Summer is my least favorite season of all. I can’t handle the extreme heat and to top it all, it’s when my body seems to fail miserably despite my healthy vegan eating habits. Just few days ago, I threw up, had bouts of headache, diarrhea, and body aches. But as with my past summers with very similar experience, this too I can handle victoriously (read summer guide for vegans).
Summer time, while everyone seems to be in the “summer body” mode, can be a perceived detriment to those wanting to up their fitness game; because let’s face it, heat really wears you down. But here are some tips to help you beat the dreaded summer slump (read how to beat fatigue if you’re vegan).
Hydrate. We lose more water because we sweat more so it’s important to drink more water to prevent risk of dehydration (read my vegan bodybuilding progress).
Don’t solely focus on numbers on the scale but take your lifestyle up a notch. Unless you are eating more than usual and exercising less during the summer, the slight fluctuation in number (weight gain) is basically water weight. Because you drink more water, aldosterone, the fluid-conserving hormone, regulates the kidney to retain more fluid vis-a-vis reduce the amount of salt in sweat, a mechanism that aids in water retention (read fitness tips for women over 40). I am usually heavier during summertime but that does not make me fret about it. I recently bought a digital scale with body analyzer that measures muscle mass, body fat, water weight and bone density. It would be nice to monitor my progress from hereon. I am posting my current readings here for reference. I am not using this device to diagnose myself or go overboard with what I am doing or should be doing. As a healthcare professional, I am accountable to my own actions and lifestyle. This is based on my height, weight and age (5’0, 105 lbs, 44). Now if you’re over 40 years old and haven’t done any blood work, I suggest that you do now even if you aren’t suffering from any ailments (read important health and screening tests for women over 40). Fixing is a lot easier when problems are discovered early.
Without sounding too technical, the scale photographed above basically tells me that my body fat is normal at 23% (22-30% range) and my muscle mass is also normal at 31% (28-39% range). My body water is borderline high at 56.4 but this is quite normal for mid-age women (in contrast, the more fat and less muscle mass, the lower water weight) but this explains the fluctutation in weight as mentioned previously (water weight related to water retention). However, I need to work on strengthening my bones more because while I am not solely relying on this digital analyzer, my bone mass is relatively low at 4.6 (7-7.8 range) hence, I need to focus on exercises that will help build bone density. Osteopenia/ osteoporosis risk factors are there for me: Asian (ethnicity) and bone structure (small/petite).
Exercise early in the morning or late afternoon when it isn’t that hot. Finding the sweet spot is always a great motivation to keep it going. Avoid the sun during peak hours, 10am to 4pm, as much as possible. If you love the outdoors, I can’t emphasize enough the use of sunscreen religiously. Reapplication is where most people falter. Even if your sunscreen says waterproof or sweatproof, reaapply every 2 hours. Summer brings out the worse in sun spots and melasma, including sunburn and risk for melanoma.
Gaining muscle vs. Losing weight. Vegan does not necessarily translate to healthy because there are hundreds of vegan junk food you can buy from the stores. If you want real stamina from plants, opt for unprocessed, oil-free, real fruits and vegetables. Protein bars are completely unnecessary because if you eat variety of real food, your daily protein intake is covered. As vegan, know that your macro requirements are different from non-vegans. Gaining muscle is different from Losing weight. Cut your calories even without exercising, you will lose weight. Consume more calories and exercise more, you will gain muscle. It goes without saying that if you eat less and exercise, you will have dramatic weight loss; eat more than your daily calorie allowance and not exercise, weight gain ensues. Macros for a typical vegan bodybuilder looks like this: 40-45% carbs, 30-35% fat, 25-30% protein. You can use this guide calculator to compute for your daily caloric requirement, macros, etc (read how to shop vegan groceries). There are lots of theories and suggestions you can find online and I’d be honest with you, they can all be very confusing. Listen to your body, follow vegan athletes and medical doctors to give you some guidance, but at the end of the day, you know your body well more than anyone else. So if your body is telling you to take a break (as I am now), give it a rest for the meantime. I am no pro bodybuilder but my goal is to look fit and toned for my age.
Don’t be a proteinaholic. Unless you are suffering from extreme malnutrition, know that protein abounds in practically most plants palatable to humans. The key is eating in variety (adult women on average needs protein 46 grams/day, men 56 grams/day, this is for non-active/non-athletes). This book Proteinaholic, penned by known bariatric surgeon and triathlete Dr. Garth Davis will help you understand the science (and common sense) behind protein intake. It will help you dispel common myth and how over consumption of protein (mainly animal sources) can lead to more health problems, as proven in clinical studies and peer reviews. It will also give you inputs on how to reverse the leading cause of morbidity and mortality which for the most part are lifestyle-related (think hypertension, stroke, cardiac arrest, diabetes, obesity, certain forms of cancer, etc.) The information is out there. There are more and more medical doctors embracing and advocating this life-saving lifestyle to their patients. Even the American Diabetes Association has now acknowledged the power of vegan diet in reversing or managing diabetes. The outgoing president of American College of Cardiology Dr. Kim Williams is vegan and can personally attest how his numbers improved hence his strong advocacy towards this diet amongst his patients. At the end of the day, you do what’s best for your body and health but if it comes to the point of no return, then maybe it’s about time to re-evaluate your eating habits (read my journey). Becoming vegan will not make you invincible and delegate you with super powers, but it can potentially help you reverse whatever chronic conditions you may have or solve whatever faulty “genes” you may have inherited.
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