How to Adapt Your Hydration and Nutrition When Working Out in Extreme Heat

A U.S. Air Force airman assigned to the 378th Air Expeditionary Wing takes a water bottle while running a Memorial Day 5K at an undisclosed location within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.
A U.S. Air Force airman assigned to the 378th Air Expeditionary Wing takes a water bottle while running a Memorial Day 5K at an undisclosed location within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, May 27, 2024. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Peak performance or just surviving hard training days in extreme weather conditions can be blamed on or sustained by the quantity and quality of the fuel entering the body. Hydration, adding electrolytes and good nutritional choices are critical to success regardless of the intense activity, but your strategy of refilling and refueling matters in high temperatures.

The gentleman wondered whether that strategy needed to be personalized:

Stew, do I need a personalized approach to hydration, adding electrolytes and nutrition, or is my answer simply testing ideas until something works or learning from what does not work? How would you optimize your hydration to enhance performance year-round and travel to different areas of the world? Thanks, Roger

Roger, your question about the need for a personalized approach to hydration, electrolytes and nutrition is spot-on. It's not just about testing ideas until something works, but about understanding your body's unique requirements. This is especially true when aiming for peak performance in extreme weather conditions.

Start with the basics of hydration, adding electrolytes when sweating profusely, and nutrition. Find foods and hydration supplements that work well for you. Here is a list of ideas to try and see what works best for you and your situation:

Before the Workout

Adding extra water in the heat (or cold) is needed before a workout. Continue drinking/sipping water throughout the workout, especially if you are sweating. But do not forget to replace what you are sweating out of your body. Add carbohydrate options before training so that you do not "bonk" with low blood-sugar numbers and start to feel ill. Many prefer bananas, apples, oranges or plums. Find what tastes right to you and agrees with your stomach. You may find you prefer something different on running days than lifting days. I like bananas before any workout.

During the Workout

During longer workouts, you may need to refuel and replenish the water and electrolytes you are losing in hot/humid training environments. When training hard in harsh elements, two essential things to remember are to hydrate and cool yourself. Find water sources (hose, pool, lake, etc.) to douse yourself and help cool your body. Continue sipping water throughout the workout. You may find that half of your fatigue is related to body heat. By cooling yourself, you may find a missing "second wind" and be able to continue training.

Replacing sodium and potassium when you're sweating is a must. It's equally important to keep sipping water throughout your workout. When sweating profusely, add sodium and potassium to your water through brands such as Gatorade, Liquid I.V., LMNT or DripDrop. These are the priorities in my gym bag during the summer. It is up to you to find what works, tastes and agrees with your stomach.

After the Workout

After workouts, immediately strive to cool yourself with a cooldown swim, shower or bath. Continue to rehydrate, eat carbohydrates and protein/fat sources to help you recover from the previous workout, and start the refueling process for tomorrow's workout. Various protein, carbohydrate and fat sources are recommended, but find what you enjoy and keep them balanced. Find a ratio of macronutrients that works best for you as well. Many like 40%-50% carbs, 30%-40% protein and 10%-20% fats. But many diets are available with more protein/fats and less carbs, and the opposite. Finding what works for you is a series of trial and error.

You can and should figure out what personally works best for you in various situations. From day/night, hot/cold, running/lifting or other training issues, keep testing and find your answer to fueling and hydration. Still, consider getting professional help with a more personalized approach to hydrating and eating. In that case, a sports nutritionist will save you more errors when finding the perfect meals and drinks to accompany your workouts.

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