Benefits of summer-time training?

Does summer-time training also offer Nutritional Benefits?

Cycling along promenade in Brighton

Cycling along promenade in Brighton and enjoying the summer sun!

Hidden behind the big nutrition related headline about the ‘Obesity Epidemics’ and the frightening increase in Diabetes Type 2, are the concerning apparent increases in vitamin D deficiency(*), especially in northern hemisphere populations.

(*) Vitamin D deficiency is associated with rickets, osteoporosis and, in recent research, is thought to be linked to neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease and even autism and depression.

And why is deficiency becoming more common? Partly this is because where we live, the sun is only sufficiently high in the sky for part of the year (April-September), to allow it to stimulate vitamin D production in our skin. But it is also because even when it is, most of us tend to spend most of our time indoors and, when outside, we cover up with sun factors that don’t let the sunrays through anyway.

Picture of woman jumping with sunrise behindSo – one benefit of summer time training – is indeed the opportunity to find a few rays of sun that help us to manufacture our own vitamin D and to top up those levels that are so vitally important to enabling us to extract sufficient calcium and phosphorus from our food for healthy bones, and teeth and to avoid it being leached out of our bones also for our neurological needs. If your skin can tolerate it, 10 minutes a day is sufficient. So, whilst we need to avoid over exposing our skin, a bit of actual, ‘sunfactor-free’ exposure to the sun’s warm rays at this time of year, can be a great benefit.

Our only other reasonable source of this essential vitamin, often considered more of a hormone than a vitamin, is by eating oily fish, eggs or fortified foods. In fact, because low vitamin D levels, and indeed deficiency, is becoming worryingly common nowadays, I encourage all clients that do not spend significant amounts of time outdoors, to ask their GP for a vitamin D test and to take a good quality D3 supplement(**), if they cannot get sufficient of this vitamin from either their food (which is difficult) or sensible sun exposure.
(**) Always check with your GP before taking any supplements.

What about nutrition in general, as it relates to summer-time training?

One of the challenges we give ourselves when deciding to increase our activity levels or embark on a training programme, is that of providing enough of the right nutrients to keep our energy levels sufficiently high, without causing us to overeat and put on undesired weight. Of course this is even more important when part of the reason for training is to lose weight or tone up.

picture of dinner plate with cauliflower rice salad and avocade

Cauliflower Rice Salad served with green leaves, avocado and drizzle of olive oil

The great thing about starting in the summer is that we are naturally more open to eating natural, unprocessed foods that are so much more supportive of our bodies and brains in the transition to tougher training regimes, than either nutrient stripped and over-processed or artificially fortified ready-made foods. It is ‘salad time’ and the time of year when fruits and vegetables, grown on our doorstep, don’t lose their vitamins because they have been picked too soon and transported too far and for too long.

That means that the salads and raw veggies we are likely to eat in the summer months are going to contain and retain more important water soluble vitamins like vitamin C and folic acid than those that have come from afar during the winter months.

Also, these foods are of course not the type of foods that cause us to put on weight, yet they provide fibre to gives us a sense of being full and lots of vitamins and minerals needed to manufacture important enzymes and to build the antioxidants that help get rid of toxins and free radicals that are (frustratingly) a natural result of increased use of oxygen, ie exercise.

Keep the colour and variety of veg in your diet!

Keep the colour and variety of veg in your diet!

So, feel the power of nature and indulge yourself in all the fresh, locally produced (and ideally organic and pesticide free) natural foods you can get your hands on and feel the gratitude of your body and brain in the way it will respond better to the training regime you are subjecting it to.

And, for those who dare take the challenge, leave the energy bars behind on the supermarket shelf and, if you are and want to remain a ‘carb-refueller’, replace them with delicious and natural, mineral-rich sweet dried fruits, to power you up the hills or along the endless roads, or through the water, when energy levels start to dip.

Beyond this, for those who are seeking to use fat as your primary fuel source, get ‘fat savvy’ and start exploring the power of natural fats in your breakfast, lunch and dinner choices, (not to mention barbecue choices and salad dressings!) and get those natural ketones and fatty acids working for your brain and muscles!

But remember – don’t combine the carbs and fats unless you know what you are doing. As long as you have easy access to carbs in your bloodstream, your body can only keep the bulk of the fats in storage.

And finally, don’t forget to hydrate and re-hydrate, especially if it is hot! Nowadays, many athletes and exercisers prefer to ensure they stay hydrated and have sufficient electrolytes in the mineral content by buying energy drinks. However, if you want to ‘go natural’, you can make sure you avoid cramps and stay hydrated, by drinking water and having some salt in your diet. In addition, eating a great variety of sufficient vegetables (leafy green veggies, avocados and nuts) should provide you with the potassium, calcium and magnesium that you need to minimize the risk of cramps.

In summary: Get more benefit from your summer training by enjoying a little sun exposure and nurturing your brain and body with healthy natural summer food choices! Happy Summer Training!

If you have any questions, would like to discuss any of this with me, want more information, would like access to my sources or suggested further reading, please contact me, Heidi, as follows:
contact@huntsland-nutrition.com or +44 7707 840082