Coping in the South American heat; how will conditions affect performance? | Spire Perform

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Coping in the South American heat; how will conditions affect performance?

Perform Press Office
16 June 2014

In the latest blog from the team at Perform at St. George’s Park, lead strength and conditioning coach Ian Aylward discusses why the heat and humidity in Brazil, is set to play such a huge role in the tournament.

In Brazil, one of the major factors determining how well European countries perform in the World Cup will be their ability to cope with the extreme South American temperatures and humidity. With temperatures set to rise above 30 °C and humidity levels settling at around 75%, delivering a strong performance over 90 minutes and the duration of the tournament will be extremely demanding for the players.
As outside temperatures approach the temperature of the human body (about 37 °C) the body starts to undergo a series of changes to help keep it cool. Sweating, alteration of the rate and depth of blood circulation, and increased respiration are all measures the body takes in an effort to cool itself down.

Unfortunately however, sweating only works to cool us down if the water expressed through the skin is able to evaporate in the surrounding air. This is where the humidity factor is so important. The concentration of water, or the relative humidity, determines the rate at which water can evaporate from our skin. Higher levels of moisture in the atmosphere, therefore, means less sweat leaving the skin surface. As a result, an individual will find themselves struggling to manage the heat and the body is forced to search for other ways to cool down.

In high humidity, not only does an athlete feel hotter and more uncomfortable, but their body temperature does physically rise. Their body then compensates by working harder and harder to direct blood to the external surface of the body to further increase perspiration levels. When this sweating is ineffective and the body simply continues to heat, athletes will eventually just overheat losing essential water and electrolytes.

As more and more blood is directed to the external surface of the body blood plasma levels are altered. This causes the blood to thicken, placing greater stress on the heart and blood vessels supplying the muscles, brain and other internal organs with oxygen and nutrients. Naturally then, an individual will start to experience a loss in neuromuscular function, mental and cognitive alertness and ultimately fatigue.

At Perform at St. George’s Park, the Environment Chamber offers athletes the unique opportunity to experience such conditions here at home. With no need for long-distance travel this allows for greater exposure and acclimatisation prior to competition.  It gives them a valuable insight and understanding of their physical work capacity and ability to train and compete in such heat and humidity. Once they know how their body copes, they can then look at effective hydration strategies to manage the demands of such humidity and heat.
The team here at Perform at St. Georges Park are then able to utilise the Precision Hydration system. This system takes the results of an individual athlete’s performance, obtained by monitoring their sweat profile, and tailors a specific sports drink for their needs. This drink will ensure an athlete is receiving a unique essential balance of electrolytes, required to prevent dehydration and loss of performance in such hostile conditions.

Ian Aylward – Strength and Conditioning Coach – Perform at St. George’s Park

June 10th, 2014