A team of Australia’s top sports scientists, medical doctors and dietitians have collaborated to bring together the science behind exercising in hot conditions, and what that means from a nutritional perspective.
Presenters at the Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA) 2019 biennial conference have pooled their knowledge into a single, comprehensive guide – the Sports Dietitians Australia Position Statement – Nutrition for Exercise in Hot Environments. The position statement is now available, free to access, in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism.
Lead author of the position statement, and Accredited Sports Dietitian Dr Alan McCubbin said that “With many of Australia’s athletes in training for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and everyday active Australians approaching the hottest time of the year, we felt it was the perfect opportunity to ensure there was a single, consistent reference point to help guide scientists, nutritionists, dietitians and coaches working with athletes, as to how they can help minimise stress on their body and perform to their best when exercising in the heat. The SDA conference program represented a great way to bring together world experts in thermal physiology, sports medicine, and sports nutrition, to put together this document.
Running marathons across a desert or a triathlon in Hawaii isn’t the only way to experience the effects of heat during exercise. This can occur even indoors, playing basketball or squash on a court with a tin roof in the middle of summer. In addition, there are times when our body struggles to get rid of excess heat because of protective clothing and equipment, such as the fireproof suits and helmet required for motor racing, or the helmet, pads, thigh and arm guards that batsmen and women wear playing cricket.
Australian Olympic Sports Dietitian Dr Gary Slater says, “Exercising in warm and hot conditions like those expected in Tokyo 2020 can adversely affect both health and performance. Nutrition plays a vital role to help to mitigate the impact to health and performance.
Most of us recognise that we sweat more in hotter weather and need to drink more, but we don’t often factor in other food and fluid-related strategies such as deliberate expansion of blood volume before exercise using water and salt or glycerol, deliberately cooling the body before a race with ice slushies, and even altering our perception of heat using menthol products.
Our bodies are as individual as our training or performance goals, so there’s never a one-size-fits-all. For example, we all sweat at different rates, and the ability to access and tolerate drinking fluid varies between athletes and sports, so the hydration strategy for one athlete will not be the same as it is for the next. Athletes should always seek the advice of an Accredited Sports Dietitian for guidance, as both over and under-drinking during exercise can be potentially harmful.
SDA is the peak body for evidence-based sports nutrition in Australia as demonstrated by the publication of the Heat position statement. As a profession, our sports dietitians integrate the best available research for guidance and decision-making gaining recognition across the sports science industry both in Australia and internationally.