Hockey Hydration

July 19, 2013  |  Posted by David Pollitt
Hydration is key to high performance both on and off the ice
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Every day our bodies require a minimum amount of water in order to maintain a proper level of hydration. The body uses water for many communication functions such as transportation of hormones, chemical messengers and nutrients which leads to the following health benefits when properly hydrated:

  • Increased digestion, absorption and utilization of nutrients

  • Enhanced oxygen availability at the cellular level

  • Greater detoxification of the body

  • More perfect cell replication


According to the Textbook of Medical Physiology the total water weight in a human being ranges between 45% to 79%.  Of course many things play a role in the amount of hydration we see on the scale at Chalk Fitness during our assessments.  For a normal man weighing 70kgs (154lbs) the total water weight should be roughly 57% of total body weight.  In newborns this number can be at the high end of the spectrum (near the 79% range).  Body fat plays a significant role in hydration levels as the higher the fat content in the body the less need for water (as fat does not have as much water weight within the structure).  An overweight person may have hydration levels on the low end of the chart (near 45%).


To determine the right amount of water intake per day I typically use a formula based on the work of famed strength coach Charles Poliquin.  The equation looks like this (Body weight in pounds/2) + (Body weight x 20%) = number of ounces per day.  Therefore a 180lbs person would need 126 oz/day (just under a gallon/day).


Exercise in Relation to Hydration

Exercise increases the body’s core temperature (the temperature around the spine and internal organs), and signals the brain to send warmer blood from this core area towards the skin.  The sweat cycle starts which releases water out of the skin pores where evaporation helps reduce the skin temperature several degrees, thereby cooling the warmer blood being sent from the core to the skin.  The cooler blood from the skin is cycled back towards the core and this helps to keep the core temperature near 98.6 degrees.


For most people, the body sweats 4.5 ounces of water for every 100 calories you expend in exercise (The Performance Zone, Ivy & Portman, 2004).  At Chalk Fitness a typical workout will burn between 382 and 459 calories (depending on body weight), so it is recommended you consume between 18 and 22.5 ounces of water during a workout to stay hydrated.  Many factors increase this need for fluid such as:


  • High Humidity.  When the humidity levels rise above 60% water “drips” from the body rather than staying on the skin to cool the body which is a less effective method of temperature regulation and therefore increases the need to consume adequate water.

  • High Temperature.  On days where the ambient temperature is greater than 80 degrees the body begins to pick up heat from the environment which causes additional sweat production and therefore a need for more water.  In addition to this, the cardiovascular system starts to struggle with keeping the cooling mechanism (sweat production) functioning properly and therefore heart rate values rise above normal (which can lead to a decrease in performance).

  • Equipment.  For athletes who wear protective equipment or trainees who wear layers of clothes this prevents normal evaporation from occurring as the body tends to re-absorb the sweat which makes it unavailable for evaporation.  Athletes who play hockey, football, or lacrosse will need to drink more fluids to stay hydrated.

  • Altitude.  The higher the elevation increases the exhalation and perspiration effect as much as three times the normal sea level value (at 6,000 feet above sea level for instance the body exhales and perspires twice as much as sea level).  Additionally, the higher altitude has lower air pressure which results in more evaporation from the skin, and the decreased humidity combines to increase the need to drink more water.


Strategies to Control Exercise Dehydration

Since the body depends on adequate hydration for many vital functions even mild dehydration taxes the body and leads to lower energy levels available for performance.  The following are some strategies to help control exercise dehydration:

  • Carbo loading.  The idea of carbohydrate loading is a nutrition strategy for increased performance during a compeition or event so as to provide more energy for the working muscles during exercise.  However, for every gram of stored glycogen the body also stores 3 to 4 ounces of water.  During exercise as this glycogen is burned as fuel this water is liberated and available to be used by the body as part of the cooling process.

  • Water with some form of glucose and electrolytes is best to hydrate the body during exercise.  Watered down Gatorade is an example of this with.  A solution that is too concentrated will be absorbed much less than pure water or slightly diluted glucose solution.

  • Cold water is absorbed faster than room temperature water.  Ideally 40 degree water is best for hydrating the body.

  • After a tough race or event (such as a marathon, triathlon or long hike) it can take 10 to 20 hours to fully rehydrate the body as the fluid loss can be up to 10lbs of body weight.

  • Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink fluids as this is the body’s final signal that you are already partially dehydrated.  At this point if the exercise intensity is high enough you cannot drink enough to catch up to meet your hydration needs.

  • Before any competition make sure to practice and refine your hydration strategy so you know what you can tolerate and successfully integrate into your performance.


As a general rule of thumb, the urine of a hydrated person will be relatively clear and pale, not cloudy or dark in color.  When working with the Canadian National Cross Country Ski Team this was one of the factors they used to self assess athletes when training at the High Altitude Summer training camps (roughly 11,000 feet above sea level where altitude plays a significant role in hydration levels).


Tips for Drinking More Daily Water

  • Drink a 16 ounce glass of water right after waking.

  • Have a protein shake (with 8 ounces of water) immediately after waking up.

  • Drink a 16 ounce glass of water right before lunch.

  • Have a bottle of water ready to drink during and especially after workouts.

  • Carry a Nalgene water bottle around with you throughout the day and fill it up as necessary.


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