In fitness, we tend to be meticulous in our preparation for the season’s goals. We can be pretty obsessive about the amount, and type of training we do, the clothes we buy and the weight we carry. No matter how good this preparation is, overheating in competition or training can lead to a significant reduction in performance. In addition to research in the areas of sports science, nutrition and materials, researchers are therefore also focused on the climate management of athletes and what influence clothing can have on it.
Here are the main features to look for in a fabric:
The fabric construction and weight. For a quick non-scientific test, hold a fabric up and see how much light is passing through. The more light suggest breathability.
The moisture management. Moisture-wicking and quick-dry materials go further than breathable materials by taking advantage of natural body cooling mechanism to evacuate moisture away from the skin.
The fit. If your activity consist in relaxing, look for a loose fit; if you plan to be more active, you need the garment to be in contact with your skin to do its job, not necessarily skintight, but not super billowy either.
The mesh panels and air vents. Some clothing, especially product designed to provide sun protection, includes strategically placed mesh panels and zippered air vents.
The Sun Protection (UPF). Fabrics rated below UPF 15 are not considered UV-protective. A white cotton T-shirt, offers about a UPF 5 rating, which means that 20 percent (1/5) of available UV radiation passes through it. Fabrics rated between UPF 15 to 20 are considered as good, between 25 to 35 as very good and above 40 as excellent.
Clothing makers can blend fabrics to achieve a difference in performance to the typical characteristics of a fabric. Fabrics do more than making you look good, they do the rest while you workout.
The fabric features are depending on base fibers: type, weave construction, weight or thickness. Most of the fabrics are made from:
Cotton. soft, durable, breathable, versatile and easy to care for but it also absorbs moisture (ten times its weight in water) - a poor choice for active training but the best choice when it comes to rest. Advice from designers, the more cotton in your garment, the more it will stays in shape on the hanger and soft after repeated washes. Cotton has a notable impact on the environment. Heave uses organic cotton, grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.
Nylon and polyester. widely known for being silk smooth, durable, wrinkle resistant, non-absorbent and quick dry. They are rarely used alone as most of designers associate it to other fabrics to extent the benefits.
Spandex. also known as lycra or elastane, compress the body and ease blood circulation. It can be stretched four to seven times its original length and is resistant to salt water, chlorine and color fading which is why this fabric is suitable for swimwear. However, this fabric can lose in elasticity if repeatedly dry cleaned or ironed.
Performance clothing for outdoor sports might require other fabrics like neoprene, microfibre, bamboo, tencel, wool, goretex or kevlar.
Have you heard about Graphene?
Heave uses graphene in its new range of clothing. Just one atom-layer thick, graphene can be the thinnest and strongest material known to man. A million times thinner than a human hair and between 100-300 times stronger than steel. It is flexible, transparent and a conductor of electricity that outperforms copper, as well as a conductor of heat that outperforms all other known materials. The application of graphene when printed onto fabric creates a favorable performance environment.
Graphene pulls the heat away from the body and transfers it faster than a conventional base layer or jersey. Heat generated by the body does not only pass through the fabric, but is evenly distributed around to prevent the creation of hotspots and dissipated when needed. This application works in conjunction with the electrostatic benefits of Italian-made fabrics which also contribute to moisture management and have an anti-odor effect.