By: Lauren Davis
It’s here, isn’t it? The sticky humidity that makes your clothes feel as heavy as the winter coats you just stowed away. The hot temperatures that have you dodging from one air-conditioned room to another.
Being a SoCal native and recent Austin transplant, I haven’t had much experience with a real, Texas summer. I moved here last August, as the last few weeks of heat were blistering soil and skin. And you can bet I hid inside my air conditioned house until those weeks were over.
This summer I will have time to adjust to the heat and humidity as temperatures rise day by day. However, I have quickly realized that while I might be able to tolerate warmer conditions than I’m used to, my body needs extra nutrition to stay functional.
It hit me a few weeks ago, the day after a particularly humid 5k. Complete exhaustion. The kind where you can barely lift your legs and will them to take another step. A week went by, and I was still feeling lethargic. After one particularly terrible day of dizziness, nausea, and absolute fatigue, I knew something was up. Or rather, down. The humidity and previously heaving training period had thrashed my iron levels.
I’ve been iron deficient before, so I was aware of the symptoms: every run feels hard, lack of energy, trouble concentrating, intense cravings for red meat and chocolate (yes, dark chocolate has iron in it!), metallic taste in my mouth, dizziness, among others. The symptoms usually come on slowly and then become more pronounced (and it’s often hard to tell because there aren’t many days I don’t crave chocolate). But after a particularly miserable day where I couldn’t focus on a single thing and felt dizzy just standing up, I knew it was time to start supplementing.
I replenished my stash of Ferrous Sulfate (supplemental Iron) and started taking 1/day after my runs with a glass of OJ (vitamin C helps with absorption). On top of that, I’m making sure I get plenty of iron rich foods in my diet – red meat, spinach, beans, eggs, etc. After just a couple days of supplementing and steak, my dizziness disappeared and my concentration returned. It usually takes 1+ weeks to feel totally normal. I’m also getting a blood test to check my baseline ferritin count and make sure I’m not deficient in anything else.
Besides iron, we also lose a great deal of electrolytes to the humidity and heat. Plain water just doesn’t cut it in the summer. To make sure I’m adequately replacing my bodies’ supply, I’m adding Nuun into my daily routine, and Vitamin B supplement a couple times per week.
The heat and humidity sap many of our bodies’ resources, and it’s extremely important to ensure you’re getting an adequate amount if you’re continuing to train as Texas heats up. It’s always a good idea to consult your doctor if you’re unsure what supplements you need, especially if you think you might be iron deficient. Unlike vitamins which are excreted in urine if your body doesn’t need them, excess iron is stored in your body, and can be toxic in consumed in excess.
While you might be grateful for the extra hours of sunshine, don’t neglect your supplements this summer!