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Health

Handling the Heat

September 11, 2019
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In the heat of the summer, it’s important to remember our bodies need more nutrients and hydration to continue operating at our best. The heat can be difficult to handle, but with a few helpful tips from the experts at TRIA, our official orthopedic and sports medicine partner, you can still compete, play or just enjoy your time outside this summer.

 

Shuhei Suzuki, DPT, is a physical therapist at TRIA. He also works with professional tennis players and tours with them as they compete. He often works with athletes in hot, humid weather. And as an avid tennis player himself, Shuhei has learned some helpful practices to stay cool in the heat.

 

Keep your body temperature as cool as possible

 

Shuhei recommends bringing along some helpful items to keep your body cool, especially during hot and humid days at the tennis court.

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“Take breaks in the shade as often as possible. It’s also a good idea to use ice bags or ice towels,” says Shuhei. “If possible, I tell athletes to bring along a cooler with ice, water and a towel.” This ice towel, or an ice pack, can be used to cool down the neck, under the arms or the groin area. This helps keep your core temperature lower.

 

Practice in the heat

 

If you aren’t used to playing in the heat, Shuhei says it can also be helpful to do a little bit of practice in warmer temperatures. To start, pick a time that is a little bit warmer and practice for 30 minutes at a time. While you definitely don’t want to overdo it, it can be helpful to get familiar with playing in the heat.

 

Hydration, hydration, hydration!

 

Probably the most important thing – and one of the easiest for you to control – is your level of hydration. It is crucial to make sure you are well hydrated before, during and after exercising in the heat. These tips are helpful to remember:

·         Hydrate early and often. Start drinking a glass of water when you wake up, and keep a water bottle with you throughout the day

·         Hydrate consistently, especially the day before and day of a match or exercise in the heat

·         Hydrate with more than just water. Include electrolyte-rich sports drinks as well

 

Nutrition

 

Jillian Tholen, RDN, a sports-trained registered dietitian at TRIA, adds that nutrition also plays a huge role in how well we can handle the heat. When it comes to warm and humid conditions, you definitely don’t want to start off a match or workout on an empty tank.

 

First, Jillian says to make sure you get enough sodium from beverages and foods to replenish what you lost from sweat.

 

“Don’t be afraid of salt – your body needs it!” Jillian says, “Many people will notice when they exercise in the heat, they crave salty things like potato chips, pretzels, salty nuts, etc. That’s your body telling you that you might need to replenish your sodium, so pay attention to that craving and know it’s ok to eat those foods.”

 

Carbohydrates are also extremely important, and our bodies need more carbs than usual when dealing with heat. Make sure to eat a carbohydrate-rich snack before your match or workout, and then replenish with carbohydrates in your food afterward as well.

 

Jillian says it’s also crucial to get enough electrolytes into your system. Water on its own isn’t enough to replenish your body when you are sweating and exercising in intense heat.

 

“Water on its own is important, but it doesn’t have a solute to help get it into your cells,” says Jillian. “It is helpful to use electrolyte supplements, salt tablets or even put a little bit of salt into your water. This can help with hydration.”

 

During a match

 

You can continue fueling and hydrating during exercise. This will depend on each athlete’s preference, but some popular options for mid-workout fuel include:

·         Sports drinks

·         Energy chews or gummies

·         Part of a banana

·         Other energy snacks such as sport beans

 

Recovery

 

“Sometimes recovery gets neglected,” Shuhei points out. “It is important to re-fuel your body, especially if you are going to keep competing or keep moving that day.”

 

Jillian recommends restocking carbohydrates, water and electrolytes right after your workout. Protein can also help with muscle recovery. Make sure to pay attention to how your body feels following an intense workout in the heat. 

 

Signs to watch for

 

If you do start to notice the following symptoms, make sure you take a step back and take care of your body before pushing yourself too far in hot conditions.

 

Possible effects of the heat:

·         Headaches or dizziness

·         Slower reaction time

·         Upset stomach

·         General fatigue

·         Cramping

·         Irritability

·         More likely to get injured

 

“Some people are more sensitive to the effects of dehydration,” says Jillian. “But it’s important to pay attention. The sooner you identify the symptoms, the sooner you can take care of yourself and bounce back quickly.”

 

Now that you have some tips, you can keep playing at your best while avoiding the negative effects of heat this summer. If you have more questions about nutrition, hydration or playing tennis in the heat, schedule an appointment with the experts at TRIA today! 

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