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Hydration for Hockey

By Mike Fabbro on July 22, 2014

Proper hydration is vital to peak physical performance in all sports, and hockey is no different. Understanding a little of the science behind dehydration can go a long way to preventing it.

Simply put, we dehydrate because we sweat more than we hydrate (drink). We sweat to cool our bodies when they overheat. They overheat as a result of strenuous physical activity that raises our body’s core temperature above 37º C (98.6º F). Our bodies are very smart and adaptive and are designed to balance the rate of internal heat production with heat loss to the environment. This process is called thermoregulation. When you play in a cold arena, you sweat much less than you would on a hot soccer field. The colder external environment means more rapid heat exchange, faster cooling and less dehydration.

Effects of Dehydration
Without proper hydration during exercise, the body’s ability to shed excess heat is reduced and athletic performance is reduced. Even mild dehydration will have a negative effect on physical performance. Dehydration means that your body’s blood volume is decreased, which affects its ability to fuel muscles. As dehydration increases, symptoms like headaches, dizziness and general weakness. More severe cases that include sodium depletion can lead to vomiting, muscle cramping and progressive weakness. 

Prevention of Dehydration
Proper hydration starts well before the game. Avoid caffeinated drinks (diuretics) that make you pee and dehydrate you. You want your body to be well hydrated (high blood volume) before you hit the ice.

Before the Game
A 150-pound (68kg) player should be drinking eight to 10 8-ounce glasses of water per day. Of course, more if you weigh more and more when you are active. Two hours before your game drink only water, no juice, no milk, no pop, to maximize hydration. Sip from your water bottle before and after your dryland warm up and in the change room, as you get dressed.

During the Game
Once playing, take a little sip from your water bottle after every shift. Don’t wait until the second period to start hydrating; it’s too late then. The key is to avoid dehydration, not recover from it. 

After the Game
Post-game hydration is a very important part of the recovery process, and nothing is better than water. Avoid drinks with a high-carbohydrate content as they raise blood sugar levels, impair muscle recovery and add calories that are no longer required. That means sport drinks. Some have as much as 11 teaspoons of sugar per bottle. If you really have a tough workout, sweat profusely and think your electrolyte levels are low, drink coconut water. It’s low in calories, naturally fat-free and has more potassium than four bananas.

Practice Like you PlayThe adage “practice like you play” also goes for nutrition and hydration. Unless you regularly hydrate with sports drinks when you train and practice, you will benefit very little, if at all, by changing your routine on game day. I see far too many young players at the Atom and PeeWee levels consuming 500ml sports drinks in an attempt to improve their play. What they are doing is consuming too much sugar, followed by increased insulin levels and an energy crash—usually in the third period. 

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By Mike Fabbro| July 22, 2014
Categories:  Performance

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