Running in a 35-DEGREE heat chamber, undergoing sweat tests and body composition analysis… with the Qatar World Cup final a year away, Sportsmail replicated what England and Co face when they play in the humidity of the 2022 spectacle
- The 2022 World Cup takes place in Qatar across November 21-December 18
- Temperatures during the tournament will reach as high as 30 degrees Celsius
- The humidity level in Qatar will be at a stifling 71 per cent too for the footballers
- Sportsmail’s Luke Augustus tried to recreate their toll in replicated conditions by visiting the Porsche Human Performance Centre courtesy of Precision Hydration
Picture the scene in a year’s time. It’s December 18, 2022. England are in the World Cup final.
After suffering semi-final heartache four years prior, and losing the delayed Euro 2020 final on home soil, Gareth Southgate’s side are finally looking to end 56 years of hurt in the toughest conditions imaginable: Qatar.
As we all know by now, next year’s showpiece is taking place controversially in the Middle East. The location has thrown the footballing calendar out of sync with it taking place across November and December in 2022 rather than the traditional summer slot.
The reason? The unbearable temperatures which can reach as high as 42 degrees Celsius in July. In November it is still uncomfortable with temperatures reaching as high as 30 degrees Celsius with humidity at a stifling 66 per cent.
In December the temperature drops to 24 degrees Celsius but humidity rises to 71 per cent – still uncompromising figures for footballers.
For the average person it’s hard to quantify how tough those conditions are going to be to play in. However, Sportsmail got an opportunity to replicate what they will be like in November…
England will be among the favourites to win the 2022 World Cup in Qatar when it takes place
Gareth Southgate has steered his Three Lions side to a World Cup semi and a Euro 2020 final
A BIT ABOUT MYSELF
A keen footballer I currently have aspirations to play international football for Anguilla, an island in the Caribbean, where my parents hail from.
Despite being regularly active, my lifestyle doesn’t compare to those at the elite level for obvious reasons – such as partaking in daily football training sessions and having the most stringent of diets.
So, when I was invited by Precision Hydration – courtesy of its founder Andy Blow – to put myself through my paces at the Porsche Human Performance Centre in Silverstone it was an opportunity I was keen to grab.
The reasons were two-fold. First of all, to get an understanding of the demands highly-tuned athletes would undergo at the Qatar World Cup by running in a heat chamber (more on that to come later on).
This is because taking part in November allowed me to replicate what Harry Kane and Co will be going through next year. Going from the cold English weather into the sweltering furnace that will be Qatar.
The second reason would be to see where I am at in my own fitness. Playing in temperatures of 30-plus degrees is something I am not used to, having been born and raised in England, and running in a heat chamber would give me an indication of how my body copes in terms of how much I sweat and what I would require to stay hydrated and to perform at a high level if I was lucky enough to be selected for Anguilla.
Sportsmail’s Luke Augustus (left) visited the Porsche Human Performance Centre in November to understand the physical toll expected of footballers when they play at the Qatar World Cup
The scales. They can be daunting for anybody at times and this was the first task I had to do upon arrival at the Porsche Human Performance Centre.
In nothing but a pair of shorts I jumped on where my body composition, muscle-fat analysis, obesity diagnosis and lean balance were calculated by Porsche Human Performance sport scientists Jack Wilson and Emma Payne. These in-depth measurements included my skeletal muscle mass, body fat percentage and the muscle mass in my trunk, both arms and both legs.
This wouldn’t be the last time I would step on the scales as I would repeat this before and after my runs (more on that to come). This was so my data could be compared and contrasted with in terms of how much fluid I lost after each session.
Then it was the sweat test…
Aside from a cool run and a hot run, Augustus also was weighed at several points to check his body composition as well as to see how much he lost in sweat after both runs
The name of this evoked thoughts of hard yards before I even began the two runs later, but it wasn’t the case at all. In fact, this was the least-exerting thing I occurred on the day. Sitting down with Precision Hydration sport scientists James Phillips and Abby Coleman I simply had to stretch out an arm and have a small strap attached to the inside of my forearm.
The best way I could describe it is like having a blood test but, without the needle – however, that isn’t the scientific breakdown.
The inside of my forearm was wiped with a cloth that ‘recreated’ my arm to sweat. From that, the strap provides an accurate reading of the amount of sodium (the key electrolyte lost in sweat) you lose every time you exercise.
Why is this important? Well, due to the heat and humidity of Qatar footballers are bound to lose somewhere between 200miligrams per litre of sweat up to as much as 2,000mg/l.
The sweat test consisted Augustus having a strap around his inner forearm to provide an accurate reading of the amount of sodium he loses whenever he exercises
This is all based on the genetics of a person and varies within each athlete. Therefore, it is crucial to be able to tailor the sodium levels within each footballer as what may work for someone may not be applicable to someone else (gone are the days of the half-time oranges!).
Sitting down with James and Abby for 30 minutes, while the test was being performed, I was asked multiple questions about my lifestyle. This included my exercise habits, what type of sports I play and my diet. Then came the important question: ‘How salty a sweater do I think I am?’ Knowing my own body, I said I was a relatively sweaty person when performing at a high level – and I was proven correct.
My results came back as a ‘moderately salty sweater’ – with my figures a smidgen over 1,000mg/l. For context, this is in the upper end of the medium bracket (very low to very high). The average figure is 949mg/l.
However, that is not the full crux of the equation. For a full personalised hydration plan the aforementioned questions I was asked (exercise habits etc.) were needed. This is because Performance Hydration work out their plan by the formula: Sweat Concentration x Sweat Rate x Duration = Your Net Losses.
Having the first two calculated with the sweat test, and knowing my exercise routines (going to the gym, football training and football matches) they were able to calculate what I need to hydrate before and during football activities to be able to perform to an optimum level.
With my sweat levels now recorded. It was time to begin the hard yards…
Precision Hydration sport scientist Abby Coleman sat down with Augustus to talk results
Upon arrival, I was fully aware that I would be embarking on two 30-minute runs on a treadmill – the first at room temperature with the second in a heat chamber.
Before I could begin, I had to hop back on the scales so they could produce a before-and-after of my weight on the scales – allowing them to note how much I lost in sweat following the run.
After the visit on the scales I was attached with a heart-monitor across my chest and had the temperature of my inner ear recorded. This was to provide two readings – my heart rate and body core.
The first run saw Sportsmail’s Augustus run for 30 minutes on a treadmill at room temperature
Overseen by Jack I was told that at every five-minute mark of the run I would be asked to hop off the scales quickly so that my heart rate and body core could be recorded.
I was also asked to state my Physical Exertion (PE). This is a standard testing method where I reported how hard I felt I was working on a range of one to six (1. Light, 2. Easy, 3. Steady, 4. Hard, 5. Severe, 6. Max Out).
Without the usual aid of music for my runs, I began and just focused on the task in hand. The speed setting was at a comfortable nine kilometres per hour – allowing me to interact with Jack as and when without panting too hard.
The run itself wasn’t too taxing. My PE started at 2.5 (easy/steady) for the first 15 minutes before rising to three for the final half of the run (steady/hard).
After the run; I took off my heart monitor, jumped on the scales again then took a 30-minute rest before I readied myself for the heat run.
Augustus tells Porsche Human Performance sport scientist Jack Wilson his Physical Exertion
As I mentally prepared myself for what was to come, I underwent the same routine as before (being weighed and then having a heart monitor being strapped across my chest).
As soon as I stepped into the chamber, the unpleasantness of the humidity immediately hit. The chamber was at 33 degrees Celsius and it became a battle of the mind – just focusing purely on the task in hand.
My heart rate and body core temperatures were recorded and away we went – again at nine kilometres per hour.
The during and after in the heat chamber was evident on Augustus’ face after a 35-degree run
Having already been fairly sweaty during my cool run, this was on a whole another level. The first five minutes saw my PE at 2.5. This increased at the next mark to three. The final 20 minutes were 3.5. The heat chamber creeped up to 35 degrees while I was inside and it became extremely stifling.
However, I was breaking up the 30-minute run in five-minute segments as I kept pushing myself. Aided with a bottle of water, my quench drew stronger the longer I went in the hot run.
As this all unfolded, I was thinking about how the footballers would endure this in Qatar next year. I was dripping with sweat, which was getting into my eyes adding to the difficulties. In fact, I was so sweaty that my high sweat rate interfered with the heart rate measurement at the 25-minute mark – meaning it had to estimated by Jack and Emma post-run.
As opposed to my steady run in the heat chamber, footballers will be performing a lot of sprints in those conditions next year – meaning their endurance will have to be increased.
They will also be without the luxury of a drink on regular hand if needed so their hydration will be key – hence why it is crucial for the likes of Performance Hydration to aid that field.
Augustus collects his drink from Porsche Human Performance sport scientist Emma Payne
After wringing the sweat off my body, taking off my heart monitor and being weighed on the scales I cooled off with a shower before I was given my results and was talked through them by Jack.
The figures made for very interesting reading. My peak temperature between the cool (37.3 degrees Celsius) and hot run (39.2 degrees Celsius) saw a rise in the latter by 1.9 degrees Celsius.
I also had peak heart-rate increase of 19 between my cool run (177 beats per minute) and my hot run (196bpm) – highlighting the work my body was going through.
However, the most tell-tale sign for what footballers are to expect out in Qatar came with my sweat rate per litre per hour. From the cool run I lost 0.7 litres per hour. From the hot run it was more than doubled to 1.5 litres per hour – highlighting the strains the conditions of Qatar are going to have on the body.
Comparing the two runs, Augustus lost over double the amount in sweat from the hot run
To prepare for competition in the heat, footballers would benefit from being lean and as aerobically fit as possible. Speaking to Jack I was informed that elite footballers will have around 10 per cent body fat to help with this.
And when it comes to actually competing in Qatar research suggests that 10-14 days of heat acclimation beforehand is optimal if Southgate’s side are to have a great chance of adapting to the conditions.
Unfortunately, Southgate won’t be afforded this luxury potentially as the Premier League is due to break up after the weekend of November 12-13, 2022 – with the first game of the World Cup starting on November 21.
However, Southgate and his staff will be preparing already in how to achieve their main goal in 12 months’ time. I suggest getting used to the heat chambers by taking part in plenty!
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