To determine the effect of thermal state and thermal comfort on cycling performance in the heat.
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 (15g/kg) before drinking ice slurry ad libitum during exercise (PC+ICE). Power output, rectal temperature, and ratings of thermal comfort were measured.
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.
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.
Schulze, Daanen, and Levels are with MOVE Research Inst Amsterdam, VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Casadio, Plews, Siegel, and Laursen are with High Performance Sport New Zealand, Auckland, New Zealand. Kilding is with Sports Performance Research Inst New Zealand (SPRINZ), Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand.