Hydrate to Victory
In Part 1 of the hydration discussion, I wrote about how we’re probably more dehydrated than we think, and how just a little dehydration drastically affects performance. Water alone won’t cut it, as it doesn’t contain what our bodies need.
So what should you do, to play your best and not be dehydrated?
Be hydrated before you step on the ice, which means drinking fluids throughout the day, and avoiding dehydrating beverages (like alcohol and things that contain caffeine). The American College of Sports Medicine recommends about 17 ounces two hours before the event. (10) You can tell from urine coloration (light = good, dark = dehydrated) if you have enough fluid in your system (6, 7).
Don’t overload on plain water, though. A rare condition, hyponatremia, or “water intoxication” happens when you have too much water and not enough electrolytes. (12) Basically, this happens when people drink so much water they dilute their electrolytes. It’s rare, but dangerous. So don’t overload on plain water (more on proper drinks below).
Drink regularly during the skate.
What should you drink? As noted previously, “Many studies have shown performance-enhancing benefits of adding electrolytes (the only useful one being sodium, to speed fluid absorption) and carbohydrates (to provide fuel).” (4) How do you get the electrolytes and carbs with needed fluids? Sports drinks.
There are three types of sports drinks: isotonic, hypotonic and hypertonic. This information comes from a sort of layperson’s guide to chemical nature of sports drinks. (8)
Isotonic: electrolytes and 6 to 8 percent carbohydrates; these quickly replace fluid lost to sweat AND contain carb boost. This is the choice for most athletes, such as middle and long-distance running or team sports.
Hypotonic: electrolytes and LOW level of carbohydrates. Best for athletes who need fluid but not carbs, such as jockeys or gymnasts.
Hypertonic: HIGH level of carbs, supplements body’s glycogen stores. This is used for ultra distance events, but should be taken with isotonic drinks to replace fluids, too.
The energy drink’s absorption rate is affected by its carbohydrate and electrolyte levels. The more carbs a drink has, the slower the stomach empties; “Isotonic drinks with a carbohydrate level of between 6 and 8 percent are emptied from the stomach at a rate similar to water.”
Put another way, with less than 8 percent carbs, your body will process the substance like water, not “food.” If you drink beverages with more than 8 percent carbs, it will impair fuel delivery to muscles as well as make you more likely to develop stomach cramps and vomiting–just like eating food during exercise will have the same effect. (11)
Gatorade “Thirst Quencher” and “Endurance Formula” have 14 grams per 8 ounce serving, or 5.8 percent carbs. “By comparison, fruit juices contain roughly 10 percent carbohydrate and soft drinks contain 10 to 12 percent carbohydrate.” (11) As for electrolytes, more sodium and potassium in a drink will reduce urine output, which is a good thing: “Reduced urine output enables the fluid to empty quickly from the stomach, promotes absorption from the intestine and encourages fluid retention.” (8)
What drink to choose?
Caffeine will dehydrate you, so avoid it–that means no Red Bull!
When looking at the label of a possible sports drink, you’ll want:
Sodium, for electrolytes: 110 to 220 mg per 8 ounce serving (11)
Carbs, for moderate fuel replacement: Suggested “30-100 grams per hour during a lengthy race” (11), which would be 45 to 150 grams total (not per serving) over the course of a 90-minute skate, though I’m not too sure about the math; a 90-minute hockey session isn’t just one part of “a lengthy race.”
There are a ton of options out there and I’m not going to list them all. Take note of what you need and bring it with you to the store and then look at labels on drinks in stock. Try a couple rehydration options and see what works for you.
What about post-exercise “recovery drinks”? I’ll get to those in Part 3.
1. A study from Canada’s comically named “University of Guelph” that includes basic info about sports dehydration (though not how to combat it), but IS specific to hockey.
2. Short, general article but hockey-specific.
3. JS Giguere’s sweat test on Gatorade site
4. British article with good technical information about carbohydrates, sodium, electrolytes–and recommendations for those components in fluid replacement beverages.
5. In-depth article about tennis in general, but extremely useful hydration info for any sport.
6. Basic article about proper sports hydration
7. “Nutrition and Hydration for Performance” by a sports drink company, complete with “pee chart.”
8. Layperson’s guide to chemical nature of sports drinks
9. Seven page position statement of the National Trainers’ Association on fluid replacement for athletes, published in the Journal of Athletic Training
10. American College of Sports Medicine position stand on exercise and fluid replacement (brief)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9303999rnrn11. Review of sports drinksrnrnhttp://www.athleteinme.com/ArticleView.aspx?id=358rn
12. Fluids and Electrolytes During Exercise
13. Post-exercise caloric intake, including carbs and protein