Does Pre-cooling Improve Race Performance?

The slushie and towel technique had the cyclists consume a total of 14 grams of sports drink (Gatorade) slushie per kilogram of body mass. The total was split into two boluses and athletes were given 15 minutes to consume each bolus. While consuming the slushies, they wore ice towels as described in item four above.

Practical application

As mentioned previously, scientists concluded that the slushie and ice towel combination resulted in a 3 percent improved power output and an overall time improvement of 1.3 percent. The range of improvement was noted as trivial to "large" for individual cyclists.

If you want to try pre-cooling before an event in the heat, here are some tips:

  • To estimate your slushie serving, divide your body weight in pounds by 2.2 to get kilograms. For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, divide by 2.2 to get 63.6 kilograms. Multiply 63.6 by 14 to get approximately 891 grams of slushie that you would need to consume in a total time period of 30 minutes (split the slushie in half and consume in two 15-minute periods if you prefer) before your 20-minute race warm-up.
  • Though one cup of ice weighs less than one cup of water (ice is less dense than water), you can approximate your slushie volume by knowing that one cup of water is 236 grams. Our 140 pound athlete would need to consume about 3.8 cups (891 divided by 236) of slushie. See the table at the end of the column. If you're so inclined, you can experiment at home with various volumes of ice and water, weighing the combinations.
  • While consuming your slushie, wring out towels dunked in an ice bath and cover the skin of the torso and legs for a total of 30 minutes. Rotate the towels back into the ice bath when they become warm.
  • If it is too much to cover your torso and legs, start with the legs or upper back and shoulders.
  • You can always begin with a single pre-cooling technique, listed in numbers one through eight above, that yielded some small to moderate result such as ice towels, slushie drink or consuming a volume of cold sports drink.

Weight in pounds

Weight in kilograms

Slushie grams

Approximate slushie volume (cups)

120

54.5

763.6

3.2

130

59.1

827.3

3.5

140

63.6

890.9

3.8

150

68.2

954.5

4.0

160

72.7

1018.2

4.3

170

77.3

1081.8

4.6

180

81.8

1145.5

4.9

190

86.4

1209.1

5.1

200

90.9

1272.7

5.4

210

95.5

1336.4

5.7

220

100.0

1400.0

5.9

230

104.5

1463.6

6.2

Active logoTry these pre-cooling techniques at your next triathlon.

Gale Bernhardt was the USA Triathlon team coach at the 2003 Pan American Games and 2004 Athens Olympics. Her first Olympic experience was as a personal cycling coach at the 2000 Games in Sydney. She currently serves as one of the World Cup coaches for the International Triathlon Union's Sport Development Team. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's pre-built, easy-to-follow cycling and triathlon training plans. Let Gale and Active Trainer help you succeed.

References:

1) Bogerd N, et al, "The effect of pre-cooling intensity on cooling efficiency and exercise performance," J Sports Sci. 2010 May; 28(7):771-9.
2) Castle PC, et al, "Precooling leg muscle improves intermittent sprint exercise performance in hot, humid conditions," J Appl Physiol. 2006 Apr;100(4):1377-84. Epub 2005 Dec 8.
3) Clarke ND, et al, "Carbohydrate ingestion and pre-cooling improves exercise capacity following soccer-specific intermittent exercise performed in the heat, "Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 Dec 16.
4) Duffield R, et al, "Precooling can prevent the reduction of self-paced exercise intensity in the heat," Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Mar; 42(3):577-84.
5) Duffield R, et al, "Ergogenic Effects of Precooling on Endurance Cycling in the Heat," Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010;42:577--584.
6) Ross, ML, et al, "Novel precooling strategy enhances time trial cycling in the heat," Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Jan; 43(1):123-33.

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