Whatever the extreme environment your athlete is headed to, you may be tempted to look for a supplement or treatment that can help them quickly adapt & adjust.
If your high school team is from Florida where you train at sea level year-round, you might be feeling intimidated when you hear that the National Championships will be held high in a mountain town in Colorado. On the other hand, players from Northern California may start to feel nervous when competing in championships in the hot, humid Midwest after training for months in mild, dry weather.
Whether the extreme environment your athletes are headed to is hot, cold, or at high altitude, you may be tempted to look for a supplement or treatment that can help them quickly adapt and adjust. But Laura Lewis, PhD, Director of Science at the U.S. Ant-Doping Agency, says there’s no pill out there that can help an athlete adapt. However, she does have some advice for performing in adverse situations like heat waves, blizzards, and high altitudes.
1. Your body is built to adapt
“Our bodies are amazing, and they can respond to each of these different environments that we expose them to,” she says. “It just takes time. There's no magic pill. Respect the environment that you're in and adjust your training or your level of exertion accordingly, and then make sure that you're allowing your body to recover while you're in these different environments.”
2. Early is better
The gold standard for athletes is to go as early as possible to the location that has different conditions in order to get acclimatized. “Your body does adapt quite quickly: for example, just an extra week in a hot environment can make a big difference to how you're going to feel and perform,” Lewis adds.
It will feel harder when you first arrive. “If you are able to go to a location a few days before and do some acclimatization, the first time you go and do a run, you're going to notice that your heart rate is really, really high,” Lewis says. “But then the body starts to adapt to that. By the fifth day, it's going to feel a lot easier doing that same exercise, because the heat has stimulated a number of adaptations within your body that allow you to cope better overall.”