and keeping them sheltered next to an air-conditioning unit. Working these foods and drinks in on a daily basis however is well worth those who are suffering under overly-hot summer days. Without the fatigue commonly associated with the heat, summer can be enjoyed again and performance in workouts can resume.