By: Denis Collier, HNN hockey dietitian
The world leader on the topic of hydration in the sport of hockey is Dr. Lawrence Spriet and his group at the University of Guelph. Their most recent paper was published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and
Metabolism (Vol.36:1, pages 145-152, 2011). The study investigated pre-game hydration, and on ice sweat loss, fluid intake and sodium balance in 24 players on the Guelph Storm major junior team during a game situation.
During a game the players lost an average of ~3.2 Litres of sweat. Of course it should be noted there are differences in the physical requirements, as well as time spent on the ice, of the different positions in the sport of hockey. At the goaltender position ~2 Litres of sweat was lost during the game. Defencemen averaged ~3.7 Litres of sweat while the forwards averaged ~3.2 Litres of sweat loss. In general the players failed to replenish these lost fluids. This resulted in one third of the players losing between 1.8-4.3% of their body mass. In the world of sports nutrition the gold standard as to the level believed to be associated with performance impairing dehydration is a 2% loss of body mass. Estimating using data from a previous study measuring sodium losses during a practice from this same team, the authors estimated that there would also be a significant sodium deficit by the end of the game.
So this scientific study tells us that over the course of a game of hockey, players definitely have the potential to lose worrisome amounts of fluid and electrolytes. However, a practical understanding of the way the game of hockey is played tells us this could easily be avoided if players practice some easy nutritional principles.
Of all sports, hockey may be the one that allows for the greatest convenience of re-hydrating In endurance sports like a marathon or triathlon the athlete is physically moving from beginning to end. As they are“in play” for the
entire duration of the event, some athletes don’t want to take the time to drink. Even if they did want to drink, they have to wait for an aid station to appear. Hockey has advantages for hydrating over other team sports as well.
Though substitutions are allowed in soccer and basketball, the players in these sports are physically active for the vast majority of the duration of the game. But in hockey every player has ample opportunity to drink– if they only choose to do so. Each individual hockey player is on the ice for only a fraction of the total possible playing time. A shift lasts 60 seconds or less and then the player sits on the bench for possibly several minutes at a time. Fluids are
literally right in front of you!
The take home message is clear – scientific studies have shown that playing the game of hockey (at least at the length and intensity of a Major Junior game) puts a player at risk for losing quantities of fluid that have been
associated with decreased physical performance. Players should make the most of opportunities for re-hydration (i.e. on the bench between shifts, in the dressing room between periods) to ingest appropriate amounts of fluid. As players have differing specific needs (based upon age, body size, time spent on the ice, etc.) the player interested in a personal assessment and recommendation should see a Registered Dietitian with a specialty in the sport of