It’s been a long time coming, but it feels like summer is officially here (hurrah). Whilst we’re well accustomed with switching up our wardrobe to welcome warmer climates, most of us are blissfully unaware that you also need to switch up what’s in your supplement cabinet too.
Why, I hear you ask? Well, from winter to summer your body has very different needs. In fact, certain parts actually change the way they function all together. It might not come as a surprise that factors such as weight fluctuate throughout the year, it will probably come as a slightly bigger surprise that other areas like your brain (I know, shocking right?), skin and DNA and can alter the way they function as the season’s change.
So, it looks like the weather has more than just an impact on our mood. It has an actual impact on how our bodies physically function.
Mind. Officially. Blown.
We had to know more, so we caught up with our very own health nut, Amy Nicholson, a wellbeing journalist, who when she’s not swatting up on how to look and feel good, she’s writing about it.
How your body changes in the summer
“Most people expect a few an extra few lbs, a period of chapped lips and slightly drier skin in the winter but in general it’s pretty safe to assume that most people don’t realise the impact that seasonal changes can also have on the body.”
“Feel smarter in the summer? There’s actually some science behind it. Just like your waistline and your skin, your brain can also experience seasonal changes. Numerous studies have been carried out on the effects of seasonality on the brain and how it affects cognition.
Belgian researchers found that depending on what season it was, your brain allocated its resources differently in order to perform the same task.” Amy explains.
As part of the study, participants had brain scans whilst they completed two tasks. One task required their ability to focus (also known as sustained attention) and the other required them to exercise their working memory.
“The results showed that whilst the participants' test scores stayed the same across the seasons, the way the brain used its resources changed. During the summer months, the brain activity peaked on the attention tasks, while in winter it fell significantly.”
“When it came to the memory task, brain activity peaked in autumn and hit a low in spring. Researchers don’t yet know the reasons behind it, but the results suggest that the brain adapts its level of efficiency to the time of year.”
Other studies have found a clear link between the seasons and direct cognition (thinking, knowing, remembering, judging and problem-solving.)
“Another study carried out by Andrew Lim, from the University of Toronto and senior author Philip De Jager, from Columbia University in 2018, found that there was a direct link between seasonality and brain function. With those people tested in the summer and fall, performing better in neuropsychological tests than those in winter or spring.”
“The change in the seasons also affects our DNA. A study published in Nature Communications found around 5000 genes in the white blood cells change the way they’re expressed in response to seasonal changes.
In winter, your blood contains more immune cells whilst summer sees more fat-burning and water retaining hormones enter the bloodstream.”
We’ve probably all tried the summer shred in a bid to get that all important bikini body. But why is it easier to lose weight in the summer?
Amy explains: “Studies by the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the University of Georgia show that our average caloric intake decreases by about 200 calories per day in the summer, compared to fall and winter. Why? Well, it boils down to a number of factors.”
- Longer days mean you tend to stay active for longer, you crave more fresh food (less hot chocolate and cosy comforts, more salads and fruit bowls)
- Sunlight increases your serotonin levels which helps curbs depression which can lead to weight gain
- The summer heat naturally increases your metabolic rate which helps you digest food better
- More vitamin d lowers your cortisol levels (the main stress hormone) resulting in better energy levels, meaning you work harder during your workout
How should you switch up your supplements for summer?
Now we know that the body changes throughout the summer months, let’s talk about how we should adapt our vitamins and supplements.
Amy explains: “Switching up our nutrient intake as the seasons change is essential if you want to feel on your a-game all year round. The key vitamins I would focus on switching up during the summer months would be supplements that help protect your skin, look after your metabolism and support your digestion.”
Essential vitamins for summer
“Vitamin a is a key component in supporting the health of your skin, teeth, bones, soft tissue and mucus membranes. It’s the skin element that becomes most relevant during the summer months. As we tend to spend more time outside, it’s particularly useful in protecting the skin against the sun and has been shown to help reduce the risk of some skin cancers.
However, if you're using vitamin a in your skincare (or retinol as it's otherwise known), be extra careful when stepping out in direct sunlight as it can make the product less effective and potentially cause sensitivity.”Vitamin gummies packed with your recommended daily dose of vitamin a…
“Air pollution and UV light are the two main contributors of free radicals - unstable atoms that damage cells and cause illness. Both which we’re more likely to be exposed to as we spend more time outdoors.
As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin c helps to protect your cells against the damage caused by free radicals. It’s main superpowers are that it can help boost your immune system, which, whilst often thought of as a problem for winter, factors just as air conditioning and packed summer schedules can result in flu-like symptoms that are best warded off with vitamin c.”
Read more: Does vitamin c really help your immune system?
Vitamin gummies packed with your recommended daily dose of vitamin c…
Whilst not getting enough sun can reduce the body’s absorption of vitamin D, too much exposure can cause you a whole world of pain when it comes to premature ageing, or worse, skin cancer. That’s where our friend vitamin e comes in.
“Vitamin e helps to replenish your collagen production, which is essential for maintaining your skin’s elasticity and supporting the natural skin renewal process. Like vitamin c, vitamin e is also a powerful antioxidant that helps to eliminate free radicals and protects your skin from damage.”
Vitamin gummies packed with your recommended daily dose of vitamin e…
“Summer heat zapped your energy? Baffled over why you feel knackered after a day of sun bathing when you’ve literally not moved. Well, it’s all in the science. When you get hot, your body works harder to try and keep you cool and regulate a safe internal temperature, which is what can make you feel tired and sluggish.
Add to that any dehydration and an increased blood flow to the skin due to the increased heat, you’ve got a recipe for low blood pressure - all of which can make you feel tired and fatigued.
Try adding a dose of b vitamins, particularly b12 and b6 into you in your daily routine. Natural energy producers, these fatigue-fighting vits can help replace energy that’s lost due to the heat.”
Vitamin gummies packed with your recommended daily dose of vitamin b…
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