6 tips for how to sidestep summer’s nutritional pitfalls (ahem, summer bod?) from 2 of Canada’s leading experts

Photography by Neil Conway/Flickr
Photography by Neil Conway/Flickr

As the temperatures rise, so do a lot of other things: higher hemlines, longer days and an ever-expanding desire to sit on a patio with friends, sipping on sangria and nibbling on appetizers.

Since there’s no better time to bare a bit of extra flesh than in the summer, it’s a bit ironic that it’s also one of the seasons that has some of the most dangerous nutritional perils. Hot dogs, frappuccinos, sugar-laden cocktails, steak… it’s a veritable nutritional minefield out there.

We tapped into two of the country’s leading experts on nutrition, fitness and overall health to give you six tips for how to sidestep summer’s nutritional pitfalls.

Read ahead to equip yourself with all six tips! »

Photography by Sporkist/Flickr

The dangers of patio surfing

When it’s sweltering hot outside, there’s nothing better than a glass of Sauvignon Blanc or a just-muddled mojito to cool down. Add to that the fact that there’s something inherently social about the summer, and it’s pretty easy to see how the liquid calories can add up during patio season.

The scary thing is that the extra 500–700 calories a day that some people consume in alcoholic drinks can transform themselves into an extra pound a week around the waistline.

Rose Reisman, one of Canada’s leaders in nutrition, said if you’re going to drink, at least opt for waistline-friendly drinks. Seltzer water is your best friend: add it to wine, to dilute fruity cocktails or have it in place of pop with spirits. Low-calorie or low-carb beers are also great options.

To avoid packing on pounds (and a horrendous hangover), try not to go overboard! If you’re going to have more than one drink, try having a glass of water in between each drink: it will help stave off dehydration and keep you feeling fuller.

Photography by Alex E. Proimos/Flickr

Rise and walk

You might associate grueling workouts in the gym with losing weight, and while we’re not going to lie and say they don’t do the trick amazingly, we have some good news for those of you who aren’t weightlifting-inclined.

According to Dr. Marc Bubbs, an Olympic athlete trainer and naturopathic doctor, one type of workout that’s particularly effective for leaning down is “fasted-state” morning cardio.

“After a long night’s rest, your insulin levels are low and glucagon levels high, which is the perfect hormonal picture to facilitate the use of body-fat for energy,” he explained. “A morning ‘power walk’ for beginners or a ‘light jog’ for advanced trainees will train your body to burn excess fat for fuel.” In other words, instead of burning off of food-fueled energy, your body will burn off excess fat instead.

“The key is to keep the intensity low until your fitness level increases, otherwise your body will quickly ‘switch-over’ to using your muscle stores to fuel your workout,” he cautioned.

Since mid-day workouts are out of the question for lots of us during the summer thanks to raised temps, this is a perfect (and incredibly effective) way to get some body-leaning cardio in during the cool morning hours. That, and it’s just a nice way to start your mornings.

Photography by Lori L. Stalteri/Flickr

Rethink the good and the bad

One reason “dieters” have a hard time sustaining their nutritional goals over the long-term is the fact that what’s regarded as “good” and “bad” seems to change from day to day, confusing would-be weight-losers in the process.

One thing Rose Reisman stressed is that you can never go wrong with loading up on fresh produce, especially in the summer when it’s at its freshest and most plentiful.

Whether it’s leafy greens, melons or berries, everything at your nearest farmer market is packed with nutrients and what’s more, when paired with lean protein and other complex carbs like quinoa or brown rice, it will keep you feeling full longer than, say, a hot dog.

On the note of complex carbs: after having gotten such a bad rep during the Atkins era, nutritional experts are now resurrecting its once-stellar reputation as a nutritional all-star.

“I think that people are so frightened feeling that it’s the carbs that are making them fat and I really don’t think it’s that at all; I think it’s that they’re eating too many simple carbs,” Reisman insisted, naming white bread, rice and pasta as main offenders for most people.

Photography by Lululemon Athletica/Flickr

Barbecuing: the good, the bad and the ugly

Aside from sunscreen and freshly cut grass, nothing smells more like summer than the heady scent of a barbecue in the air. Even with all the fresh produce that’s right outside our doors, the pull to grilled meat is never stronger than in the summer.

But according to Rose Reisman, all the hot dogs, burgers and steaks that are usual summer fare can do dangerous things to both our health and waistlines.

“Be careful of all that because that’s what’s really clogging up your arteries and all the extra salty foods that people are eating in the summer, that’s killing us. So you’ve got to enjoy the summer, and you can enjoy it a lot more if you’re healthier and slimmer,” she said.

By going protein-heavy at your next BBQ, Reisman also cautioned that you could be doing a number on your organs.

“The thing is you can’t have too much protein, that’s not good for your kidneys.”

The good news? Barbecuing is actually an excellent way of bringing out the flavours of everything from sweet potatoes to pineapple, and it can all be done with no added oils or fats and little to no sauces or marinades. Try a lean protein like chicken paired with barbecued corn and pineapple rounds—you’ll get all the chargrilled flavor of a barbecue without the big caloric gain!

Photography by Lululemon Athletica/Flickr

The complete summer workout

For those of us who still want to break our sweat outdoors despite the summer heat, here’s some good news: if you can endure even 25 minutes in the heat, then Dr. Bubbs has a workout that builds up overall fitness and endurance quick.

“After a five-minute light warm-up, sprint as hard as you can for 30 seconds, then rest for three minutes. Be sure to take the entire three minutes to allow the energy systems to appropriately regenerate. Repeat this for five to eight sets. You’ll be amazed at what a great workout you can get in only 20 to 25 minutes!”

Head to your local park or track and if you have time, round out the workout with some body resistance moves. Planks, pushups, lunges, squats and ab work require no equipment—just your body weight.

Another reason to squeeze in a workout? According to Dr. Bubbs, post-exercise is the best time to indulge in a few carbs.

“In their post-exercise state, your muscles soak up carbs to replace muscle glycogen burned during exercise (rather than simply storing them around your waist!),” he explained.

Always eat a protein-rich meal at least two to four hours before any high-level aerobic or weight-lifting exercise and include some protein alongside carbs post-workout. Since exercise is catabolic (meaning it breaks your body down), it’s important to provide your body with the amino acids protein has so that your body can “rebuild” itself.

Photography by Little Blue Hen/Flickr

Eat consciously but steer clear of the d-word

Though it can be particularly tempting to try out a fad diet when you want fast results, both Dr. Bubbs and Rose Reisman agree that “diets” in their traditional form do more harm than good.

“98 per cent of ‘dieters’ fail, and then they try again and they fail again,” Reisman explained. “Look at it as a lifetime goal: think about waking up and taking a shower, brushing your teeth every day, that’s exactly what eating and fitness has to become. It can’t be looked at as something you don’t have time for.”

Dr. Bubbs prescribed a bit of leniency for people trying to get on track with their diet and exercise.

“Long-term success is all about balance. If a program is so strict it doesn’t allow you to continue living what you consider a normal life then it’s destined for failure,” Dr. Bubbs said. “I always tell people they don’t need to be perfect. If they can do well five days out of seven then in the long run, they will improve their body composition, energy levels and overall health.”

So by all means, start implementing healthier nutrition and exercise practices into your life, but be accepting! By looking at your new nutrition and exercise goals as lifestyle changes and not diet limitations, you’ll set yourself up for a much happier summer.

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