Living, working, playing and exercising in a hot and humid environment isn't easy. Some people prefer it to the opposite -- bitter-cold climates -- but if it were ideal for round-the-clock living then, well, air conditioning would've never been invented.
When the temperature is high and the humidity makes it feel even hotter, your body has to work harder. Your heart rate goes up, you sweat out water and essential minerals, your blood becomes thicker and, as a result, you burn more calories. That's great if you want to lose weight, but in order to avoid the dangerous side effects of exerting yourself in uncomfortable conditions, you have to provide your body with supplements. (Plus, it's the rest and recovery process after exertion that truly makes your body better than it was before.) Supplementation plays an important role in giving your body the necessary fuel to regenerate itself.
Before we take a look at the best supplements for less-than-ideal outdoor conditions, understand that these dietary items don't need to be taken separately. If, for example, you had a different set of pills or drinks for each of the supplements listed, you'd look like a pharmacist taking his work home with him. Many of these supplements appear together in various food products and drinks.
Now, step outside the cool comfort of your home and discover the supplements you need on the pages ahead.
The word electrolyte is often bandied about by exercise enthusiasts and people who work and play in the heat. Electrolytes are necessary to a range of vital functions in the human body -- like transmitting signals to nerves, contracting muscles and ensuring that water gets to where it needs to be [source: Medical Dictionary]. Potassium is one of the most important electrolytes, but when you sweat, potassium is slowly flushed out of your system. A variety of energy and recovery drinks provide potassium. Bananas are an excellent, natural source of potassium. Grab one before, during or after your day in the heat -- it's also easy to digest.
Chloride is another electrolyte and, as such, it's necessary for proper body function. Chloride and sodium together create -- you guessed it -- sodium chloride. Sodium chloride is better known as salt. While large amounts of salt are unhealthy, it can't and shouldn't be avoided. It may sound counterintuitive, but salt actually helps you stay hydrated. It helps your body absorb water to help you in intense conditions or help you rehydrate after exertion. In the days following a tough workout in the sun or even an extended vacation in humid climates, it's not only safe to increase your salt intake but recommended [source: McDonald].
This is a tricky one. Vitamin D is an important part of your immune system. It also builds strong bones and, as a result, is particularly important for women and aging adults hoping to avoid osteoporosis. It's not easy to find in foods, but it is produced by spending time in the sun. Sunscreen, however -- which is intended to protect you from too much sun exposure -- also minimizes the amount of vitamin D produced. That's why vitamin D supplements are so helpful. You don't want skin cancer, and you don't want brittle bones and a weakened immune system, so what you do want is vitamin D in a supplement form [source: Powell].
Without regeneration, your body would become weaker and weaker, leading to your untimely demise. Heat, humidity and even exercise would be things to avoid at all costs. Enter amino acids. Amino acids help your body repair itself. They rebuild muscles and can even make you stronger than you were before. Supplementing your diet with amino acids can help you endure tough conditions and tough workouts and lead to improvement in your physical health, strength and stamina.
Your body needs fuel to provide you with energy to endure tough days and tough conditions. An excellent source of readily available fuel comes in the form of complex carbohydrates.
Maltodextrin is one such carbohydrate. You could just give your body some sugar, but that kind of fuel burns off quickly and it often leads to upset stomach which, at its worst, will cause you to purge and eliminate the fluids and nutrients you vitally need. Maltodextrin is commonly found in energy drinks and particularly those products designed specifically for prolonged exercise [source: Hammer Nutrition].
Marathoners call it "hitting the wall" -- a point at which the body and mind fade to such a degree that it seems like you've run into an imaginary blockade of bricks. It happens when your body runs lows on glycogen, a blood sugar that fuels the brain. Since hot and humid weather stresses your body to a greater degree, you'll run out of glycogen much faster. Glucose supplements -- which come in a variety of forms, including tiny, portable packets of a flavored, pudding-like substance -- can get your body and mind back on track. It'll help you reach the finish line regardless of whether that end point is a true line or simply the completion of yard work.
Imagine taking a long run on a Florida trail in the middle of the summer. Up ahead you see a taco stand selling steak tacos. The thought of ingesting protein when it's muggy outside isn't pleasant, but you absolutely have to have protein for fuel. Without it, your body will begin to cannibalize itself -- that is, it will turn to muscle as a source of energy [source: Hammer Nutrition].
Fortunately, you don't have to carry a steak or kidney beans in your pockets, and you don't have to stop at a taco stand. Protein supplements come in a variety of forms -- including refreshing liquids.
A long day in the sun can make you extremely tired and sore. Not only are you exhausted, your muscles are likely inflamed. Omega-3s can help. These fatty acids have received a lot of press in recent years for their powers of restoration. They relieve inflamed muscles and are believed to fight cancer and even alleviate depression [source: Edwards].
Fish is an excellent source of Omega-3s, but if you weren't interested in that steak taco then a fish taco is probably worse. Rest easy, Omega-3 fatty acids come in pill form and are available over the counter in drugstores everywhere.
The marriage between chloride -- which we mentioned earlier -- and sodium results in what we commonly refer to as salt. Without sodium your body can become dangerously unstable. It sounds unnatural to ingest sodium when all you want is water. But consuming large amounts of water without sodium can cause hyponatremia -- also known as water intoxication.
Sodium, which is available in numerous sports drinks and powders, is often too prevalent in Western foods. But in the days before, during and after an outing in hot, humid conditions, it can actually be quite beneficial [source: McDonald].
More than half the content of the cells in your body are composed of water. If your water consumption is too low, your energy level will drop. Without it, you'll die. Water is so vital to enduring hot and humid weather that it seems wrong to call it a supplement. An essential would seem to be a better word.
But chronic dehydration is extremely common, particularly in the most intense environments, so supplementing would be an improvement. Adults need approximately 67.6 ounces (2 liters) of water per day. In muggy weather, the requirements go up. You can easily gauge if your body needs more water by examining the color of your urine. If it's clear, then you're treating your body right [source: Edwards].
A reanalysis of a previous study changes the RDA for vitamin D. HowStuffWorks explains why.
- Bernhardt, Gale. "Cracking the Code on Sweat Rates." Active.com. (May 9, 2012) http://www.active.com/triathlon/Articles/Cracking-the-Code-on-Sweat-Rates.htm
- Eastman, Renee, M.B.S. "Water – The Super Supplement." (May 9, 2012) http://www.roadcycling.com/training/water.shtml
- Edwards, Tona, Dr. "The Pros and Cons of Dietary Supplements." Center for Integrative Medicine. 2011. (May 9, 2012) http://my.clevelandclinic.org/departments/integrativemedicine/newsletter/center-integrative-medicine-summer-2011.aspx
- The Free Dictionary. "Electrolyte Supplements." (May 9, 2012) http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Electrolyte+Supplements
- Hammer Nutrition. "The Top 10." June 2011. (May 9, 2012) http://www.hammernutrition.com/hnt/1273&OMI=&AMI=/
- Harrison, Alex Spc. "Hot Summer Months Mean Watching Diet, Exercise, Supplements." U.S. Army. May 30, 2007. (May 9, 2012) http://www.army.mil/article/3403/Hot_Summer_Months_Mean_Watching_Diet__Exercise__Supplements/
- McDonald, Alex, M. MD. "Sodium: A Closer Look." PowerBar. (May 9, 2012) http://www.powerbar.com/articles/47/sodium-a-closer-look.aspx