Does the temperature of my water or sports drink effect my performance?

The Introduction

cool drinkAll of us know that training or competing in the heat means drinking to prevent fatigue or getting a heat illness. As we dehydrate, our body temperature increases, our heart rate increases and we fatigue, especially during prolonged exercise in the heat. We know we need to drink sports drinks (> one hour of exercise) that contain a variety of sugars, especially glucose, regularly and in fairly large volumes to ensure we maximize the absorption of the water, sugars and electrolytes in the drink. However, this study is one of the few to show that the temperature of the fluid is equally important to benefit endurance performance. It highlighted that endurance performance improved by up to 10% with cold fluids (<100C) compared to a drink at body temperature (370C) when exercise was conducted in hot (>280C) and humid (>30%) conditions.

The Research

This review looked at all studies up to September 2008 on academic databases that used the search terms drink temperature, beverage temperature, fluid temperature, water temperature, and cold fluid combined with body temperature and thermoregulation. To be included, studies needed to measure body temperature during exercise in moderate or hot environmental conditions.

The Results

Only 7 studies have examined the effect of fluid temperature on sports performance and body temperature. Three of the 7 studies found lowered body temperature with cold beverage consumption and from the 4 that conducted exercise performance tests, performance improved by up to 10% with cold fluids (<100C) compared to a drink at body temperature (370C) when endurance exercise was conducted in hot (>280C) and humid (>30%) conditions.

The So What?

While the research team strongly suggest the need for more research in this area, especially research that uses elite athletes rather than moderately trained athletes, the research also highlights that in hot and humid conditions, drinking cooler drinks helps keep body temperature down and improve performance. Thus, drinking cold fluids before and during exercise in the heat is recommended. Freezing or partially freezing water bottles or having drinks kept on ice seems the way to go.

 Burdon, C., O’Connor, H., Gifford, J., Shirreffs, S. (2010). Influence of beverage temperature on exercise performance in the heat: a systematic review.International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 20(2): 166 – 174.

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