Most of us think about putting on more padding during the winter months, when the holidays hit us with extra goodies from Halloween through New Year’s Day. Plus, those dark, dreary winter days can take a toll on our carb cravings, workouts, and raging appetite. Soon bulky sweaters and puffy coats provide good cover for cozying up to comfort food a little too often.
But truth be told, summer takes a toll on our waistlines, too. It may seem strange considering we spend more time outside and farmer’s markets are bursting with seasonal produce, but summer comes with its own landmines to navigate. A typical weekend could take you from your kid’s soccer game (where you grab breakfast at the concession stand), to a BBQ where hot dogs and hamburgers are the main course, to the ice cream shop where you treat your kids — and yourself — to a cone. Suddenly a summer Saturday filled with fun outdoor activities has introduced hundreds of calories into your diet that you otherwise wouldn’t have eaten.
I love summer vibes! Things slow down a bit in general, and work weeks may be shortened — ending on a Thursday, beginning on a Tuesday, or both. Though relaxing and taking time off are critical parts of routine, it probably comes as no surprise that being constantly on vacation or weekend mode can cause the pounds to creep up.
It’s nice to feel easy-breezy but applying that “vacation mode” mentality to your diet or activity levels isn’t advisable. Small mental shift can help you enjoy the best of both worlds, including my following recommendations:
FOCUS ON BALANCE
Focus on balance. This will allow you to enjoy the ease of summer without relaxing too much on your fitness and healthy eating routine. The rule I tell my patients is, pick your poison! At dinner pick wine, a starchy carb or a dessert – not all three. And when you have a cheat meal my suggestions are: Get up in the morning and do fasted cardio – and then your breakfast after the sweat session, must be free of any carbohydrates, including fruit or carb sources like fruit, cereals, oatmeal or a bagel.
Examples of fasted cardio activities are walking for at least one hour at 6 KM per hour (download the Strava App so you know your speed) or an interval workout including 8 – 10 sprints of at least 20 seconds. Sprint and complete the next sprint once you feel you have recovered enough
If you can’t exercise, go for a carb-free breakfast within 45 minutes of rising, what I prefer looks like a scoop of protein with a 15 gram serving of marine collagen and BCAA’s with creatine (for example: 1.5 scoops of Clear Nova Scotia Marine Collagen, ½ scoop Clear Recovery and one scoop of Dream protein). Check out my three month breakfast challenge. A carb and fat free concoction like this will keep you in the ketogenic state until your first meal of the day that contains fat or starch. Ultimately, this will promote the burn of extra calories you took in from the night before and make sure you won’t suffer a set-back.
Also, walking in the evening or time slot following a cheat meal will significantly reduce the amount of fat that is stored. So eat-up – and then walk-on.
2. CONSISTENCY IS YOUR FRIEND
When it comes to healthy eating, consistency is your friend. Stick to your routine as much as possible. The two most important factors I stress with my patients is to have a shake for breakfast including a serving of marine collagen and protein (vegan or whey based). And another protein shake between 2 – 4 pm (perhaps containing the same protein at breakfast combined with a meal replacement).
This combo is excellent for fat loss and controlling cortisol and hunger. Plus, drinking the afternoon shake before attending any dinner event prevents you from over-eating and also reduces the impact on your body of consuming too many starchy carbs. Sticking to this – you may be able to enjoy your dinners without thinking too much or experiencing a jump on the scale.
3. HYDRATION IS KEY
When the heat and humidity are brutal, you need extra sips. For most people exercising less than 40 minutes water is the best way to rehydrate. Generally, only sweaty and lengthy activities call for sports drinks. For activities that last an hour or less that don’t work up a sweat, plain water is your best bet. In general, the formula for water intake is 0.55 times your body weight in pounds. Divide this number by 8 it will give you the number of cups you should sip – versus gup – per day for hydration.
If you’re exercising for over 90 minutes, you’re sweating heavily, or if your activity is short, but it’s particularly hot and humid, a hydrating sports drink is probably a better choice since after this amount of time your body will need carbohydrates as well as water to keep functioning optimally. Check out e-load as an electrolyte option. It was developed by a team of experts in Toronto.
4. IS YOUR SUNSCREEN MAKING YOU FAT?
Can’t lose weight no matter what? Maybe it’s your sunscreen. Who knew? Well, we’re beginning to figure it out. Now vitamin D has been declared missing in action by many leading experts in the nutrition and medical science community. This is a two-fold impact factor. One, traditional sunscreens include ingredients that have been linked to increased risk of skin cancer and secondly, sunscreens block our skins natural ability to produce vitamin d from sun exposure.
What’s more, vitamin D’s absence is now thought to be at the root of many chronic illnesses that are a menace to our society. Take home message that I want to stress and share is that our blood value, and I encourage you to ask your doctor to test it, should be close to or at 200 for optimal insulin and immune balance. And I recommend the use of sunscreens that are zinc and titanium based only.
5. BE CAREFUL WITH FRUIT SALAD
Surprise! Fruit may seem like a good choice—and it is— but make sure your salad is filled with canned fruit soaked in syrup, loaded with whipped cream, and garnished with mini marshmallows, as it often is at summer picnics.
This is an incredibly heavy, high-calorie treat, and it’s about as devastating to your weight control, and your health, as you can get.
Cut calories by using fresh fruit rather than canned, light whipped cream or substitute plain yogurt, which provides added protein – or better yet – skip the cream all together.
Better yet, stick to one half cup serving of berries, a grapefruit, a kiwi or about 5- 6 ounces of watermelon as your selections list. These are the best fruit choices as they are lowest in the carbs that impact your blood sugars and they are best consumed around lunch or mid-afternoon versus the morning or evening for fat loss.
6. MAKE A BURGER BOWL INSTEAD OF A TYPICAL BURGER WITH A BUN
A beef burger topped with cheese contains saturated fat along with high levels of calories and sodium. My suggestion is to only consume grass-fed beef, and if you want top it with cheese, use low-fat Swiss slices, as Swiss cheese is the only cheese proven too be anti-inflammatory, which is a result of the bacterial culture in Swiss cheese that produces the characteristic holes.
7. BEWARE OF UMBRELLA DRINKS…
On average, a piña colada or Long Island iced tea can clock in at 600 to 800 calories and when you drink alcohol you typically care less about what you’re eating. So my suggestion is to add high protein appetizer options to your outing like calamari or shrimp cocktail. And skip the sugary drinks. Those containing gin, white tequilla or vodka , mixed with soda and fresh lime or lemon are your best low calorie options. Tell the Bartender you want it in a short glass with lots of ice. Lots of ice is the secret to a great drink. Also, check out Social Lite or Nutrl Vodka coolers – both are sugar free and low carb. (also both Canadian made – win win!)