If you’re expecting this post to reveal a raft of diet and exercise tips to give you the hot bod of a swimsuit model, then you’ll be disappointed. Besides, most of them are digitally altered anyway (at least it certainly makes me feel better to think that). What I’m really on about is what you can do when your bod gets too hot since, as I write this, the temperature outside is a sweltering 31 degrees Celsius.
Summer sizzles, so I thought some tips for healthy hydration and cooling off a hot bod would be a hot topic. Particularly for those of us also in hot flash territory. 😉 I was lucky enough to be at a cottage in the Ottawa Valley for a few days during this heatwave and jumping in a spring-fed lake did wonders for beating the heat! But if you aren’t near a cooling body of water, then what?
Water cools a hot bod
Water has many functions in the body and regulating temperature is one of them. Other important functions include transporting nutrients and compounds in blood, removing waste products (via urine) and acting as a lubricant and shock absorber in joints. There is good reason why water makes up, on average, 60% of body weight in men and 50-55% in women (given women’s higher proportion of body fat). Studies have shown that even at about 1% dehydration there are negative effects on mental and physical function. Symptoms of mild dehydration include a dry mouth, headaches and difficulty concentrating. So when the weather is sizzling hot and we sweat more, it is super important to stay hydrated, particularly if you are active.
You can estimate your level of hydration by looking at the colour of your urine. It should be a straw or pale yellow colour. Anything darker implies your body is trying to conserve water due to dehydration. You won’t feel thirsty until you are already somewhat dehydrated, so best not to wait for thirst to be your impetus to drink more. Instead, sip steadily throughout the day. One handy rule of thumb is to drink between half an ounce to an ounce of water (or other hydrating fluid) per pound of body weight per day. I have a Garmin sports watch that keeps track of my activity and gives me a hydration goal every day based on my weight and activity levels. Usually, it ranges between 2.5 to 3.5 litres per day for me.
Water, water, everywhere
During a heatwave, the most important piece of advice is to drink lots of water. Get your day off to a good start by drinking a large glass of water as soon as you wake up. I put a water bottle in my bathroom each evening so I can down it first thing. Then continue to sip regularly throughout the day.
And avoid alcohol. That thirst-quenching beer or cool, crisp glass of white or rosé wine will do you more harm than good on a super-hot day. Alcohol is a diuretic, so it actually promotes water loss through the kidneys (which is why drinking always makes you pee more). The effect varies depending on the amount of alcohol it contains relative to its water content.
Given that, low-alcohol beer is one of the better choices if you feel you must drink alcohol. Wine, however, will cause dehydration. The British National Foundation (BNF) estimates that the body produces approximately 350 ml of urine for a large (250 ml) glass of wine (13 per cent alcohol by volume), resulting in a net loss of 100 ml per glass. This is one reason for the advice to have a glass of water in between alcoholic drinks. First, you are more likely to drink less alcohol overall given the time it takes to drink the additional water. But, even if you don’t reduce your number of drinks consumed, you are at least replacing the fluid loss and preventing dehydration.
Lots of drops to drink!
You don’t have to limit yourself to just plain water for proper hydration, however. Many other thirst-quenching liquids will do the trick provided you aren’t drinking highly caloric or sugary/artificially sweetened beverages. Too many of these will result in weight gain and, as fat impedes heat loss, you may become more susceptible to heat stress. Here are some of my favourite non-alcoholic thirst quenchers…
- I love sparkling herbal teas (with no added sugar), like this one from Kite Tea.
- I also make my own iced herbal teas, like the Tulsi Lemon-Aid from the Iced Tea Collection at Lake & Oak Tea Co.
- Try my Whole Lemon Lemonade – you need a high-speed blender for this but it is well worth-it!
- Interesting mineral water. Jazz them up with your own herbs, citrus or berries or find some interesting ones at your local grocer. I enjoy S. Pellegrino Essenza Dark Morello Cherry & Pomegranate. And when I was in Quebec recently I came across Harrington’s Juniper Berry Sparkling Water which, as advertised, gives you the “pleasant and festive feeling of drinking a gin at any time of day”. I brought some home with me but am looking into where I can get more in Ontario.
- Another 0% alcohol choice for gin-loving wannabe-predominantly-abstainers like me is the Classic G&T by Highball Alcohol-Free Cocktails. It has some sugar in it so I tend to cut it with mineral water. Squeeze in some fresh lime and close your eyes and you’ll swear it is the real thing (said the friend who recommended it to me).
- It is easy to make your own alcohol-free cocktails as well, like my Classic Virgin Mojito (also a great way to use up mint that might be taking over your garden), Classic Virgin Sangria or Virgin Grapefruit Margarita.
- You can’t go wrong with Kombucha though you have to read labels carefully as they vary widely in sugar content with some packing the punch of, well, punch. Kool-Aid Tropical Fruit Punch, that is! I like the Pear & Ginger and Blueberry & Mint kombuchas from Alchemy Pickle Company. I like to dilute these with sparkling water to make them last longer. With kombucha, you not only stay hydrated but you also get a nice dose of probiotics!
- You can even get luxury kombucha! The Silver Swallow Rosé is almost like drinking an off dry sparkling wine.
- Lastly, non-alcoholic beer is a summer staple. My favourites are the Pale and the IPA from Partake Brewing (each are only 10 calories) and Rally “Dry Run” Pale Ale. I also like Sober Carpenter’s White, a Belgian-style wheat beer, but it is higher in sugars and calories so I drink it less frequently.
As you can see, there are a tonne of interesting and no or low sugar options out there to try! And it is easy to stay hydrated when you have more than plain water to quench your thirst. But here’s my advice if you are are at a party and wish to imbibe. Start out well hydrated! Add lots of ice to your drinks and convert your wine to a spritzer. Or try some of these low-alcohol beverages, below.
A few of my fave low-alcohol options
- Mead from Royal Canadian Mead. Their website anticipates the question “WTF is mead?” and provides the following answer: “Mead is the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage. But our meads are anything but ancient. We add hops to honey to create a modern drink that is crisp, dry and simply delicious. Everything we do is low-calorie, low-sugar and naturally gluten-free.” Lately I’ve been enjoying their Garden Party Mead, with citrus, cucumber and lime and only 3.5% alcohol.
- Piquette is a perfect summer sipper. It’s made by adding water to the grape skins, seeds, and stems that are leftover from the wine-making process and fermenting it. Because it is a second fermentation, there are less natural sugars present to be turned into alcohol. So piquette is only 5 to 9 percent alcohol, whereas wine on average is about 13 percent. Piquette also has a pleasant fizziness to it. I’ve been buying Benjamin Bridge Piquette and Maenad Sauvignon Blanc Piquette (both available from Fresh City Farms).
- Botica Low-Alcohol Gin. Do you see a theme here? Yes, I love gin as a summertime drink. But gin doesn’t love me back like it used to. This one is a more easily managed 12.5 percent alcohol version. I pair it with Fevertree’s Refreshingly Light Tonic Water to keep the sugar content down. Again, I cut it with mineral water as I find most tonics too sweet, even the light ones. Sometimes I just drink tonic and soda water and skip the gin altogether!
- Trade in your Negroni for Campari and soda, and go light on the Campari. You still get that lovely colour and bitter taste but a lot less alcohol!
- And for a very low alcohol option, adding bitters to sparkling water jazzes it up nicely. Here in Ontario, both Kinsip and Dillon’s make a whole range of bitters and I probably have most of them! Lately, I’ve been enjoying Rhubarb from Dillon’s and Lavender Lemon from Kinsip, which they note goes well with, you guessed it, gin! Have a look around for the best bitters in your area. Who says you can only use them in cocktails?
What are your favourite no- or low-alcohol beverages? We’d all be grateful if you would share them in the comments. Cheers!
Other ways to cool a hot bod
Drinking cool beverages will not only keep you hydrated but will also help keep your core body temperature down. Here are some other ways…
- Take cool showers or baths and/or mist yourself several times a day with cold water. A cool, damp towel around the neck is great too. Hey, make like a kid and turn the garden hose on yourself if so inclined. 😉
- Keep your moisturizer in the fridge to cool you down when you slather it on. Or do this with aloe vera.
- Close blinds or curtains, particularly in rooms facing the sun.
- If you don’t have A/C, aim a fan at yourself. This works even better if you put a pan of ice in front of it!
- If you exercise outside, go early in the morning or in the evening, when the temperatures are cooler and look for shady routes. A small plastic baggie filled with ice under a baseball hat is a good way to keep you cool during your workout.
- Wear sunscreen – nothing will heat you up more than a sunburn!
- Avoid using your stove or oven. Eat cold salad plates with water-rich veggies and fruits like tomatoes, zucchini, lettuces, cucumber, strawberries and melons. Enjoy summery salads like this simple Zucchini Caprese Salad or this Watermelon & Cucumber Quinoa Salad. BBQ or buy a rotisserie chicken and toss with mixed greens, sliced strawberries, slivered almonds and a balsamic vinaigrette. Use your blender to whizz up a cold soup (like this Tomato Gazpacho). Or microwave a curry from TiffinDay (it feels hot enough out to be India) along with some microwaveable wholegrain basmati rice. Spicy foods get their heat from the chemical capsaicin, which acts as an irritant in humans and gets us to sweat more, cooling us down.
- Don’t overeat. Digesting food, particularly high protein foods, generates heat (protein also requires a lot of water to metabolize). And avoid eating before bedtime, when you want your body temperature to drop.
- At night, mist your bedsheet so they are damp. If you have a hot-water bottle for winter, fill it with icy cold water instead and tuck it into bed!
- Last, and I admit I haven’t tried this, but I read that putting your PJs in the freezer before bed helps you sleep better! Though it might just put a chill on your love life! 😉