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Heat Slowing You Down on Race Day? Beat The Heat Like a Pro, Here's How - With Dr. Stephen Cheung

Dr. Stephen Cheung running a study in his environmental physiology lab at Brock University.

Every year athletes drop out of races because the heat beats them down. It's a hard pill to swallow after all of that training you've put in, to have to DNF. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Heat adaptation is a powerful performance tool that even the best in the world aren't implementing, but they should be. The proof is in the science and the many Olympians who have put it to the test.

Listen to episode 22 of Imperfect Progress Podcast here on Apple or the podcast logo below for Spotify, or listen on your favorite podcast platform at Imperfect Progress with Anne Guzman.

In this podcast episode I had the privilege to speak with Environmental Physiology expert

Dr. Stephen Cheung. Dr. Cheung has been instrumental in preparing many athletes for Olympic games including the Tokyo Olympics and Doha World Championships, where the heat was guaranteed to be a factor.

Dr. Stephen Cheung: Professor and Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Kinesiology at Brock University.

Dr. Cheung is a Professor and Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Kinesiology at Brock University. He was also Canada Research Chair in Environmental Ergonomics from 2007-2017.

With over 25 years of research in Environmental Physiology, he is known worldwide for his expertise and has collaborated with other world renowned scientists in this space. Dr. Cheung has worked in the field with numerous elite level athletes including Olympian Amber Neben, who helped prepare for the high temperatures which were well anticipated at the Tokyo Olympics.

While he is often running studies and mentoring students, you will also find Dr. Cheung volunteering for some of his grueling studies, and he's one tough participant, recently cycling in the lab in -5C temps. For those California athletes who think 60F is cold, this would be unbearable!

Dr. Stephen Cheung has been an avid cyclist himself since 1984. He's put everything he's researched into motion and understands the demands of endurance sports himself.

Here are some of the things we cover during our conversation and time stamps:

  • Definitions of heat acclimation, acclimatization and habituation (9:55)

  • Why are high temperatures bad for performance? (14:30)

  • Heat and neuromuscular function (17:00)

  • How does heat affect cognitive function and decision making? (22:25)

  • How do we get rid of heat? (28:00)

  • What is cardiac drift and how does can it affect our performance? (30:15-33:30)

  • Managing sweat losses. How much is too much loss? (33:40)

  • What's the best was to prepare for the heat? (36:15)

  • What does heat adaptation involve? Steps. (37:25)

  • Are there sex differences in adaptation duration? (44:45)

  • How do I time my heat adaptation plan? (47:55)

  • How do you know you are getting hot enough during adaptation? (1:04:21)

  • Are all forms of heat exposure the same (hot vs hot and humid)? (52:35)

  • How does heat adaptation impact your thirst mechanisms? (1:08)