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Hydration For Hockey Players

By Hal Tearse, 12/16/13, 1:45PM CST

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An often overlooked area for coaches is whether or not their players are properly hydrated before, during and after practices and games. This matters because players who are dehydrated perform at lower levels, and they do not recover as quickly. Proper hydration has a direct impact on performance.

At a previous International Coaches Conference during the IIHF World Championships, Dr. Lawrence Spriet presented research findings on hydration for hockey players. The research centered on the science of hydration, carbohydrates and protein, all of which are consumed during exercise.

The research on hockey players was conducted by Dr. Spriet and a team of other researchers on an NHL team, a Canadian Junior team and several high school age teams. The results were very interesting and and provided an insight into how many athletes struggle with proper hydration.  Here is a look at just few of their findings:

  • 75% of high school players arrived at the rink partially dehydrated.
  • Players lose as much as one and a half liters (50 oz.) of fluids during a game
  • Goalies lose as much as three liters (over three quarters of a gallon) of fluid per practice.
  • Players lose on average four teaspoons of salt during games.
  • 30% of properly hydrated players will become dehydrated over the course of practice.

Why does this matter? Hydration matters because it substantially impacts performance.

You know how your car engine will quit working efficiently when the coolant levels fall, causing the engine to overheat? The same is true for athletes. To prevent that from happening, coaches need to educate players and their parents about the importance of proper hydration. Here are a few suggestions for your team:

  • Athletes of all ages need to drink plenty of water every day. They need to consume 600-700 ML (20-24 oz.) prior to going on the ice.
  • Water is good and a sports drink with the right additives is also recommended. According to Dr. Spriet, the most beneficial sports drinks contain 6% carbohydrates, plus sodium and electrolytes. These drinks are a mix of bitter and sweet flavors and as a result they encourage the athlete to drink more than might be consumed with plain water.
  • Make sure your players have plenty of fluids before, during and after practices and games. Once they get thirsty, they are already dehydrated.
  • Remind your players they need to consistently drink water while they are in school. The best way to stay hydrated is a regular intake of fluids throughout the day.
  • Drinks containing protein are excellent after competition to help in the recovery process. Dr. Spriet indicates that chocolate milk is an excellent post-exercise drink to rehydrate an athlete while also providing the protein necessary for muscle recovery.

Contrary to what some may say, energy drinks that contain stimulants like caffeine are quite detrimental to a player’s performance and health. Soda drinks with caffeine are also a poor choice. The caffeine and sugar do provide a temporary energy boost, but when the energy levels drop, the athlete ends up at much lower levels. Plus, these drinks with caffeine actually cause dehydration leading to an additional decline in performance.

Coaches need to spend some time with players and parents to share this information with them and ask for their assistance in developing good habits regarding the liquids they consume.

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