RICE & MICE: Rambling about “the dehydration”

Has anyone else been lost without a hockey game to watch for the past three days? Thank goodness the NHL’s “second season” starts tonight. Due to the parity in the league, there is a very real chance that each playoff series could go to seven games and each game has a very real potential to go to overtime.

There are no shootouts in the playoffs; only sudden death. Mental and physical preparation and recovery during each day of the postseason are vital to a team’s success. Last season there were 22 games that went to overtime in the postseason and 5 of those went to double overtime. The postseason isn’t just a matter of beating your opponent; it’s also about survival of the fittest and battling attrition due to injuries.

Nutrition and hydration play a key part of preparation and recovery for all athletes and it is vital for NHL players to take care of themselves at all points in the season and especially in the playoffs. When you think of dehydration and athletes, I’ll bet that hockey players aren’t always the first to enter your mind.  What makes hockey interesting is that there is so much padding and layering of clothing on players these days that make it difficult for the body to regulate its temperature.

Since the playoffs are starting tonight and since there is a good possibility that we will see lots of overtime games, I started thinking about how players stay hydrated during those extended games, especially with not experiencing any real overtime during the regular season. I remember Zdeno Chara being hospitalized for a night to get IV fluids due to dehydration during the playoffs last year, so this is definitely an issue players will face.

When we exercise, our muscles consume energy and the byproduct is heat, so the body temperature rises. Sweating provides a means of thermo-regulation through the evaporation of sweat on the skin.

So when the body’s core temperature rises, sweating helps cool the body back down. In sports that require a large amount of equipment, such as hockey, where the majority of the skin is covered the body may have an especially hard time cooling itself via sweat, so in turn body temperature rises and the body sweats more. So you can see why, in this cycle of body temperature rise and sweat, ice hockey players may be especially susceptible to dehydration.

Conditioning for hockey players is especially important, because the body adapts to the level of exercise and the amount of heat and sweat produced during certain activities decreases as endurance and conditioning improves.

Besides being well conditioned, the other main way to prevent dehydration is to replenish water and electrolyte stores before they become depleted through sweating. Research in many different sports suggest that sweat losses resulting in a body mass loss greater than 2 percent of the pre-event body mass has a negative effect on athletic performance. Studies have shown that exercisers who drink fluids and maintain hydration endure 33 percent longer compared to counterparts who don’t drink fluids during a workout.

Of course, all individuals are different. They sweat at different rates and in that sweat, they lose salts at different rates since sweat contains more than just water.

Sweat contains electrolytes like sodium, that are crucial for the hydration process as well as other needs in the body. Sports drinks that contain electrolytes are great because they absorb better. Since the electrolytes are dissolved particles in the water of the sports drink, they are more readily and easily absorbed into the blood stream. Most also have carbohydrates and sugar in them, which may trigger the reward center of the brain, causing the perceived level of exertion to be less. Simply put, athletes may feel less tired when drinking a sports drink.

For an individual that sweats a large amount, it may be important to drink fluids at shorter intervals than the teammate next to him or her that doesn’t quite sweat as much. For every liter of fluid lost by the body by sweat, the body core temperature can increase by 0.5° F, the volume of blood that the heart is able to pump decreases and the heart rate will increase. Some athletes can lose 1-2 liters of fluid per hour of working out, so it is important to keep dehydration in check.

Cold water or sports drinks are the best to drink during exercise and the colder the better. Studies have compared cold sports drinks and frozen, slushy sports drinks have found that the slushy sports drinks lowered core temperature more than cold drinks, level of performance was better with slushy drinks and the perceived level of exertion by the athletes was less when consuming the slushy drinks.

You may remember reading about the slushy machine that the Flyers have and use in order to ward off dehydration and cramping. Since the drink itself is specially formulated to replenish electrolytes and it if frozen, it helps to cool the body temperature and ward off electrolyte losses and dehydration. Some other professional sports teams, as well as some collegiate sports teams are using the slushy sports drink method for their athletes with a notable decrease in fatigue and cramping among the athletes.

Let’s hope our Flyers are well prepared for the battle ahead. Enjoy the game(s) tonight, everyone.

Disclaimer: Information on found in RICE & MICE on flyersfaithful.com is not intended to be medical advice. Any information or materials posted on the web site are intended for general informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, medical opinion, diagnosis or treatment. Any information posted on the web site is NOT a substitute for medical attention. See your health-care professional for medical advice and treatment.