Sauna Heat Acclimation
If you haven’t tried Sauna Heat Acclimation…You need to. It might as well be a PED(performance enhancing drug). Actually, Sauna Heat Acclimation isn’t really new, but most people haven’t grasped the massive benefits of Sauna Heat Acclimation when done right and it most certainly can be done wrong through terrible dehydration. Since I live in Boulder, CO at an altitude of around 5500ft, there are a few disadvantages to being here that Sauna Heat Acclimation might actually help with besides the obvious heat/humidity acclimation. So I did a little digging for my upcoming Puerto Rico race and have heard from quite a few professional athletes/coaches that sauna sessions are the way to go when racing in the heat.
A word of caution, don’t be stupid about doing sauna sessions for too long. Don’t do it drunk or hungover. It’s strongly recommended you do it with a friend especially if you suffer in the heat. And make sure to hydrate at least afterwards for the next few hours. These GRIT bits are for informational purposes only.
Three key factors that sauna sessions can really help with are
- It Increases Blood Plasma/volume and flow to the heart. So for a given workload your strain will be easier thus increasing performance. Increased levels of blood obviously have been linked to greater endurance, VO2 max etc.
- Helps reduce the dependence on your glycogen stores, thus further preventing you from bonking. This is huge in longer events, but also very important in events short and intense. In addition Lactate has been show to be reduced as well. Hmmm…
- Sweat rate and thermoregulatory control is improved. Blood flow is increased to the skin.
So for example, if you do just just 2 x 30min sauna sessions a week for 3 weeks post workout you can see up to a 32% increase in time till exhaustion. See References below. #5
My current protocol 3 Weeks Out
1. At least 3x per week up to 25mins in dry/wet sauna post last workout of the day.
2. No Fluids during sauna to increase blood plasma volumes do to dehydration
3. Re-hydrate 1 bottle per hour until normal weight is reached again post sauna with OSMO(1-scoop p/bottle)
Watch this video, it’s 13 mins but it’s good.
Want more? Tim Ferris on 4 Hour Work Week has an excellent post and 48 references for you to soak up if you want.
- Michael N. Sawka, C. B. W., Kent B. Pandolf. Thermoregulatory Responses to Acute Exercise-Heat Stress and Heat Acclimation. Handbook of Physiology, Environmental Physiology (2011). This is a good review article that covers many of the mechanisms that underly the endurance enhancements as a consequence of heat acclimation
- Garrett, A. T., Creasy, R., Rehrer, N. J., Patterson, M. J. & Cotter, J. D. Effectiveness of short-term heat acclimation for highly trained athletes. European journal of applied physiology 112, 1827-1837, doi:10.1007/s00421-011-2153-3 (2012).
- Kirwan, J. P. et al. Substrate utilization in leg muscle of men after heat acclimation. J Appl Physiol (1985) 63, 31-35 (1987). The findings in this study reinforce the data in ref #3. Both small sample sizes but multiple studies showing the same effect makes the argument stronger
- Ricardo J. S. Costa, M. J. C., Jonathan P. Moore & Neil P. Walsh. Heat acclimation responses of an ultra-endurance running group preparing for hot desert-based competition. European Journal of Sport Science, 1-11 (2011). The sample sizes in both studies referenced here and in #4 have small sample sizes but they are two independent studies that compliment each other. This study also reinforces the endurance enhancements in #5.
- Scoon, G. S., Hopkins, W. G., Mayhew, S. & Cotter, J. D. Effect of post-exercise sauna bathing on the endurance performance of competitive male runners. Journal of science and medicine in sport / Sports Medicine Australia 10, 259-262, doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2006.06.009 (2007). This study shows the effect of preconditioning the body to heat stress by using a sauna for at least 30 min directly after after training session.
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