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What You Need to Know About Training in Hot Climates

Training in hot climates presents new challenges for athletes, particularly endurance and adventure sports athletes.

Whether you're a runner, cyclist, rock climber, or even if you’re going on a long hike, training in the heat requires strategic adjustments to maintain your athletic performance and avoid serious health emergencies. High temperatures can have a significant negative impact your body, making it essential to understand how to adapt your training to cope with the heat. 

Here’s what you can expect to learn in this article:

  • Why your performance suffers in the heat
  • The physiological impacts of heat on your body
  • Tactics for training more effectively in the heat
  • How to recognize and manage heat-related illnesses
  • Supplements that support your training in hot climates


Why Does Your Performance Suffer in the Heat?

Training or competing in hot climates can negatively impact your athletic performance. When your body temperature rises, your cardiovascular system works harder to cool you down, diverting blood flow from your muscles to your skin. 

As a result, you might experience physiological symptoms like:

  • Increased heart rate: Your heart works overtime to pump blood to the skin for cooling in hot climates, which can reduce the time it takes for you to feel fatigued. As your body works harder to regulate its temperature and your heart rate increases, you experience higher perceived effort during exercise. This can limit your endurance and make your usual pace feel much harder to maintain.
  • Dehydration: Sweating helps cool your body, but it also depletes your body’s water levels. Dehydration can impair cognitive function, reduce endurance and increase the risk of heat-related illnesses. While dehydration levels of 0–2% can actually improve your athletic performance, a practice called tactical dehydration, a loss of body water greater than 2% can have a significant negative impact and even be dangerous. Over 90% of your blood plasma is made of water, or about 55% of your total blood, so dehydration decreases your blood volume. This makes it harder for your cardiovascular system to function efficiently, leading to fatigue and decreased athletic performance.
  • Electrolyte imbalance: As you sweat, you lose essential electrolytes like sodium, potassium and magnesium, which are crucial for muscle function and energy production. Despite this, your body is better at managing sodium levels than sports drink brands would have you think, but a severe imbalance in these electrolytes can lead to muscle cramps, dizziness and fatigue, which all negatively impact your athletic performance. Maintaining the right electrolyte balance is crucial to keep your muscles functioning optimally and to prevent heat-related issues.


Tactics for Training More Effectively in the Heat

You should adopt strategies that help your body cope with heat when training in hot climates to keep you cool, maintain your athletic performance and most importantly, keep you safe. 

 Here are five practical tactics for performing better in the heat:

  1. Acclimatization: Gradually increasing your exposure to heat over 1–2 weeks can help your body adapt. Start with shorter, less intense sessions and slowly build up the duration and intensity of your training. Acclimatization helps your body become more efficient at cooling itself, reduces your heart rate and lowers your core temperature during exercise, making the heat more manageable.
  2. Hydration: Drink hydrating fluids and eat foods containing high levels of water, electrolytes and natural sugars regularly throughout the day. While drinking water is great, real-food hydration sources will always be more efficient than water alone, so consider consuming an electrolyte-rich drink like Hydra+ to replenish lost minerals when real food is unavailable. Aim to hydrate before, during, and after exercise, and you can monitor your urine colour as a quick hydration check—pale yellow is ideal.
  3. Timing and location: Training during cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late in the evening, can make a significant difference in your athletic performance. Choose shaded or breezy areas whenever possible to avoid direct sunlight, and if your schedule is flexible, plan your most intense workouts for the coolest times to minimize heat stress.
  4. Clothing: Wear lightweight, breathable and light-coloured clothing to reflect sunlight and allow your sweat to evaporate more efficiently. When possible, opt for loose-fitting, technical fabrics designed to wick moisture away from the skin and allow for greater air circulation to cool you down and make you more comfortable. 
  5. Cooling Strategies: Use cooling towels, ice packs, or cold water immersion before, during, and after training to help manage your body temperature. Pre-cooling with ice vests or cold drinks can help lower your core temperature before you start exercising. During workouts, take advantage of any available shade or breezes, and use cold water to cool your face and neck.


Recognizing and Managing Heat-Related Illnesses

While you can largely or entirely prevent heat-related illnesses with the five tactics listed above, you may sometimes still experience heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke in extreme heat. 

Recognizing the symptoms early and knowing how to respond is crucial:

  • Heat Cramps are painful muscle contractions caused by salt and fluid loss through sweating. Symptoms of heat cramps include muscle pain or spasms in the legs, arms and abdomen. To relieve heat cramps, rest in a cool place, hydrate with water or an electrolyte drink and gently stretch and massage the affected areas.
  • Heat Exhaustion is the feeling of fatigue and general sickness also caused by salt and fluid loss from sweating. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, headache and a rapid pulse. If you experience these symptoms, move to a cool, shaded area, lie down and elevate your legs. Drink cool water or an electrolyte solution, and apply cool, wet cloths to your skin if available. If these symptoms persist for more than an hour, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Heatstroke, an extreme form of heat exhaustion, is the most serious heat-related illness and occurs when the body can no longer regulate its temperature. This is a medical emergency characterized by a body temperature above 41°C or 106°F, hot and dry skin, confusion, and at times, a loss of consciousness. If this occurs, immediate action is necessary and you must seek emergency medical help. While waiting for help, move yourself or the affected person to a cooler place, remove excess clothing and use ice packs, cold water, or fans to cool the skin and lower the body’s internal temperature. Continuously monitor their condition until medical help arrives.


Supplements that Support Training in Hot Climates

  1. Electrolyte supplements: Products like electrolyte tablets or drinks can help replenish the minerals you lose through sweat, maintaining muscle function and reducing the risk of cramps. A real-food electrolyte source like Hydra+ will provide a balance of essential electrolytes like sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium to support your body's needs during prolonged exercise in the heat.
  2. Creatine monohydrate: While typically associated with strength training, creatine can also benefit endurance athletes or any athlete training in hot climates by improving hydration status and increasing muscle energy availability. Creatine supplementation helps your muscles retain water, which is particularly beneficial in the heat and supports prolonged exercise by increasing your muscle energy reserves. Better yet, a combination product like HMB+ Creatine that provides 5g of creatine monohydrate and 3g of calcium HMB per day gives you the additional muscle strength and integrity benefits of beta‐hydroxy beta‐methylbutyrate, or HMB. 
  3. Beta-alanine: Used by athletes of all types for its ability to buffer lactic acid, beta-alanine helps delay the onset of fatigue during high-intensity exercise. By increasing the concentration of carnosine in your muscles, beta-alanine can help you sustain your athletic performance and reduce perceived effort, even when training in hot climates. A pure supplement like Beta Alanine provides a full 6g dose of beta-alanine per day, which is the amount needed to improve your athletic performance. 
  4. Taurine: Taurine has been shown to improve exercise performance in the heat by enhancing thermoregulation and reducing oxidative stress. This amino acid helps your body maintain your cells’ electrolyte balance, which supports cardiovascular function and can help you adapt more effectively to hot conditions.


Key Takeaways

Training in hot climates presents unique challenges for athletes, such as an increased heart, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, which all negatively impact your athletic performance.

To train more effectively in the heat, use practical tactics like gradually acclimating your body, maintaining proper hydration, and training at strategic times and locations. You can also wear clothing designed for hot climates and use cooling techniques to help your body cope with heat. Despite your best efforts, these tactics sometimes may not be enough in extreme heat, so being equipped with the knowledge to recognize and respond to symptoms of heat-related illnesses like heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke is crucial for avoiding serious health emergencies.

Finally, supplements like electrolytes, creatine monohydrate, beta-alanine and taurine can enhance your training and athletic performance when used strategically, but you shouldn’t rely sole on them.

If you learned something new from this article and are curious to know more, head to our growing list of weekly research summaries where we help you further improve your athletic performance by keeping you up to date on the latest findings from the world of sports nutrition.

— That’s all for now, train hard!


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