Effect of thermal state and thermal comfort on cycling performance in the heat

Emiel Schulze, Hein A M Daanen, Koen Levels, Julia R Casadio, Daniel J Plews, Andrew E Kilding, Rodney Siegel, Paul B Laursen
International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance 2015, 10 (5): 655-63

PURPOSE: To determine the effect of thermal state and thermal comfort on cycling performance in the heat.

METHODS: Seven well-trained male triathletes completed 3 performance trials consisting of 60 min cycling at a fixed rating of perceived exertion (14) followed immediately by a 20-km time trial in hot (30°C) and humid (80% relative humidity) conditions. In a randomized order, cyclists either drank ambient-temperature (30°C) fluid ad libitum during exercise (CON), drank ice slurry (-1°C) ad libitum during exercise (ICE), or precooled with iced towels and ice slurry ingestion (15 g/kg) before drinking ice slurry ad libitum during exercise (PC+ICE). Power output, rectal temperature, and ratings of thermal comfort were measured.

RESULTS: Overall mean power output was possibly higher in ICE (+1.4%±1.8% [90% confidence limit]; 0.4> smallest worthwhile change [SWC]) and likely higher PC+ICE (+2.5%±1.9%; 1.5>SWC) than in CON; however, no substantial differences were shown between PC+ICE and ICE (unclear). Time-trial performance was likely enhanced in ICE compared with CON (+2.4%±2.7%; 1.4>SWC) and PC+ICE (+2.9%±3.2%; 1.9>SWC). Differences in mean rectal temperature during exercise were unclear between trials. Ratings of thermal comfort were likely and very likely lower during exercise in ICE and PC+ICE, respectively, than in CON.

CONCLUSIONS: While PC+ICE had a stronger effect on mean power output compared with CON than ICE did, the ICE strategy enhanced late-stage time-trial performance the most. Findings suggest that thermal comfort may be as important as thermal state for maximizing performance in the heat.

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