The physical strains brought on by the high-speed racing of Formula 1 is unlike that of any other sport. Drivers test their bodies to the maximum throughout a race, pulling up to six times their own body weight in G-force. Such exertion inevitably causes F1 drivers to burn calories.
F1 drivers will burn around 1200-1500 calories during a race, losing around 2-3 kg (4-6 lbs) in the process, through intense sweating. This is because of both the extreme physical strain brought on by G-forces, as well as the intense heat within the driver’s cockpit, which can top 50°C (122°F).
To ensure they don’t suffer any severe physical harm, drivers must undergo strict fitness regimes as well as making sure they eat and drink the right things. In this article we will further discuss the athletic prowess of F1 drivers, as well as how they end up burning so many calories during a race.
Does F1 Racing Count As Exercise?
F1 racing does count as exercise, as drivers must put up with high levels of physical strain in a cockpit that can reach temperatures above 50°C (122°F). When they’re not on the track, F1 drivers put themselves through rigorous training programs, and they are certainly athletes.
Despite being sat down for the entirety of the race, being a Formula 1 driver presents some of the most grueling physical punishment that an athlete can go through. F1 drivers can experience G-forces of up to 6 times their bodyweight when braking and turning. During long corners, drivers will face around 4-5 G of sustained pressure.
This means that drivers are utilizing their core, neck, and leg muscles for extended periods of time around the track, without any breaks during the race. Drivers’ heart rates can often exceed 170 bpm throughout the race, which is more than what most adults would experience when running. So, as well as straining their muscles, drivers will experience a heavy cardiovascular workout.
KEY FACT: F1 drivers must undergo all this physical activity while being fully clad in a fire-proof suit and seated in an extremely hot cockpit
Are F1 Drivers Athletes?
F1 drivers are definitely athletes, as not only do they need to be extremely physically fit for the racing itself, but they also train constantly to remain in top shape. F1 drivers will have a specific training regime they follow throughout the year, and they’ll have a specific diet program too.
Because of the limited behind the scenes footage we see on TV, the fact that F1 drivers are indeed supreme high-performance athletes often goes under the radar. Drivers will go through intense physical training in order to get in shape for the next race weekend, with some even employing their own personal fitness trainers to get that extra physical edge on their opponents.
F1 drivers need to be perfectly trained and conditioned in certain areas of their body in order to perform at their maximum throughout the race weekend. These areas are the neck and core muscles, and the arms and legs.
Neck And Core Muscles
As well as just looking from side to side to check their peripheral view, drivers must train their necks to cope with the intense pressures of G-force. The neck must cope with around 30 kg (66 lbs) of pressure when turning around corners, with the added weight of the driver’s helmet also a factor. F1 drivers’ necks average a diameter of around 18 in (46 cm), compared to the average male’s 15 in (38 cm) neck.
As well as having a strong neck, drivers will have abs of steel, capable of keeping themselves upright when the G-forces are trying to push them in various directions. Having a strong core will also help to protect the driver’s internal organs from damage, which is easily possible when you have six times your own body weight pushing against you.
Arms And Legs
Drivers must also make sure their arms are able to cope with steering for prolonged periods. Even though the wheels have power steering and won’t be offering a ton of resistance, the speed at which they are travelling and the G-forces they are being subjected to will be fighting against their every move. They also can’t take their hands off the wheel when racing, which is fairly straining as it is.
Applying constant pressure on the pedals for a whole race will inevitably heap pressure onto your legs. This means that the drivers’ calves will need to be in tip-top condition, as the idea of cramping up at ultra-high speeds is a horrifying prospect. Braking also brings with it intense pressure, which adds to the importance of having strong leg muscles.
As well as training their muscles to be able to cope with the demands of a race, a driver will have to make sure they are on top of their cardio training. The pressures of racing will dramatically increase the drivers’ heart rates, reaching levels of well over 170 bpm. Compare this to the 126 bpm that most will feel during a run, and it puts into perspective the fitness levels of the drivers.
To keep their performance level at the top, F1 drivers must be proficient in more aspects of physical fitness than athletes from many other disciplines.
KEY POINTS• F1 drivers are athletes in their own right
• They need to be incredibly fit to put up with the strains of driving an F1 car
• Drivers need especially strong neck, leg, and core muscles
How Many Calories Do F1 Drivers Burn?
F1 drivers burn an average of 1200-1500 calories over the course of a race. They will also lose about 3 liters of water during hot races through sweat, making effective hydration an essential part of the driver’s preparation and recovery. These numbers inevitably change depending on the conditions.
Drivers will lose the most calories around hotter tracks, such as Barcelona and Miami, due to the intense sunshine beating down on them adding to the heat within the cockpit. Due to the humidity of tracks such as Singapore and Brazil, drivers will sweat more, causing them to lose a lot of water weight alongside the calories.
Losing around two thirds of their recommended daily calorie intake during a race means that the drivers must follow special diets to make sure they don’t hit unhealthy body weights. This will involve eating and drinking the right amounts at the right times, which is something we will look further into shortly.
How Much Weight Do F1 Drivers Lose In A Race?
F1 drivers tend to lose around 2-3 kg (4-6 lbs) during a race. A lot of this weight is lost through sweating alone, leaving drivers at risk of severe dehydration if they don’t drink enough before, during, or after a race. This is in large part thanks to the temperatures inside the cockpit.
F1 drivers are weighed as soon as they leave their cars after a race to ensure that, for one, they aren’t below the required weight limit for racing, and also to measure how much weight they have lost throughout the course of the race. Their teams will take these numbers into consideration when planning their recovery and fitness sessions for the following week.
Drivers and their equipment must weigh a minimum of 80 kg (176 lbs) in order to race, otherwise they will have to add extra weight to their cockpit in the form of ballast. This is to ensure taller or heavier drivers are not at a disadvantage compared to shorter, lighter drivers.
What Do F1 Drivers Eat Before A Race?
Before a race, F1 drivers will eat a diet consisting of both proteins to protect their muscle mass, as well as carbohydrates, which burn slower than other food types. This will keep them operating at high levels towards the latter stages of the race.
KEY FACT: Fish and chicken are popular sources of protein, with pasta and rice being staple carbohydrates on race day
Drivers may also load up on fruit and vegetables before a race to help keep their immune system functioning efficiently, and their brains in gear. Drivers will avoid eating sugary foods on the day of a race, as this may cause them to have a mental crash later in the day.
Hydration is just as important for drivers on the day of a race, due to the water weight that they will lose around the track. They will have a strict hydration setup before the race, intaking around 3 liters of water as well as consuming electrolyte filled drinks. The drivers’ cars are also fitted with a drinks pouch, which emits a (warm) glucose-based substance at the click of a button.
F1 drivers will burn anywhere from 1500-2000 calories during a race, but this number will vary from track to track and from driver to driver. They may also lose more than 3 liters of bodily fluids through sweat, largely as a result of the high temperatures inside an F1 car’s cockpit.