If Summer has you feeling less motivated to exercise there is a good reason- the truth is we get physically WEAKER in really hot summer climates. That's right! While we think of summer as the time for workouts and getting buff, it's the time of year we have reduced strength and stamina so need special considerations for how we time our food, exercise, and even what we eat.
Why is that?
Our bodies push blood into our extremities so we can sweat in response to hot days- which means less blood in your core. This rerouting of the blood also puts an increased strain on your heart, which is fine if you are healthy but should be taken into consideration for those who are weaker or immunocompromised.
This also means your digestion gets weaker because there is less blood flow to your stomach and intestines. Reduced digestive capacity means we aren't getting as much energy from our food and coupled with the energy output of sweating means our bodies are under increased strain with less fuel. That's also why people lose weight in the summer and why food sounds gross when it's sweltering outside.
So what can you do to mitigate this to stay strong and healthy all summer long?
1) Eat your biggest meal of the day when it is cooler outside- While the general rule of thumb in Ayurveda is to eat your biggest meal of the day when it's hottest from 12-2 pm, the rules change summer season. Now is the time to have your biggest meal in the late afternoon/evening- Your body will have more energy to invest in digestion when it’s not trying to keep you cool through sweat.
2) Exercise in the morning- Getting your workout in before 10 is best because this is when your body has had the maximum time to recover from the previous days expenditure. This also means you can have your biggest meal in the evening without worry that you will have to work out after, leaving time to enjoy the end of your day with a relaxed mind and body.
3) Avoid hard to digest foods like red meat and aged cheeses. The best foods and flavors for summer are sweet (think rice, mango, ghee, NOT sugar), bitter, and astringent as these help your body stay strong and cool. A great meal is lentils cooked with coconut flakes and ghee, rice spiced with cumin and coriander to aid digestion, cooked bitter melon, and a refreshing salad with fennel, mint, and pomegranate seeds. This incorporates all the flavors you should favor right now.
4) Drink herbal teas throughout the day-Some good herbs for the summer are mint, rose, chamomile, fennel, licorice, cumin, and coriander. Fun fact- drinking hot water actually cools you off because it helps your body sweat. Cold drinks reduce your sweat causing you to heat up! I know it sounds contrary but try it for yourself.
5) Take a short afternoon nap on an empty stomach. Both vāta and pitta are high in the summer, and it’s often more difficult to get to sleep when the nights are warm. While we usually don’t recommend day sleeping, summer is the exception- provided you have an empty stomach. Why does this matter? Because if you go to sleep after eating, your digestive capacity decreases and you run the risk of building up toxins in your body called āma in Āyurveda.
Want to learn more? Check out my YouTube channel all about how to beat the heat!
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