Stay Cool – Tips for Training and Competing in the Heat

25% – The efficiency of the human body to convert energy from food to work while riding a bike. In other words, only one out of every four calories we eat goes towards pedaling us down the road. The remaining 75% is largely released as heat. Heat generated through the metabolic pathways required to turn food into fuel for working muscle tissue. Heat that our bodies must dissipate to avoid damaging cells and tissues. While offloading this extra heat is an issue throughout the year, it becomes especially challenging during the summer when temperatures skyrocket. Following are some recommendations to help you beat the heat this summer!

Plan Accordingly – If possible, shift your training time to early or late in the day when temperatures are cooler and the sun is less intense. Or consider a route that will take you to higher elevations when the temperature in the city climbs. Keep in mind, if you’re targeting an event in a hot climate, you’ll want to acclimatize yourself to high temperatures. In this instance, you may want to shift your training to a hotter part of the day. When warming up for an event, find a spot that offers shade and sufficient airflow to help keep you cool before your event.

Wear Sunscreen – While always an important precaution against skin cancer, sunscreen will also help prevent sunburns. Sunburns make it harder on the body to dissipate heat.

Stay Hydrated – One of the major mechanisms the body uses for thermoregulation during intense exercise is evaporative cooling (i.e. sweating). This speeds up the loss of water from the body and can lead to dehydration. Ensuring that you’re well hydrated prior to exercise puts you one step ahead. While riding, the rule of thumb is that you should be consuming 20oz of fluid per hour. This may vary as temperatures go up and down but it is a good starting point. If you want to ensure that you’re drinking enough, consider weighing yourself prior to and after exercise. The majority of weight lost while riding is due to fluid loss, fluids that will need to be replaced. If you’re 1lb lighter following your ride that’s 16oz of fluid that you’ll need to replace.

Electrolytes – The body relies upon electrolytes as neurotransmitters in the body to help send electrical signals from the brain to muscle tissue telling it to contract. Unfortunately, when we sweat we lose electrolytes and these must be replaced. Many of us replenish our supply through electrolyte drinks such as Gatorade while exercising. On hotter days, or for salty sweaters, these drinks may not provide enough electrolytes to replenish what we have lost. In these instances you may consider supplementing with additional electrolytes with a product such as Nuun or Hammer Endurolyte tabs.

Ice Cold – Studies have found that drinking cold water can aide in keeping core temperature down while exercising. Consider keeping your water refrigerated overnight, freezing or adding ice so it stays cold during your ride. If you’re participating in a long supported event, keep water on ice in a cooler at the feed zone to replenish with. Another method for staying cool that is becoming common is ice socks. Stuffing ice into a nylon stocking (allows the water to drain as it melts) and stuffing it down the back of your jersey can help keep you cool.

Cool Off Quickly – Once you’ve completed your ride you’ll want to cool off quickly. Excess body heat can slow recovery as it increases inflammation in the body. A cold shower can help you shed excess heat quickly. If you’re in a pinch, or at an event, soaking your hands and feet in buckets of cold ice water can also do the trick. A cold mountain stream can also be the perfect ending to a long, hot ride!

Keep Cool!

Written by: Adam Fivehouse

Adam Fivehouse, USA Cycling LII Certified Coach, provides testing and coaching through Optimize Endurance Services. Contact him at 720-270-6876 or email Adam with training, coaching or testing questions. Or feel free to join us on one of our OES Training Rides. Ride details can be found on our Training Calendar.