Q. I am a nationally ranked 30's player and didn't have a great summer season, due to a bout of self-diagnosed heat stress. For some reason, the heat seemed to affect me more than others at the national level and I'm not sure why. I had an EKG and an echo stress test done, the results of which were remarkably good. So, I'm at a loss. I'm not sure how to better condition my body to cope more effectively with the brutal Florida heat. I found something through a trainer called "Gookinaid" developed by Gookin, one of the creators of Gatorade, but that didn't seem to help much more than staying hydrated. Any suggestions?
A. There are a number of contributing factors to excessive heat strain and thermal intolerance. Lack of sleep, excessive fluid-electrolyte deficits, insufficient acclimatization to the heat, poor fitness, excessive body fat, recent illness, certain clothing and colors, and some medications can all make one less tolerant of the heat.
However, some people are simply heat-intolerant, having a physiological disability in metabolic heat dissipation, due to an inherent thermoregulatory dysfunction. A measure of your body and skin temperature, along with heart rate, during an exercise-heat stress would confirm whether or not this is the case.
Before that, make sure none of the above factors are the main reason for your heat intolerance. Often, for example, players are a lot more fluid- and electrolyte (primarily salt)-deficient than they realize.
Q. Competing in temperatures over 100 degrees, I have suffered heat exhaustion twice. I seem to also be more prone to dehydration and I'm a bit nervous to compete in the heat since then. Is there anything I can do 3-4 days prior to competition other than major hydration?
A. The primary factors contributing to heating your body up during play are the environment (temperature, humidity, and solar radiation) and intensity of play. Importantly, an excessively elevated body temperature and inability to compete can occur, even if you begin your match well hydrated and attempt to drink sufficiently during play.
Of course, if you develop a significant fluid deficit through sweating, this can also have an additional profound negative effect on your capacity and desire to continue. So hydration is indeed important, and you should be drinking plenty of appropriate fluids (e.g., water, juice, milk, sport drinks) throughout the days leading up to a tournament, especially if it’s going to be hot.
Adequate hydration also requires sufficient intake of other nutrients such as carbohydrates and certain electrolytes before play. Other controllable and contributing variables include your fitness, choice of clothing on court, rest and sleep, and tapering training before a competitive event begins.
All of these factors will affect your tolerance of play in the heat. If you continue to have problems, you may want to consult with a physician or sports physiologist who could directly assess your on-court responses related to exertional heat strain.