How to Fuel in the Heat


Triathlon training is complex and challenging.  When the temperature starts to rise, the complications and challenges increase.  Training and racing in the heat increases those challenges.  It is important to understand that you will likely not train or race as well when the conditions are hot.  All is not lost, however.  When this happens, it’s time to change your goals and adjust your nutrition and hydration plan accordingly.

Let’s start with the most important part:  hydration.  It is critical that you maintain your hydration.  Studies show that if you are even just 2% dehydrated, your performance will start to suffer.  Keep in mind that as you are training or racing, your body struggles a bit to absorb fluids and nutrients.  Try to drink at regular intervals (10-15 minutes) and take sips – not chugs – of fluids.  By spacing out the drink in regular increments, it will prevent GI distress while keeping you hydrated.

When dealing with longer races, calories are also important. So what should you eat on a hot training or racing day?  While there is no one best answer because everyone is different, it is standard to minimize fat and focus on a fuel that includes a carbohydrate to protein ratio of 4:1.  Some athletes also benefit from adding in some amino acids for gut integrity.  Just like your water intake, spread out your fuel intake as well.  It’s best to take in these calories in small, frequent doses than just slamming down 200 calories in a few gulps.

Many athletes also ask about supplements.  The most popular ones are caffeine and nitrates.  Unfortunately, these two supplements have a negative impact on performance, so it is recommended that you stay away from these two in warmer temperatures.  Two supplements to consider are beta-alanine to reduce muscle fatigue and curcumin to improve gut function.  In order for curcumin to have the desired effect, take 500mg a day for 3 days prior to your big training day or race.

It’s also important to practice with your hydration and fueling strategy multiple times before a big race.  Things that may work for you on a cooler day may not work for you on a hot day.  Try a variety of products and plans in training so you can find out which is the best strategy for you.  Be sure to take notes on your performance and how you feel using each item so you can make your best decision come race day.

No one can control the weather, but you can control how you react to it.  It is possible to race well in the heat if you are prepared and adjust your plan accordingly.  Take what the day gives you and make the changes you need to ensure you have a great day!

Train Right, Tri Right!

Coach MJ


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