For most highly active Canadians the reality is that we must be able to adapt to training and performing in both very warm and very cold weather. Most Canadian cities have the potential to become extremely warm in the summer and extremely cold at pretty much any point throughout the rest of the year. If you are a year-long outdoor runner you can certainly relate to the unpredictable nature of our climate. And it also affects other outdoor athletes that may begin or end play on the fringes of the seasons.
By Andy De Santis, RD MPH
Rather than going to extremes in your training, you can optimize your success during these more extreme weather conditions, by adapting your nutrition and hydration strategies. Doing so will not only ensure optimal performance, but it will also keep you safe, here’s how.
4 Steps to Performing Your Best in the Heat
The potential for heat-related issues in runners and other outdoor competitors is most likely to occur when heat, humidity and event-duration are all very high. If you are a long-distance or marathon runner, tennis player or engaged in an all-day outdoor tournament on a hot day, you are at the highest risk of heat-related harm and should pay extra attention to this guidance.
- Consume between 5-10 ml of fluid per kilogram of bodyweight in the 2-4 hours leading up to the event to ensure hydration. Your urine should be pale yellow in colour in the hours prior to the event or training.
- Train in the conditions you will be competing in to help you acclimatize to the conditions and to better understand how your body’s hydration needs in such conditions.
- Opt for colder fluids for re-hydration as these will help regulate your body temperature
- Consider choosing an electrolyte-enhanced beverage rather than water to help make up for the fluid losses that occur on hot days. Sports drinks may be a great option if you are training or competing for longer than 60 minutes.
4 Steps to Performing Your Best in the Cold
Just like the heat, the cold brings with it unique nutritional challenges. Some days we expect it be cold, other days unseasonably cold days might force us to train or play in less than ideal conditions. In either case, Canadian runners and other sport participants must be able to adapt in order to stay safe and perform their best
- Dress appropriately, but do not over dress. This may take some practice, but excessive overdressing may lead to increased sweat losses and could potentially impact your performance if you do not hydrate and/or rehydrate sufficiently.
- Eat a carbohydrate rich meal before you train or compete. Your energy requirements from carbohydrates may go up in the cold due to your body expending energy to maintain its core temperature.
- Keep in mind that, for points #1 and #2, lighter and leaner individuals may need to approach things differently because they may be at greater risk of hypothermia and require greater energy expenditure to maintain body temperature due to less body fat insulation.
- People who train or compete in cold weather may experience a reduction in their perceived thirst (quite a common phenomenon) that may lead them to drinking less. Try to re-hydrate as you normally would despite a reduction in thirst sensation.
Regardless of the weather, passionate competitors will not let it step them, but that does not mean they should not take the steps be prepared and safe.
Note: I would like to credit the Dietitians of Canada, Academy of Diet and Nutrition and The American College of Sports Medicine for the recent release of their sports nutrition position paper from which today’s article content was gleaned.
Andy is a private practice dietitian and nutrition blogger based in Toronto. You can learn more about him at AndyTheRD.com.