Does Cold Water or Ice Slurry Ingestion During Exercise Elicit a Net Body Cooling Effect in the Heat?


March 2018

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Cold water or ice slurry ingestion during exercise seems to be an effective and practical means to improve endurance exercise performance in the heat. However, transient reductions in sweating appear to decrease the potential for evaporative heat loss from the skin by a magnitude that at least negates the additional internal heat loss as a cold ingested fluid warms up to equilibrate with body temperature; thus explaining equivalent core temperatures during exercise at a fixed heat production irrespective of the ingested fluid temperature. Internal heat transfer with cold fluid/ice is always 100% efficient; therefore, when a decrement occurs in the efficiency that sweat evaporates from the skin surface (i.e. sweating efficiency), a net cooling effect should begin to develop. Using established relationships between activity, climate and sweating efficiency, the boundary conditions beyond which cold ingested fluids are beneficial in terms of increasing net heat loss can be calculated. These conditions are warmer and more humid for cycling relative to running by virtue of the greater skin surface airflow, which promotes evaporation, for a given metabolic heat production and thus sweat rate. Within these boundary conditions, athletes should ingest fluids at the temperature they find most palatable, which likely varies from athlete to athlete, and therefore best maintain hydration status. The cooling benefits of cold fluid/ice ingestion during exercise are likely disproportionately greater for athletes with physiological disruptions to sweating, such as those with a spinal cord injury or burn injuries, as their capacity for skin surface evaporative heat loss is much lower; however, more research examining these groups is needed.

Sports Med (2018) 48(Suppl 1): 17-29.

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