Saturday 30 June 2007

A Different Team Report

I've never been contacted out of the blue yet by any corporation or NHL team about an article or issue about which they would like some more publicity. Now, I'm not going to sell this blog out to Corporate America or anything, but I did receive an email in my mailbox four days ago from Gatorade. Yes, that's right - Gatorade. The energy drink. If you remember, I kind of ripped Pepsi for selling out the UHL All-Star Game in the You're Wearing That? - The Trilogy article.

A lady named Katherine Stewart contacted me. She works for their public relation agency. She writes, "I’m contacting you on behalf of Gatorade Canada – I work for their public relations agency. Reading your blog it’s clear you live and breath hockey, I thought you might be interested in blogging about JS Giguere’s work with the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) to tackle his hydration issues."

She read my blog? Wow. Well, I do live and breathe hockey, so I decided to take a look at this. I was curious as to the actual science that Gatorade does to help athletes, specifically Giguere.

Goalies tend to lose a lot of water through sweating, and it can adversely affect their performance. Last season, Sean Burke of the Los Angeles Kings was pulled in a game due to being dehydrated. In 2004, Ken Hitchcock of the Philadelphia Flyers refused to disclose an injury to goaltender Robert Esche that he eventually described as "the flu". It turned out that Esche was suffering from dehydration. And in 2005, Giguere missed two games due to dehydration.

Miss Stewart also spoke of Giguere's problems with dehydration.

"Leading up to the 2006/07 season Giguere was suffering from cramping and exhaustion during games," she wrote. "He saw a Gatorade television commercial about a runner who suffered from similar problems. He contacted the GSSI to see if they could offer solutions that could improve his performance. At the GSSI, Giguere participated in rigorous sweat tests and hydration analysis, and they gave him tips to help him overcome his dehydration and perform a Stanley Cup winning season."

This piqued my interest. I have heard all the stories about Gatorade developing this sports drink for the Florida Gators that replaces electrolytes. Their success was proof that Gatorade had stumbled upon a great idea. It's such a good idea that there are now dozens of "energy drinks" out there.

Following Miss Stewart's advice, I followed the link she included to Jean-Sebastien Giguere's experience at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute in Chicago, Illinois. If you want to watch Giguere in a "sweat test", please click here. Here are the results they found:

- Giguere suffered from cramping and dizziness after most games as a result of heavy sweating. Losing close to 12-15 lbs of fluid every game, Giguere was often dehydrated and susceptible to serious injury and decreased performance.

- Giguere’s salt and hydration status was monitored during an intense session on the stationary bike. Following analysis of his sweat, Giguere learned that although he was drinking water he was not replacing the electrolytes lost in his sweat. To stay hydrated and replenish his electrolytes, the GSSI scientists recommended he drink a properly formulated sport drink, like Gatorade before, during and after a game or workout. [Teebz: that sounds like a sponsorship/sales pitch.]

- As a result of the GSSI sweat test, and recommendations from Gatorade scientists, Giguere was shown how to properly hydrate during games, avoid dehydration and maximize his performance. [Teebz: He did win the Stanley Cup this season.]

- The Gatorade Sports Science Institute in Canada has focused its current research programs on evaluating the hydration status of elite hockey players prior to and during both practices and games. The GSSI has conducted sweat and hydration testing of Hockey Canada’s Under-20 team and OHL team, the Guelph Storm.

Giguere spoke of his dehydration symptoms that he was having.

"When I get dehydrated it really doesn’t feel great!" he states. "My ears get plugged and I start getting dizzy. The headaches follow and I know cramps aren’t too far behind. A lot of times I feel like I’m going to vomit, either on the ice or in between periods."

Those symptoms are not good. Other world-class athletes have visited the GSSI as well. Yao Ming of the NBA's Houston Rockets, USA Soccer star Mia Hamm, Payton Manning of the Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts, and New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter have all spent time going through the hydration tests from Gatorade.

Now if you're almost sick from the sweetness of the Gatorade blog so far, you're not alone. Let's take a look at the drawbacks.

Gatorade took some bad publicity from They found that Gatorade actually erodes teeth the fastest when compared to soft drinks and fruit juices. You might be the most hydrated person on the Earth, but you can't smile. I don't know if that's a fair trade. If you're a top-level athlete, you're on television and splashed across newspapers and magazines all the time. Smiling comes naturally.

I play hockey. I sweat a lot. I'm not a goalie, but I'm a big guy and my body tries to keep me cool by pouring sweat out of my body. I don't drink Gatorade at all. I prefer cold water. Why? Daniel on James Mirtle's blog explains it best.

"Water is what you drink while losing fluids due to sweat. The reason you feel revitalized after drinking a sports drink is because of the simple carbs, which get turned into energy instantly in your body, just like sugar. Potassium is a great thing to consume before working your body and also after to replenish your body and help it recover faster.

"This is the same reason you could drink a Pepsi on the bench and pretty much feel the same, all the simple carbs. Water and maybe a little bit of salt to tell your body to hold on to more of the water instead of sweating it all out. Correct breathing to push more oxygen through your blood and having strong muscles really helps as well. The more repe[t]itive tasks a muscle does, the more it doesn't strain and need a stabilizing muscle to compensate."

It was repeated over and over during the playoffs this season that Giguere was certainly not the most athletic nor the most fit goalie in the league. He also suffers from a mild form of asthma. Could this be part of the problem with Giguere?

Gatorade claims they provide four things water does not: electrolytes, carbohydrates, flavour, and "maximized fluid osmolality". The first three things are self-explanatory: Gatorade had a high-level of sodium, minerals and sugar while being artificially-flavoured.

According to Gatorade, "maximized fluid osmolality" is the "Gatorade difference". According to the website, the explanation is as follows: "[r]esearch shows that with the right types and amounts of carbohydrates, fluid absorption occurs as quickly as water as long as the osmolality (particle content of the fluid) is close to that of blood (280 mOsm/kg). Gatorade beverages feature a 6% carbohydrate formula that ranges between 280 and 340 mOsm/kg, enabling Gatorade to promote faster fluid absorption than other sports drinks with higher carbohydrate concentrations and osmolality levels".

If I read that correctly, Gatorade is no better than water. In fact, it is only better than other sports drinks. It provides energy in the form of simple carbohydrates, but it is no better than water at hydration, and, in some cases, it's actually worse than water as it has a higher osmolality.

I appreciate Miss Stewart's email, and I look forward to Corporate America helping out hockey more than it already has. The NHL needs Corporate America to succeed, and Corporate America needs the fans of the NHL to buy their products. It's a give-and-take. However, if you send me an email about your product, be prepared for an objective view on it. I'm not saying Gatorade is bad for anyone nor am I saying that you shouldn't drink it. What I am saying is that when it comes to hydration, I'll just stick with good old-fashioned water.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Anonymous said...

The Waterboy clip at the end cracks me up. A perfect ending to the article.

Sage Confucius said...

I am a huge believer in what Gatorade can do for some people. I am one of them. I learned when I was in Marine Corps boot camp that I will cramp up horribly when doing something that causes me to sweat a lot. Since any kind of sports drink isn't allowed for recruits I had to find a different way to fix my problem. I always ate a banana at breakfast as well as a ton of salt on my eggs. The extra potassium in the banana helped with the cramps, and the salt helped me retain water. That sounds dangerous but it's what I had to do. In the fleet I would keep chunks of sea salt with me and take one once or twice a day.

One day I was able to get tested for the minerals I was losing in my sweat. My sweat is very heavy with salt and other minerals that dry me out. Essentially my balance was off, and that is what caused my problems. The docs who tested me suggested I drink Gatorade when exercising because of this. It replaces a lot of what I lose in my sweat and maintains proper balance. I still hydrate before exercise with water exclusively. But during and after exercise I drink Gatorade to replace what I've lost. Granted, most people have neither the desire or means to get tested, but anyone who exercises and sweats a ton should think about it.

The point of all that rambling is that people are different. Some can benefit from an electrolytically balanced fluid and some are fine on plain water.

Are you going to write anything for them or did you turn down the offer?

Teebz said...

Excellent comment, Sage.

I usually do the banana thing before hockey because the potassium is an important electrolyte. Actually, I've recently switched to potatoes as they have more potassium than bananas, but there has been no noticeable difference... aside from a potato tasting different. :o)

I think you're right, though, when you say that some can benefit. I am not saying there is no science behind it, but I certainly am not going to to switch to Gatorade when water does the job for me.

In your case, it was medically necessary, and I would never tell anyone not to drink something, especially after a doctor instructed you otherwise.

As for writing for them, they wanted me to write an article for them on my blog, and I've done that. As unethical as it sounds, I'm not going to sell myself out unless (a) there's a paycheque involved, and (b) I get access to their test results.

If they grant me that, I'd be open to having this blog sponsored by Gatorade. ;o)

Anonymous said...

Gatorade has the same osmolality as water, but water does not have sodium, which is the primary electrolyte lost in sweat. That is why Gatorade is better for athletes, especially those with high sweat rates and those who lose a lot of sodium in their sweat.

Teebz said...

According to Gatorade's own science, they do not have the same osmolality, Anonymous.

Sodium isn't the most important element in sweat, either. It plays a role as an electrolyte and it helps to retain water, but there are a number of ways that one can replenish fluids and electrolytes better than Gatorade.

Fresh fruit and water are much better for you than Gatorade. I have a high sweat rate when I play sports, and I've never had a problem eating with eating a banana and drinking water in terms of feeling less energy.

Todd Thompson said...

Gatorade is awesome during activities that result in massive
sweating .. the problem is tooooooo many people drink it daily like its a taste beverage.