Racing and training on hot days places a lot of extra demand on your body. Here’s what you need to know about smart fuelling and hydration for hot runs and rides.
Before summertime rolls around, we need to start thinking about how to cope with the heat. We might not live in a hot climate, but every year when the mini heatwave hits, we have to remember how to cope with it all over again.
And if you’re planning on racing in a hot climate this year, those changes to your race day nutrition need to be a regular fixture in your training plan too.
The most obvious challenge of training in the heat is the effect of extra sweating, which is one way that your body tries to maintain a balanced internal temperature. It’s not just the heat of the day that affects how much you sweat. Humidity plays a role, too: when humidity is low, more sweat can evaporate, but when humidity is high, evaporation decreases and your body struggles harder to keep cool.
The more you sweat, the more electrolytes and fluids you will lose, and this can have a massive impact on your performance. As a guide, you will start to feel the negative effects when you lose 2-3% of your body weight through sweat. If this increase to 3-5%, you are entering unhealthy territory. And anything over 6% of body weight loss through sweat can be dangerous.
Alongside sweating and fluid loss, your heart rate will increase in line with external temperature, and perceived effort (how hard you feel you are working) shoots up as the temperature and humidity climb.
And as you sweat more, your blood volume decreases, so oxygen reaches your muscles, less blood returns to your heart, and you really will be going slower even though you’re working hard.
How Much Sweat Do You Lose?
In order to keep on top on your hydration and electrolytes, you need to know how much sweat you lose for specific weather conditions. Weight yourself before and after a training session (making a note of the temperature and humidity) and then again immediately on getting back, taking into account how much you drank during the session. Any net weight lost will be fluid loss. As an example, if you lost 1kg but drank 500ml during the session, this means you really lost 1kg+500ml (roughly 1.5kgs). This is the amount of fluids and electrolytes you need to replenish, or the amount you need to keep on top of during a race.
The Role Of Electrolytes
It’s not enough to hydrate with plain water when you train or race in the heat. Electrolytes are a fundamental element of intra-training hydration, and maintaining the correct balance of electrolytes will support your heart health, muscular contractions, digestion, and even your nervous system. We’ve all felt painful cramping, stitch, or stomach discomfort during hot training sessions - just some signs of electrolyte imbalance. Ward off cramps - and worse - by choosing a pre workout and intra workout sports supplement with the correct balance of electrolytes.
The most important electrolytes for maintaining your body’s fluid balance are the ionic minerals sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), magnesium (Mg 2+) and calcium (Ca 2+). These ionic minerals can carry electrical energy to keep the body’s systems functioning.
10 Signs Of Electrolyte Imbalance
- Muscle cramps or spasms
- Dizziness or light headedness
- Difficulty urinating
- Dry mouth
- Dry hot skin
- Stiff and achy joints
Coconut Water For Electrolytes
One of the most exciting recent areas of sports nutrition has been looking at using coconut water for natural electrolyte replenishment. CocoMineral® coconut water extract contains the key electrolytes sodium and potassium, and is completely natural, making it a great choice for endurance athletes who want to avoid synthetic sports supplement ingredients.
How To Tackle Training In Hot Weather
Don’t wing it when it comes to hydration. If you wait until you feel thirsty, your body will already be dehydrated. Create a plan for hydration, just as you would for nutrition intake.
Start hydrating early, well before you head out for your run or ride. And start drinking from the beginning of your session, rather than waiting until halfway through.
Experiment with ice for your sports drinks, electrolyte drinks, and intra workout drinks. To avoid diluting the optimal concentration, either freeze some of the drink (then top up with water), or make the drink with less water and then add ice to top it up.
Remember that optimal hydration ins’t just about getting round your training session in one piece. It will also have a knock-on effect on recovery, making the following days easier and more pleasant!
Try different ways to carry your fluid and energy supplements with you on long runs and rides. Attach extra bottle cages to your bike frame, try using a fuel belt, or run with a Camelbak. If you are running or riding loops, you can leave bottles outside your house.
Be smart about training times. Avoid 11am-2pm if you can, and make an effort to get out earlier before the heat sets in. Training in really hot weather and direct sunlight can often be dangerous.
Wear the right kind of kit. Breathable, wicking fabrics rather than cotton, light layers to protect your skin, peaked caps, and sports sunglasses will all make life easier. You could even try soaking a thin buff in water and wearing it around your neck, or stuffing ice cubes inside your running cap.
Get used to training in hot conditions if you’re going to be racing in the heat. After 1-2 weeks of training in hot and humid conditions, your body will make some significant additions, including a higher blood plasma volume, reduced heart rate for the same exertion, quicker onset of sweating to cool you down, increased sweat rate, and losing less salt through sweat.