Whether you’re a serious athlete or a recreational exerciser, it’s important to make sure you get the right amount of water before, during, and after exercise. Water regulates your body temperature and lubricates your joints. It also helps transport nutrients to give you energy and keep you healthy. If you’re not properly hydrated, your body can’t perform at its highest level. You may experience fatigue, muscle cramps, dizziness, or more serious symptoms.
It is important for players to remember that staying hydrated helps boost their performance on the ice, especially as the game progresses.
Going into the third period or overtime is when players may start to feel the effects of dehydration, according to Dr. Lawrence Spriet, Professor and Chair of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Guelph.
Players can begin to feel tired or a lack of concentration, which can be an issue in a game of inches like hockey which requires quick decision making.
Of course, no two players are the same and everyone sweats at different levels. Spriet suggests weighing players before and after a game to see the amount of fluids they lost.
“What we talk about in athletic circles, especially with high end athletes, is very, very mild dehydration, as little as 1.5 or 2 per cent of their body mass, has been shown to have a negative effect on their activity,” said Spriet.
Hockey players can have a tougher time staying hydrated than other athletes because of the necessary equipment. Wearing protective pads and a jersey makes it harder for heat to escape the body.
Spriet breaks down the science behind sweating, the body’s cooling mechanism.
“Typically when you exercise, your body lets you heat up a little bit. Our core temperature might be 37 degrees Celsius at rest and we quite often heat up that our core is 38 degrees or 38.2 degrees. That, of course, is because when you exercise you generate a tremendous amount of heat. Typically what we do is we transfer that heat to the periphery of our body through our skin blood flow. When we get that heat to our skin, it’s often lost through sweat. When sweat evaporates off the skin of your body, we lose a tremendous amount of that heat. That’s how we maintain our body temperature.”
When you become dehydrated, the fluid in the blood decreases, which means the body has a harder time sending blood flow to the skin. During exercise, most of the blood in the body in going towards the working muscles, meaning less blood can transfer heat of out the body.
Spriet recommends adults should drink 500-600 mL of fluid 60-90 minutes before they engage in physical activity and to stay hydrated throughout.
“In my mind, ice hockey is the perfect game to stay hydrated because you have so many opportunities when you come back to the bench to just take a sip when you go through the game or training session.”