Heat Acclimatisation and Hydration for Strongman Athletes?

What is it?

Heat acclimatization involves training in environments that are as hot or hotter than the environment you will compete in order to reduce the impact of heat on physiological function and exercise performance.

The Strongman Tribe Highlights from Week 1 Heat Acclimatisation Training.


Port Adelaide Heat Acclimitisation Training Dubai
Port Adelaide AFL Club Heat Acclimitisation Training Dubai!

How can it help you?

Heat Acclimatization training results in 9 key benefits!:

  1. a lower heart rate at a given heat and exercise stress level
  2. better maintenance of core body temperature
  3. reduction in the sweating threshold
  4. increased distribution of active sweat glands
  5. increased sweat rate
  6. an increased sweating sensitivity to increasing core body temperature
  7. a reduction in the loss of water and electrolytes from the kidneys.
  8. Sweat sodium concentration is often lower after heat acclimatization, producing a more dilute sweat (Nielsen et al. 1997) and perceived exertion during exercise in the heat is reduced.
  9. 15% performance improvement compared to non heat acclimatized athletes!

In order to win any event, athletes need optimal resources in adequate amounts. The human body is composed mostly of water which needs to be replenished regularly like any other nutrient. Muscles are 75% water and the human brain is over 80% both of which are vital to sports performance.

North Melbourne AFL Star Joel Tippett staying hydrated with Joeys Athletic Superfood Shake!
North Melbourne AFL Star Joel Tippett staying hydrated with Joeys Athletic Superfood Shake!

Symptoms and Long Term Consequences of Dehydration (Source Nutrition for Ultimate Sports Performance)

Problems With Insufficient Hydration
Athletes that are insufficiently hydrated will experience significant performance reductions. These include decreased maximal strength as a 1.5% decrease in water levels equates to a 10% drop in maximal strength. Impaired ability for the body to regulate heat which increases body temperature, elevates heart rate and fatigues athletes sooner. Dehydration can cause reduced mental function which decreases the athletes? motor control, decision making and concentration.

Symptoms of Dehydration
Warning signs of dehydration include dry skin, constipation, fatigue and headaches. Numerous disease conditions result from long-term dehydration as the body’s systems are dependent on adequate water, as water regulates the distribution of the body’s chemicals and their activity level.

How much should you drink?
It is impossible to provide a general fluid replacement plan to meet the needs of all athletes. However, the athletes can determine their fluid losses by comparing pre training competition weight with post training competition weight, noting the amount of fluid consumed during the game to ascertain approximations the fluid they require.

For example, an athlete who weighs 70kg at the start of training and 69.5kg at the end of training has a fluid deficit of 0.5kgs. If he/she consumes 1 Litre of fluid during the 2 hour training session, sweat rate is 750mls/hr, therefore the athlete needs to consume 750mls/hr.

Fluid Deficit (L): 70-69.5kg = 0.5kg
Total Sweat Loss (L) 0.5kgs + 1kg = 1.5kgs
Sweat Rate (L/H) 1.5kgs/2h = 750mls/h

Hydration Weigh in
Hydration Weigh in

According to experts at THE AIS most athletes can tolerate 700-800 ml every hour but their tolerance will vary according to exercise intensity.

The risk of hyponatremia (extremely high water intake) increases substantially when an athlete repeatedly consumes more than 900 ml per hour. If more fluid intake is found to be necessary (under very hot conditions, for example) the athletes should proceed cautiously and increase electrolyte intake (sodium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, potassium) accordingly to match their increased fluid intake. Using Surge Recovery (Which I have my athletes use and is available for purchase from us) as a fuel source will help athletes to fulfill calorie, electrolyte, and fluid requirements.

Surge Recovery used by my Elite Athletes is the Ultimate Muscle Building Hydration Source!
Surge Recovery used by my Elite Athletes is the Ultimate Muscle Building Hydration Source!

A simple way to determine hydration status is urine smell and colour. Athletes are drinking enough water if their urine is fairly pale and doesn’t smell strong. If it?s a dark yellow and has a pungent smell, then the athlete is most likely de-hydrated.

On a daily basis, the general rule of thumb formula to ascertain water needs is as follows: 39ml per kg of bodyweight. For example, a 70kg man should drink 39ml x 70 = 2.73 L per day in normal conditions that is without exercise.

If the body is not used to handling this volume of water, the body will need time to adjust.
If athlete drinks significantly less than the optimal daily amount, it is wise to increase the consumption of water over a period of 2-4 weeks.

There are also medical conditions that could be aggravated by increasing water intake, so ensure athletes check with their healthcare provider before dramatically changing their routine. The kidneys are responsible for filtering the increased fluids so they need to be able to handle the new volume.

Port Adelaide Player Jay Schulz cooling his core temperature down during heat accilimatisation training in Dubai
Port Adelaide Player Jay Schulz cooling his core temperature down during heat accilimatisation training in Dubai

What Should Athletes Drink?
Fluids need to be cool, palatable and conveniently available or they will not be consumed.
Fluid intake is enhanced when beverages are cool (below 15°, as this creates a gradient for rapid absorption) flavoured and contain sodium. This makes supplements like surge and sports drinks a perfect choice. The sensation of fluid in the mouth sends nerve signals to the brain that switch off the drive to drink.

Water is still a suitable option during exercise, however, water does not stimulate fluid intake to the same extent as sports drinks. When low sodium fluids such as water are consumed, the desire to drink is switched off before the athlete has had sufficient fluids to match sweat losses.

Add lemon; lemon increases the urge to drink and also kills bacteria. Soft drinks, cordial and juice are not recommended as they usually contain more than 10% carbohydrate and are low in sodium which slows down gastric emptying and may cause discomfort or hinder performance. I recommend athletes consume a drink with a blend of carbohydrates, protein and electrolytes. Surge Recovery, the workout and training protein supplement is ideal for this.

For more information check out my Nutritional Strategies for Ultimate Physical Performance Manual!


All the best,

Joey Hayes