Have a drink – stop more pucks.

Now I know the beer league boys read the headline and thought – “Yes!  I knew it all along!”  But let me set you straight – I mean a drink of water or sport drink – not your favourite barley beverage.  Today I want to chat about how dehydration can slow you down and impair your motor control.  This will all happen before you even feel thirsty.  I remember the first NHL player I ever trained (he was a goalie oddly enough) one time lost 8lbs during a 30 minute interval run on a treadmill.  No we were not doing the sprint workout in a sauna, he just lost that much weight in sweat.  And he was in shorts and a t-shirt.

Now imagine that same athlete performing 60-minutes of exercise wearing full goalie gear.  Do you think he could lose 6-10lbs of weight in fluids?  Absolutely!

Here is an experiment that I actually want you to try.  Weigh yourself right before a game wearing nothing or just your underwear (you can do this at home, you don’t have to do it at the arena right in front of everyone).  Then as soon as you can after the game weight yourself again in your birthday suit or just your underwear.  If you are doing this at home, do not drink right after the game (just this once so) so we can get an accurate read of your weight loss.

Now you have to do a little calculation.

Bodyweight before the game – Bodyweight after the game = Weight loss from sweating

Weight loss from sweating ÷ Bodyweight before the game = Percentage of body weight lost

If your percentage of body weight lost is .03 (3%) or more, you were not your best in the later portion of the game.  A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (March 2008-Volume 22 – Issue 2 – pp.455-463) entitled  “Active Dehydration Impairs Upper and Lower Body Anaerobic Muscular Power” took research subjects and actively dehydrated them by having them cycle in a hot humid environment before testing them on 30-second full effort bouts of exercise for the upper and lower body.

When the subjects were dehydrated their peak leg power production decreased by 18.36%.  How would you like to have 18% less leg power to initiate your lateral movements?  That does not sound good to me either.

In an earlier study of basketball players, it was well documented that a decrease of 2% body weight from sweat loss dramatically decreased their shooting accuracy (I cannot recall the reference right now).  So if we put both of those findings together we see that if a goaltender is losing 2-3% of his or her body weight through fluid loss, they will have less peak power (slower movements) and less fine motor skill.

Just to highlight this fact a little more, here is the weight loss we are talking about:

  • 130lbs → 2.6 – 3.9lbs weight loss
  • 160lbs → 3.2 – 4.8lbs weight loss
  • 200lbs → 4.0 – 6.0lbs weight loss

This is not much weight and I would wager than at least 70% of you have weight loss in this range during a game.

So here is what you need to do:

  • Drink a fluid replacement drink during vigorous exercise – Gatorade or Powerade are fine during exercise.
  • Weigh yourself before and after the game try to stay below your threshold weight loss.
  • For every one pound of body weight you lose during exercise, drink 2-3 cups of sport drink or water.
  • Avoid those caffeine filled ‘energy drinks’ – caffeine is a diuretic it will dehydrate you further.
  • Look at the colour of your urine if you are using the bathroom between periods – it should be a pale lemonade colour – if it is darker than that, up your fluids.

Once again, a great example of a simple, little thing you can do to improve your performance.  So drink up!