The Tokyo Olympics 2020 are just days away from kick-starting and while the conditions this time around are certainly different, it will still come down to the gold, silver and the bronze. There will be stories of success and inspiration throughout and it will be a coming together of these tales which fans will remember forever.
But apart from that, the context of the preparation for the Tokyo Olympics is very different. The pandemic has changed our lives and its effects will be witnessed for many years, let alone during the Olympics. The preparation of the athletes and the way they recover from performing will be a completely new experience altogether.
Dr. Arvind Yadav, who has worked with many athletes and teams in India, will also be heading to Japan with India’s archery team for the Tokyo Olympics. During an interview with Sportskeeda, Dr. Yadav discussed various intricacies in the preparation of the athletes.
He believes there are certain risks involved for athletes:
“The Olympics are happening at a place which is hot and humid. Hot and humid conditions limit heat dissipation capacity during exercise, thus impairing endurance performance and increasing the risk of exertional heat illness such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.”
“The risk of heat-related illness can be reduced by adopting countermeasures such as heat acclimatisation.”
Dr. Yadav shed light on some technicalities of how the body temperature of athletes is measured and how it can be maintained too. These technicalities bring about multiple issues for the athletes.
Monitoring and mitigating these issues would be a crucial factor in athletes delivering top performances at the Tokyo Olympics.
"The conditions during sporting events are generally determined using the Wet-Bulb-Globe-Temperature (WBGT) index. The WBGT is calculated from the dry (standard thermometer) temperature, the wet-bulb temperature (indicative of the true capacity of the air to evaporate water according to its relative humidity and air velocity) and the solar radiation (globe temperature)."
"During physical exertions, such as running or race-walking, muscle contractions produce a considerable amount of heat, inducing a large increase in muscle temperature which drives an increase in core body temperature."
“The heat produced is dissipated into the environment via the skin through sensible (i.e. convection and radiation) and insensible evaporation heat loss pathways, primarily in the form of sweating. In hot conditions, the gradient between skin and environmental temperature is minimal, possibly even negative, such that heat dissipation occurs mainly through sweat evaporation.”
There are certain ways around the heat stress that is generated during practice or performance and Dr. Yadav believes that athletes should prioritize this aspect of fitness, especially since the Tokyo Olympics are taking place in a hot city.
“Heat stress can dramatically decrease endurance performance, but this reduction in performance can be mitigated progressively with heat acclimatization. Heat acclimatization is an ideal adjunct to other performance-enhancing strategies.
Heat acclimatization will reduce the risk of heat related illness for athletes at the Tokyo Olympics.
“Therefore, heat acclimatization should be a priority before any event where hot and/or humid conditions are likely or expected. Indeed, heat acclimatization does not impair performance in cooler environments and may even enhance performance under certain conditions.”
The topic of dehydration is certainly important in heat conditions and dehydration can hinder performances amongst athletes. This is extremely relevant in the context of the Tokyo Olympics, as it is being held mid-summer in Japan.
Dr Yadav emphasizes the consumption of liquid to address this issue and he feels that it should happen during and after exercise.
“Heat dissipation relies on sweat evaporation. However, profuse sweating may lead to progressive dehydration if fluids are not sufficiently replaced. Severe dehydration accelerates the rise in whole-body temperature and impairs prolonged exercise performance."
“This reduction in performance occurs as dehydration negatively impacts the normal functioning of the heart by making it more difficult to maintain blood pressure and blood flow to the working muscles & skin. Sufficient intake of fluids before, during and after exercise is extremely important to maintain the flow of performance in a hot and humid environment.”
Staying hydrated is important for top performances at the Tokyo Olympics: Dr. Arvind Yadav
Dr. Yadav also provided tips for hydration, suggesting ways through which athletes can maintain a stable flow of liquid in their bodies. This has to be taken into consideration by the athletes both during and between performances at the Tokyo Olympics.
“Sodium supplementation during exercise lasting longer than one hour is recommended for heavy and 'salty' sweaters. Sodium intake may increase before and after hot-weather training and racing. Electrolyte tablets or some salt (a pinch of salt at a time) should be used by athletes during training and competition by those who tolerate it. It is also advisable to include 30-60 g/h of carbohydrates to drinks for sporting performances lasting about one hour and up to 90 g/h for longer events.”
He further emphasized the need for salty stuff to be consumed and he believes that even energy drinks should have those specific ingredients.
“After training or competition in the heat, recovery drinks should include sodium, carbohydrate and, if necessary, protein to optimize recovery. The preferred method of rehydration is through the consumption of fluids with foods, including salty food.”
Dr Yadav’s presence and knowledge will be available to the Indian stable at the Tokyo Olympics and will certainly prove crucial in how they perform. The conditions are new, fresh and perhaps never seen before and maintaining the fitness of athletes will be more important than ever.
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India is sending a 228-member contingent to the Tokyo Olympics, which includes 127 athletes participating in 18 sports.