Home PageApex NutritionNutritionTraining Nutrition Thursday: Top 10 Tips for Training in High Heat & Humidity – Nutrition for Athletes


With summer’s high temps and humidity, I need help with strategies to hydrate while running and riding. I definitely sweat a lot, but I just don’t know how much to drink while I run. I’ve lost up to 6 lbs in one outing. What should I do?


When it’s hot, and you know you’re sweating a lot, you simply must find a way to hydrate and replenish electrolytes & fluids during training. In terms of research, usually performance is negatively affected after 60 minutes with no fluids.  In terms of individual health and performance, though, it affects performance when you lose 2-3% of your body weight, becomes unhealthy at 2-5% of your body weight, and can be deadly at 6% of your body weight. Let’s optimize hydration & nutrition for athletes with these simple strategies:

1) Realize that it’s not just about health…you will hinder your training performance and ability to improve as a athlete if you run/ride in a dehydrated state.

2) Get an idea of how much you lose for a given run in specific conditions (heat and humidity). To do this, simply weigh yourself immediately before and after running. Anything you lose is fluid loss. Also take into account how much you drank during the training. So, if you weigh 2 lbs less when you return from a 90 minute run (32 oz.), and you even drank 8 oz. during it, you lose ~40 ounces per 90 minutes, or about 26 oz. per hour during that type of run. For optimal performance, try to consume 18-24 ounces fluid during the run/ride (100% is not necessary and too much weight to carry). Replenish the remainder immediately after training, still with fluids AND electrolytes.

3) You need electrolytes for both performance and health, too (and, for optimal performance, added carbs for any training >90 minutes)). In fact, you always aim for 400-700 mg sodium per hour.  If possible, also get 100-300 mg potassium per hour through drinks and fuel sources.  If training >3 hours, try to get 80-120 mg calcium, and 40-60 mg magnesium per hour either through supplementation beforehand, or during training.  You can experiment with sports drinks, NUUN capsules, Camelbak Elixiers, chewable supplements (this can make the calcium/mag easier), etc. There are a few good reasons: a) Sodium increases the absorption rate of fluids in your large intestine, so you hydrate better when the fluid contains sodium. This is a good reason to use a fluid in which the sodium is dissolved into it rather than popping electrolyte pills or sodium tablets once in awhile. b) When you replenish only fluid, but you’ve lost fluid and electrolytes, your body must work hard to reestablish the correct ratio of electrolytes to fluid in its plasma. In order to do so, you may continue to excrete fluid in order to not cause a diluted plasma ratio of electrolytes to fluid. End result: More dehydration. c) Glucose uptake is dependent on adequate sodium, so if you’re dehydrated, losing sodium, and not replenishing it, you’re not likely getting the glucose you need, either when you do consume it. d) calcium and magnesium play a major role in reducing muscle cramping.

4) Drink to a plan, not to thirst. I know a lot of trainers and coaches recommend only drinking when thirsty. However, in my personal experience and that of working with hundreds of clients, it simply does not get it done. Once you’re behind on hydration, it only becomes harder to catch up. When you’re dehydrated (2% of body weight), you can easily become nauseous, and then who wants to drink? Also, it’s easy to convince yourself that you don’t need to take the time to do so if you don’t follow a plan.

5) Try using iced-drinks, but make sure NOT to dilute your nutrients.  You can make ice cubes out of your sports drink, freeze 1/3 bottle of sports drink a  nd then pour the rest in, or mix your sports drink to full concentration using less water, then add ice.  This does take some trial and error as you need the ice to melt while training so you can drink it…in my experience, this is not too much an issue in high heat/humidity.

6) Hydrate early. If out for 2 hours, begin hydrating in sips 15-30 minutes in. There’s no point in carrying it all and drinking it at the 90 minute mark. That may get you home, but you would have run better the entire time if you were hydrated throughout.  Additionally, hydrate, using electrolytes, during the 2 hours leading your workout.  A NUUN or other electrolyte tab can work well for this and will give you a headstart.

7)Pre-Load with fluids & electrolytes the day before and morning of any ride or run. Using electrolyte tabs in your water the day before, and adding 400-800 mg sodium the morning of (just ¼ tsp of salt will do), helps athletes’ bodies deal with heat better while increasing blood volume. Check out my PreLoad Lemonade Recipe here.

8) Figure out a way to carry your fluids.  This tends to be easier for cyclists and tougher for runners.  When, running, your options are: a) Carry a lightweight bottle in your hand or use one that has a strap that holds the bottle to your hand, b) use a “fanny-pack” style or vest-style bottle holder – go for many small bottles to distribute the weight around your body rather than one large one, c) use a snug-fitting, small, backpack style hydration systems such as Camelbak, or d) stash bottles along your route.

9) Be choosy about your training times – get out early or late for cooler weather.  There are simply times when it’s not smart to train due to high temps and humidity.

10) Be picky about your clothing and always use types that breath well.  When using suncreen, try to find types that also “breath” so that your not decreasing your bodies efforts at sweating to cool you down.  A great tip is to cool body temperature by wearing a dress sock or nylons with ice cubes in them tied around your neck  (Thank you LW Coaching & Positive Performance Coaching). Some athletes who cannot avoid high heat wear an sport ice vest like this (http://www.amazon.com/HyperKewl-Evaporative-Cooling-Ultra-Medium/dp/B004VMF56W/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1435241332&sr=8-3&keywords=ice+vests) under clothing.

Stay cool!:)

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