We all know that what we eat can make a big difference in our energy each day. And that is extra true in the summer, when the unbearable heat can seem to sap all our energy.
Recommendations for a basic healthy diet do not change in the summer: balanced meals, lots of veggies, and healthy fats are all still important. However, the heat and the habits we tend to pick up in the summer add some extra factors to consider. In this blog post, we will give you some quick and easy tricks for how to make sure you are giving your body all the fuel it needs to beat the heat and still have energy to tackle your day.
Energy and Our Body
The body uses different ways to create energy. The main fuels for energy are carbohydrates, fat and protein (in small amounts). The different types of activities you do throughout the day require different sorts of energy. Carbohydrates are best for high-intensity activity, like a run, pounding it out at the gym or getting ready for a night out. For low-intensity activity, like a day at the beach or a day at the office, fats are the best source of energy. However, it is important to have a balance of all of these, because they really work best together.
Carbohydrate Energy Sources
Carbohydrates are a great source of energy, but that does not mean you need to have a high-carb diet.
Thanks to the bad reputation carbs have developed since Dr. Atkins, many people tend to not eat enough carbs. What Dr. Atkins did get right, though, is the idea that there are bad carbs...and these should definitely be avoided, but not to the exclusion of good carbs! The right carbs in the right amounts are healthy and necessary to provide energy and will not make you gain weight.
- Complex carbs: Complex carbs are found in whole grain product like pasta, cereals or even bread. A great carb source, loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber are legumes. Due to their fiber content, they are digested slower than simple carbs, which helps your blood sugar levels remain stable and avoid sudden drops in energy.
- Simple carbs: Generally, bad carbs fall into this category. Sugar and carbs made with refined flours should generally be avoided or limited. These can provide a quick energy boost, but will usually lead to a crash later.
Some great energy-boosting complex carbs are:
- Legumes: A great source of complex carbohydrates, plant protein, vitamins and minerals. But despite their amazing nutritional profile, they can be a bit tricky. Some people complain about bloating or gases when eating legumes. Soaking them for 48h or cooking the legumes with laurel or a piece of seaweed like kombu or wakame can help to reduce bloating. As they digest slowly, you should have them at least 4-5 hours before a period of high activity (like working out).
- Oats: Overnight oats are a healthy and energizing breakfast possibility for any time of the year, but they are extra delicious when topped with fresh summer berries. Mix 40-50g of oats with your milk of choice (Oatmilk is great), fruits and some nut butter. This will give your body good, slow-digested carbohydrates and lots of vitamins and minerals. To give it an extra kick you can also add some superfood powder, like our Wake Up superfood powder mix.
- Pseudograins: Quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, and millet are great examples of complex carbohydrates. These grains also have a relatively high amount of protein (12-15%) and other minerals and vitamins. Quinoa especially has a high amount of protein for a cereal and as they are not really grains but pseudograins, they are perfectly applicable for gluten-free diets.
- Seeds: Seeds are also a good source of summer energy, especially pumpkin seeds. They are safe for people with nut allergies and are high in many vitamins and minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, iron and copper.
Fat Energy Sources
Fat is our main energy fuel. This is because of the ability to store high amounts of fat in the body, compared to carbohydrates. Imagine an adult with 70 kg bodyweight and 10% body fat, which is about 7 kg of fat that equals 63000 kilocalories (kcal) of energy. You usually do not need more fat than the daily recommendation in the summer, even when working out.
Go for healthy fats always. Here are some great healthy fats:
- Avocado: A great fruit, rich in healthy fats. A perfect ingredient in a healthy vegetable salad or in the morning on top of your whole grain toast.
- Chia Seeds: Chia seeds are high in Omega 3 fatty acids, which are healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids, with anti-inflammatory properties. Chia is very high in fiber which means it slows down the digestion of other nutrients, consumed at the same time. This leads to a slow but continuous glucose absorption.
- Fatty Fish: Fatty fish is anti-inflammatory and a great source of important omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon is a tasty example. It also goes perfectly with BBQs as a healthy alternative to some fatty steaks or ribs. Tuna is also a great source, but be careful to get tuna that is certified to be free of mercury. Sardines and mackerel are also great sources and can be eaten with a veggie salad in the evening or after a workout.
- Olive Oil: Olive oil is the central part of the mediterranean diet and has a huge list of health benefits. Overall it is heart protective and has antioxidant properties. Choose olive oil for healthy salad dressings, or try the typical spanish breakfast: whole grain toast or bread, sprinkle with grated tomato, olive oil and a dash of salt. Deliciously healthy!
Protein Energy Sources:
Compared to carbs and fat, protein is not a particularly high source of energy. However, it is still important for a balanced diet, and for building muscle if you are working out in the summer. There are also many protein sources that are also good carbs and fats, so you can double-time it on your healthy inputs.
Good plant based protein sources are:
- Legumes, especially pea protein: Legumes are high in protein with about 30%. They also contain all essential amino acids, which makes them a complete protein.
- Pseudograins like quinoa or buckwheat
- Seaweed, especially spirulina
- Sesame seeds
- Nuts like almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts
Good animal-based protein sources for summer are:
- Dairy products: greek yogurt and skyr yogurt (icelandic yogurt) are higher in protein than cow yogurt. Sheep and goat milk are also a better choice than cow milk due to the digestibility of their fatty acids and richer nutrient profile.
- Lean meat like chicken breasts or turkey. Every now and then it can also be lean beef steak, preferably from grass fed cows because they offer a better pattern of their fatty acids.
- Eggs: Eggs are a nutrient and protein bomb. Unfortunately, they have a bit of bad reputations because the yolks are rich in cholesterol. Don't worry, evidence has shown that even daily egg consumption didn't raise cholesterol levels.
- Fish: Besides the fatty fish we already mentioned, white fish like sea bream, trout or cod fish are excellent protein sources.
Special Recommendations for Summer Workouts:
If you stick to your workout routine in the summer (and major props to you!), you need to make sure you have extra energy-boosting foods to replace the energy that is naturally drained through the heat.
Here are some quick tips for eating to maximize your energy for summer workouts (or any period of high activity):
- Hydrate before during and after working out as recommended above
- 4-5 hours before working out: eat a complex carbohydrates meal with some healthy fat and protein. Okami tip: Try some lentils topped with tuna, tomatoes, olive oil and fresh herbs. Fresh, delicious and perfect for summer!
- 30 minutes before working out: quick simple carbohydrates kick. Okami tip: opt for the healthy quick energy boosters like dried fruit, balanced with some nuts to help minimize sugar crash.
- Straight after the workout: protein to help your body with recovery combined with healthy carbs to refill the carb storages. Okami tip: try some hummus mixed with fresh veggies and nut crackers to help your body get back the energy you burned through healthy sources.
Whether you are escaping to the beach, going about your normal routine or just trying to stay cool, it is important to make sure you are giving your body enough energy to tackle these hot summer days.
A healthy and balanced diet, rich in refreshing foods mixed with a proper hydration protocol prepares your body in the best way for the special challenges of summer. Making sure to combine complex carbs with healthy fats and protein -- and all those wonderful fresh summer fruits and veggies -- will help you maintain good energy levels throughout the season.