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Hydration Key for Winter Athletes

Hydration Key for Winter Athletes


 

by James Skitt - 18.01.10

With the Vancouver Games just weeks away, Britain’s winter hopefuls will put their training to the test as they face tough opposition on the world stage.

Amongst the many challenges athletes heading to Vancouver will face, hydration will be a key issue in the cold conditions, according to English Institute of Sport (EIS) Performance Nutritionist Dr Kevin Currell.

“It may seem strange in the colder climate, but dehydration is a common problem in a cold environment as the body is less likely to signal thirst” says Dr Currell, who has been working with the Great Britain Speed Skating squad. 

“The suits many of the athletes wear, for example, generally retain a lot of their body heat so they therefore sweat and lose fluids, but if they don’t feel thirsty it can be a struggle to keep them hydrated.

“For the speed skaters, who produce a high level of lactates, they may often not feel able to take on more fluids after a tough training session or competition, so again strategies need to be in place to keep their hydration levels up” he adds.

Dr Currell, who has been working with the GB squad at their Nottingham training base as they prepare for Vancouver, believes educating the athletes is key to keeping them hydrated and healthy on the ice.

“Keeping athletes healthy is obviously crucial to their chances of performing at their best, and hydration plays a part in that, so I’ve worked closely with the teams Physiologist to help educate the skaters of the need for them to drink and keep hydrated” he says.

This task is made harder however by the varying length of time some athletes can experience between races at competitions, with some experiencing anything from a couple of hours to a whole week between races.

“It certainly requires a flexible approach” admits Dr Currell. “We’ve done a lot of work with the athletes to develop flexible nutrition strategies which they can apply whatever schedule they have to work too.”

“Usually at competitions athletes will take food with them but at the Olympic Games the village will have excellent menus for athletes to choose from, so they may just take particular performance foods – nutrition shakes for example, which they use during training and competition.

“However, how any athlete manages their nutrition whilst they’re in the Olympic village, where they will spend a lot of time and have free food available to them, will be crucial to their preparation. We have worked with the skaters on planning for that experience and making them aware of exactly what foods they should be having according to where they are in their competition schedule” he says.

For the GB short track speed skating squad, who have seven athletes heading out to Vancouver, as their training has intensified, so too has the importance of their nutritional strategies.

“The squad train a lot at high intensity, often with at least two sessions a day, so recovery between each session is key and we have worked a lot with the athletes around how their nutrition strategies can help them cope with their schedule and stay in the best condition possible.”

Photography © Getty Images

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