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Over the final two weeks, temperatures at The Tour de France will reach as high as 35-40°C.  On top of the already gruelling demands of the race, these exceedingly hot temperatures add an extra element of complexity and strain upon a rider’s performance. This means that riders must pay particular attention to combating the negative effects associated with overheating and preventing excessive dehydration in such conditions.  

Read on and find out how riders at Le Tour will overcome the heat, and try out these tips on your next summer ride thanks to INEOS Grenadiers team nutritionist, Dr Marc Fell…  


1. Avoiding dehydration in the heat 

Preventing dehydration is a key aspect that riders must consider when racing in the heat as becoming dehydrated during a stage can lead to a decrease in plasma volume which in turn causes a decrease in blood flow to the working muscles with the body in turn working harder to deliver oxygen to working muscles, increasing the cardiovascular strain. This can result in a higher body temperature, increased perception of effort, a higher heart rate and a reduced sweat rate (which results in a decreased ability for the body to cool). 

These factors on their own or combined can contribute to reduced performance as well as concentration. A reduction in as little as 2% of body weight due to sweat loss can cause dehydration. Therefore, it is vital that riders are well hydrated prior to the stage and ensure hydration is maintained throughout the stage. On a really hot and long stage riders would be consuming as much as 10-12 bidons throughout the stage to promote fluid replacement given their high sweat rates.  

As well as thinking about our sweat rate and overall fluid loss, it is also important to consider electrolytes. Electrolytes are required within the body to perform a variety of functions effectively and one of the electrolytes, sodium, is particularly important when it comes to hydration as it helps the body to retain fluids and maintain hydration. However, electrolytes are predominately lost in sweat so when sweat rates are high it is important to not only replace fluid loses but also replace electrolytes. This is where riders will add additional electrolytes such as an SiS Hydro tablet to their fluids to increase electrolyte intake and help promote hydration. 

2. Fuelling in the heat 

Fuelling with carbohydrates is a key component for every stage during the Tour de France, however during hot days this may become even more important as carbohydrate requirements for exercise are suggested to be increased in the heat, due to a shift in substrate utilisation towards carbohydrate oxidation. This means that riders will have to be even more diligent with their on-bike fuelling strategies by ensuring they are consuming enough carbohydrates per hour to not only support the intensity and duration of the stage but also with the added demand of the heat. The SiS Beta Fuel range provides a tailor-made fuelling solution in such situations as the Beta Fuel gels, chews and drinks, which are packed with high amounts of scientifically formulated carbohydrates to support such high carbohydrate needs. 


3. Cooling during a race 

One of the key effects of cycling in very hot conditions is a large rise in core body temperature. Normally your core body temperature is very tightly regulated and small increments in core body temperature can have quite a detrimental effect upon performance and can even cause illness or heat stroke if it becomes too high! This means that during a stage riders will aim to minimise large increases in core body temperature to help maintain performance and ensure they are not wasting unnecessary energy. It is thought that as your core body temperature increases your efficiency on the bike may become lower meaning you will using more energy for the same power output.  

In attempts to keep cool during a stage you will often see riders pouring cold water over themselves, wearing an ice vest before and after the stages, and consuming chilled drinks throughout the stages with even some teams using slushies drinks throughout stages. 


4. Heat acclimation  

Before racing in the heat, the most important aspect is to train your body to withstand the heat, so your performance does not become negatively affected. Cyclists competing within the Tour de France will have spent a specific amount of time prior to the race undertaking heat acclimatisation to promote physiological and biochemical adaptations to the heat. Typically, they will have undertaken training camps in locations where there is hot weather or else, they will have undertaken specific training sessions within heat chambers or even worn winter clothes when on the turbo in an overdressed state to mimic the effects of the heat. Incorporating a well devised heat strategy prior to racing in hot conditions can be the most crucial factor when it comes to beating the heat.  

To find out more about the nutritional strategies of the INEOS Grenadiers at this year’s Tour de France, visit here.  

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