The Heat Is On
There's research that states heat acclimatisation has the same benefit as training at altitude, if so is there a way cycle coaching plans can be applied this protocol for performance gains?
As with altitude training, the body has a wonderful way to adapt, so by doing too much training in the heat on an ongoing basis, the body will eventually adapt so that no benefit will be seen. So, heat acclimatisation for performance improvement needs to be a PLANNED approach.
One of the first studies was by S Lorenzo 2010 that showed elite cyclists that trained in the heat for 10 days had a performance increase of 6 to 8% in the time trial over a 60-minute period.
Those are some big gains.
The problem with most of us is that we cannot spend 10 days sitting on our bikes in succession during the hottest periods of the day.
Researchers then started to turn their attention to how external heat from other sources could impact performance. This led to a number of research papers around training without fans, training in a sauna, sitting in a sauna, and more recently sitting in a hot bath.
They found that the best approach with regards to performance improvement was actually sitting in a hot bath. This gave similar performance improvements that were seen in the original 2010 study.
The benefits of heat acclimatization are achieved by improved sweating and skin blood flow responses, improved cardiovascular stability (ability to sustain blood pressure and cardiac output), better fluid-electrolyte balance and a lowered metabolic rate (Périard et al., 2015; Sawka et al., 1996, 2011).
Now even more interesting was a very recent study that compared altitude training with heat acclimatisation
In summary the outcome of this study showed that heat acclimatisation was as good and in some instances for certain individuals even better than doing altitude training. So, train high, sleep low may have to change to train hot, race cold!
As one of the major benefits is the improvement in plasma volume is that it is extremely important to make sure that during the event plasma volume stays at those elevated levels. That means hydration is CRITICAL. You all know my view around what product you need to be using to keep up properly hydrated.
If you become dehydrated your heat adaptation will basically become zero. So, stay hydrated.
Heat adaptation can give improvements are between 5 to 8% (more pronounced in hotter conditions)
Hot baths seem to be the best way to apply the stress (between 5 to 14 days)
The exact protocol will be based on your physiology - a two stage approach may be more beneficial
Hydration is critical during the event to maintain the adaptation
The benefits of heat adaptation are seen irrespective if the race is held in hot or cold conditions