The pros and cons of driver hydration

Fans at Nashville Superspeedway may be struggling to keep their heads cool in the temps probably in the 80s. But for NASCAR drivers, staying cool is just another part of their weekly practice routine. Every rider has a slightly different approach.

“I’m a wimp” death Gilland said: “Since the beginning of the year I’ve been wearing (a cool shirt) everywhere and I have a cooler.”

Daniel Hemrich told SiriusXM’s The Morning Drive that part of his training involved playing golf in the heat.

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You will hear all possible strategies: cool shirts, cool boxesIce packs, water bottles, exercise in the heat, saunas…some riders even have personalized hydration programs.

A whole drinking program sounds like overkill. David Ferguson, Associate Professor of kinesiology at Michigan State University, assures me that is not the case. Proper hydration gives riders a performance advantage.

You may be wondering how a Ph.D. — the author of scientific works such as “Vivo-morpholinos induced transient knockdown of proteins associated with physical activity— becomes an authority on racer hydration.

For Ferguson, it was a series of coincidences. The first was watching a NASCAR race on TV. Jeff Gordon’s debut got him into racing cars. Except…

“I was basically too old and too poor,” Ferguson said. “When I was 18, I decided to study medicine and become a surgeon. Then I can later afford my racing car.”

He attended a track day in Las Vegas where the temperature rose to 116°F. Ferguson complemented the second fastest of the day.

“The driver said, ‘What are you talking about?’ Ferguson recounts, “There are three cars in front of me. He was so dehydrated that he actually sees three times.”

Ferguson wondered why, with all the effort that goes into designing race cars, no one is designing drivers. This was followed by a master’s degree in exercise physiology from the University of North Carolina – Charlotte. He graduated just in time for the 2008 recession to give up his first motorsport job before he even started it.

So Ferguson went back to school and earned his PhD at Texas A&M. Michigan State hired him to do it conduct research how early childhood nutrition affects cardiovascular development. But when he arrived, construction of his lab was behind schedule.

This gave him time to pursue his other research interest: motorsport.

The dangers of dehydration

Your core body temperature is the temperature of your internal organs. They preferably operate at about 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 °F), but can handle a rise of about one degree Celsius – about 1.8 degrees °F. Ferguson measures core body temperature with a pill that the driver swallows. The pill sends him core temperature readings via a Bluetooth signal.

A rise in core temperature causes your body to sweat. Liquid on your skin evaporates and draws heat away.

Sweat comes from the fluid in the cells in your vascular system. When you lose fluid, Ferguson said, “It’s like oil in your engine. Bad things will happen.”

Those bad things start with getting thirsty — the first sign that you’re dehydrated. Because you’re low on fluids, your body can’t produce enough sweat to cool itself. If you don’t add liquid, your temperature will continue to rise.

“So 101.3°F (38.5°C) is ‘I’m thirsty, I’ve got a headache,'” Ferguson said. “And then 102.2°F (39°C) is ‘I’m kind of dizzy, kind of confused.'” Muscle cramps or fatigue.

Once your body realizes that sweating isn’t cooling you down, it tries to stop generating heat. This means that all body functions that are not essential for survival are shut down. You may pass out.

The real danger begins when your temperature continues to rise.

“When your core temperature gets to about 41C (105.8F),” says Ferguson, “the body actually thinks you have a really bad virus.”

The body generates heat because heat kills viruses. That’s why you get a fever when you get the flu.

Now your temperature is rising – exponentially.

“You’re going to get to 45C (113F) very quickly,” Ferguson said, “and we need to be in the ER. Now.”

In addition to monitoring core body temperature, Ferguson quantifies hydration by testing the specific gravity of the driver’s urine. This is a quantitative analogue of determining your fluid level by looking at it the color of your urine.

A special patch collects rider sweat, because everyone sweats differently. Measuring the ion concentration in sweat tells Ferguson how many electrolytes the rider is losing. And of course, weighing the rider before and after the race determines the net fluid loss.

drinking programs

Hydration is especially important for racers as they work in enclosed, hot spaces where safety equipment covers every square inch of skin. They are often so focused on racing that they may not even realize they are dehydrating.

Ferguson recommends that drivers drink 10 milliliters of water per kilogram of body weight two hours before the race. That’s about two teaspoons for every pound of weight. A 150-pound rider would fill their water bottle with 20.5 ounces of water or a sports drink formulated to improve hydration before a race.

But the driver isn’t done yet when he gets in the car. Most drivers drink from a water bottle or hydration system when cautioned or during pit stops.

“They grab the straw, chug, chug, chug, chug,” Ferguson said. “You get liquid in. That’s better than nothing. But it actually expands the stomach and slows water leakage. You don’t really get the benefits of padding.”

Proper in-car hydration requires the driver to continually replenish fluids. That means an in-helmet hydration system — and getting used to using it throughout the race.

“We’re going to tell you to drink at certain intervals,” Ferguson said, “whether it’s every time you pass start-finish, or we can put a light on your dash to remind you, or maybe.” an acoustic signal in the earpiece. ”

After the race, the rider should repeat the pre-race hydration even if they don’t feel thirsty.

“You can’t overwater,” Ferguson said, “you’ll just pee out the liquid.”

Hydrate early and often

I’ve never understood why drivers start drinking days before the race. The water drunk on Thursday has long since been used up on Sunday.

“When they become dehydrated,” Ferguson explained, “they release antidiuretic hormones. All of these hormones try to retain water. So if you give them water, they will actually bloat and become uncomfortable.”

This is the physiological reason for starting long before reaching the track. But there is also a psychological reason. Staying aware of water intake helps the rider build positive drinking habits. This is particularly important for the next-gen car.

“It will definitely be hot” Alex Bowman said: “But I think that’s what we’re all training for and all expecting. Cup races in the summer are a very uncomfortable environment and the next-gen car has made that environment a lot more uncomfortable, but we just have to keep training. I think the stuff is paying off and hopefully I’m on the right page with that.”

The pee question

No driver discussion of hydration can be considered complete without talking about drivers having to pee in the car during a race.

“When drivers get into trouble,” Ferguson said, “just think, keep taking it, keep taking it, like a liter an hour, sit in a hot environment and drink a liter an hour.” Then you are I’ll pee a ton.”

A driver who is otherwise in good health and drinking properly shouldn’t have to pee in the car. All the more reason for the crew to encourage the rider to stick to their hydration regime.

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