Optimizing Heat Acclimation for Endurance Athletes: High- Versus Low-Intensity Training

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: To determine the effect of high- versus low-intensity training in the heat and ensuing taper period in the heat on endurance performance. Methods: In total, 19 well-trained triathletes undertook 5 days of normal training and a 1-wk taper including either low- (heat acclimation [HA-L], n = 10) or high-intensity (HA-H, n = 9) training sessions in the heat (30°C, 50% relative humidity). A control group (n = 10) reproduced their usual training in thermoneutral conditions. Indoor 20-km cycling time trials (35°C, 50% relative humidity) were performed before (Pre) and after the main heat exposure (Mid) and after the taper (Post). Results: Power output remained stable in the control group from Pre to Mid (effect size: −0.10 [0.26]) and increased from Mid to Post (0.18 [0.22]). The HA-L group demonstrated a progressive increase in performance from Pre to Mid (0.62 [0.33]) and from Mid to Post (0.53 [0.30]), alongside typical physiological signs of HA (reduced core temperature and heart rate and increased body-mass loss). While the HA-H group presented similar adaptations, increased perceived fatigue and decreased performance at Mid (−0.35 [0.26]) were evidenced and reversed at Post (0.50 [0.20]). No difference in power output was reported at Post between the HA-H and control groups. Conclusion: HA-H can quickly induce functional overreaching in nonacclimatized endurance athletes. As it was associated with a weak subsequent performance supercompensation, coaches and athletes should pay particular attention to training monitoring during a final preparation in the heat and reduce training intensity when early signs of functional overreaching are identified.

Schmit and Le Meur are with the Laboratory of Sport, Expertise and Performance (EA 7370), Research Dept, French National Inst of Sport, Expertise and Performance (INSEP), Paris, France. Duffield is with the Sport & Exercise Discipline Group, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Moore Park, Australia. Hausswirth, Brisswalter, and Le Meur are with LAMHESS, University of Côte d’Azur, Nice, France. Le Meur is also with AS Monaco Football Club, Monaco.

Schmit (cyril.schmit@gmail.com) is corresponding author.
International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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