Hot summer days can sometimes cause you to lose your appetite. This is very common and is a natural way for your body to help you keep cool. But take care not to skip too many meals, as this will negatively influence your running performance.
Why do you lose your appetite?
There are a few reasons why you can lose your appetite in hot weather. First, eating and metabolising food creates heat. One of the ways your body can reduce this heat production is to reduce the release of hormones, such as adrenaline and thyroxine, into your bloodstream. Without these hormones, your appetite will be suppressed. Second, your body also reduces heat by sweating. But when you sweat, you not only lose water, but also vitamins and minerals. And an imbalance in vitamins and minerals can result in lost appetite over a long period of time. Finally, if you go running in hot weather, you might suffer from heat exhaustion. This can lower your appetite and if you don’t take in enough water and sufficient nutrients, your body can go into shock.
Forcing yourself to eat in hot weather can be a challenge. Try to keep your food light and cool, to reduce the heat production caused by your digestive system. Switch from meats and grains, which take longer to digest and therefore generate more heat, to fresh fruits and vegetables that are easier to digest. Fruits and vegetables have a higher water content, too, so will help prevent dehydration. You can also increase the amount of food you eat during the morning, when it’s still cool. Remember, even in hot weather, your body still needs around 8,400 kilojoules daily. And any diet less than 5,000 kilojoules can be potentially harmful. If you reduce your kilojoule intake too much, you’ll become trapped in a vicious cycle, because the less you eat, the more you’ll suffer from heat, and then the less you’ll want to eat, until your body gets to a point of breakdown.
- Watery fruits and vegetables, such as melon, cucumber and tomatoes, are a great way to prevent dehydration and replace vitamins and minerals.
- Eating bitter foods, such as dark leafy greens, celery and sprouts, can also help reduce your body temperature.
- If you find you don’t have an appetite, try adding spices, such as chilli, to your food. It will increase your appetite, thus making it easier to consume sufficient nutrients and kilojoules. (Initially it will increase your body temperature and cause sweating, but once you start to sweat, your body will cool down.)
- Avoid hot drinks, such as coffee and tea, and replace them with iced tea or fruit juice.
- Eating ice or icy poles when it’s very hot and you feel lethargic, or after a run while you cool down, can increase your appetite and prevent dehydration.
Not hungry after a run?
During a run, your body releases a feel-good hormone that can suppress hunger pangs, but the 30 minutes after a run is the most important time to give your body nutrition. So what can you eat if you’re not hungry? The easiest thing to do is make a smoothie or protein shake. Drinking something is usually easier than trying to force yourself to eat, and you can replace fluid and nutrients in one go. Having an ice bath after your run can also increase your appetite, as it will cool your body down, increasing your metabolic rate. Another option is to change your running time. Running first thing in the morning when it’s still cool will prevent you overheating and stimulate your appetite for the rest of the day.
Frozen banana Place a banana, still in its peel, in the freezer. Once frozen, peel and eat as a snack or dessert.
Super smoothie Place milk, yogurt and a fruit of your choice in a blender. If you don’t like milk, you can also use fruit juice. This is a great snack if you don’t feel like eating.
Protein shake Whizz together milk, protein powder and ice in a blender. This is great after a run. Add some fruit and this can be a meal replacement, too.
Jelly It will help you keep cool and is a great alternative to more kilojoule-heavy desserts.