Optimize Your Outdoor Summer Sweat Session
Meghan Kennihan, NOW Ambassador
Now that summer is here, it’s the perfect time to take your workout outdoors and take advantage of the warm weather. But the heat and humidity can pose risks – specifically dehydration, increased heart rate and reduced blood flow/oxygen to the muscles, and slower/less effective recovery – if not properly prepared. Read on for more about the risks and my top three tips to prep and mitigate these risks for your next outdoor workout.
Your body cools itself and maintains equilibrium through sweat. Sweat has a cooling effect on the body because it removes excess heat through evaporation. The rate of evaporation and subsequently how well the body is cooled depends on the humidity. When humidity is low, evaporation increases, when humidity is high, evaporation decreases and less cooling occurs.
Even though sweating is critical to cool the body, it is fluid loss. Dehydration from fluid loss affects performance, a loss of 2% of body weight leads to about 4-6% drop in performance. So high heat and humidity cause a large loss of fluid as the body fights to cool itself in turn decreasing performance.
Increased heart rate/reduced blood flow/oxygen to muscles
At 60-75 degrees your heart rate increases by 2-4 beats per minute. From 75-90 degrees it can increase up to 10 beats per minute and the humidity will make it increase even more. Rate of perceived exertion is much greater as temperature and humidity rise. Making matters worse, when you sweat your blood volume decreases, so less blood returns to your heart, less oxygen rich blood reaches your hard working muscles and you produce less energy aerobically causing you to perform slower at a given effort level. When it gets hotter, all this is exaggerated because then heat needs to be dissipated and a lot of the blood gets diverted to the skin.
Even though red blood cells in the plasma don’t play a role in the cooling process, your body doesn’t separate the red blood cells (oxygen carriers) from the plasma and all are brought to the skin to cool. Since the oxygen is redirected via blood flow to your skin instead of your muscles, you have less energy for movement and your heart and lungs have to work harder to make up for the loss. As you know, this results in higher heart rate at a set pace and higher perceived exertion.
Not only does heat and humidity make your workouts harder, it also hampers recovery and your ability to perform on subsequent workouts. When you exercise in hot, humid conditions, your body needs to spend more energy on cooling itself rather than delivering nutrients to the muscles you are using. When the damaged muscles can’t get all the nutrients they need to repair, recovery is slower and you may not be fully prepared for your next hard workout.
TIPS TO PROPERLY PREPARE FOR THE WORKOUT
Practice Makes Perfect
Training in general provides a bit of an adaptation because a side effect of fitness is an increase in total plasma volume and blood plasma plays an important role in the cooling process, so the more fit you are the more easily you can adapt to heat. Working out in hot conditions can result in making it easier to maintain a faster pace and cause perceived exertion to drop, higher blood plasma volume, increased sweat rate, decrease in salt in sweat, reduced heart rate at a given pace and temperature, and a quicker onset of sweating but these changes are noticeable only after about 2 weeks of heat exposure. So, you must "practice" in the heat.
Do your workouts and training outside, not in the comfort of the air conditioned gym, especially if you are going to be competing outside. Try supplements like BCAAs and Beta-Alanine to support your workouts. BCAAs support the recovery process by promoting the normal repair processes that take place after exertion.* They also play an important role in the maintenance of proper immune system function and the support of healthy aging.* Beta-Alanine increases muscle carnosine content, allowing muscles to work harder and longer during intense exercise.*
NOW uses CarnoSyn®, a patented form of Beta-Alanine that has been clinically tested to delay muscle fatigue and support rapid recovery time, thereby helping you attain your strength and endurance training goals.*
Adjust Your Expectations
Because heat acclimatization can only take you so far, it is smart to adjust expectations when running in the heat. As we have discussed above, it is scientific fact that even the most heat acclimatized athlete will suffer performance loss in hot conditions. Find ways to adjust your workouts and race paces to reflect the hot conditions. Slow down and listen to what your body is telling you.
Likewise, know how the hot and humid conditions affect your recovery, so you can monitor your subsequent workouts and the progression of your training plan. Because the heat will make your workouts harder on your body, it is smart to use some extra recovery modalities after especially hard days such as BCAA Big Six and Arnica MSM Lotion.
Scientific studies have indicated that post-exercise nutrition can be critical for optimization of electrolyte replacement, muscle recovery, restoration of glycogen stores, and ultimately for maximizing performance and endurance.* NOW's BCAA Big Six contains all of the elements necessary for post-exercise recovery.* BCAA Big 6 features branched-chained amino acids (BCAAs) to support muscle retention and recovery, and betaine to help maintain fluid balance during exercise.* BCAA Big 6 also has taurine, which can further support endurance.*
Then as you put your legs up to recovery, slathering them with Glucosamine, MSM & Arnica Liposomal Lotion is perfect for use on your joint areas. Massaging with this unique blend of ingredients combines Glucosamine, a normal joint and cartilage component, plus MSM and arnica helps sooth the muscles.
Hydration is a critical element for staying cool and performing your best in hot conditions. What makes hydrating so difficult is knowing exactly how much fluid you need to stay cool and replenish what you lose through sweating. Likewise, pre-hydrating and re-hydrating with the proper fluids is critical to maintaining fluid levels and performing at your best. Every runner sweats at a different rate relative to their conditioning, acclimatization, and individual make-up. One way to find out your unique hydration needs is to measure your sweat loss in the heat. There are many online calculators to help you but I think this is one of the best: https://runnersconnect.net/training/tools/sweat-loss-calculator/.
The critical factor in hydration is how rapidly fluids can be absorbed into the blood stream. As a general rule, the higher the carbohydrate content, the slower the absorption rate. Therefore, you should drink water or diluted sports drinks before and during running and sports drinks or a recovery beverage after. As I mentioned above NOW's BCAA Big Six is great for recovery and can even be used during exercise,* Slender Sticks™ are another great option to stay hydrated during the workout. They’re convenient powder packets sweetened with BetterStevia™, a zero calorie natural sweetener, contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, and come in a variety of flavors, including Grape Active, which also offers electrolytes and magnesium to help replenish what’s lost through sweat.
No matter what conditions you are exercising in, it is important to remember that ATTITUDE is EVERYTHING. Instead of getting discouraged because you have to race or workout in the heat, realize that everyone is dealing with the same conditions and have faith in your training, supplementation, and recovery.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.