Thirsty for Success?

If you watch any top-level hockey side during training or competition, not too far behind them will be one thing – their water bottles.


Because staying hydrated is a critical factor in ensuring that your body can perform to its best. As I have progressed as an athlete and become familiar with the increasingly fine-line between success and failure, I have found that more and more of the teams I have represented have devoted time to matters of athlete hydration.

Indeed, just a few extra sips of fluid can be the difference between winning and losing – being able to make that last vital tackle, or not.  The importance of staying hydrated was noticed most during my time as a member of the National team, where at any training camp or international competition, the squad enforced a rule which meant that no member was allowed to attend a team-meeting without their water bottle in hand. We knew that to be on top of our game, we could not be thirsty…

If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. 

Why hydrate?

Understanding why fluid-intake is so important is the first step towards adopting good hydration habits. What many people do not realize is that 70% of our muscles are made-up of water, amounting to a significant proportion of our total body weight.

Considering this as athletes, who are entirely dependent on our bodies to participate, we can begin to gain some understanding of the enormous impact that dehydration can have on performance. If you know what you should be drinking and when, hydration is a remarkably simple method of becoming a better hockey player.

At rest, the recommended daily intake of water is eight cups a day – an amount which many of us are failing to consume even during exercise.  As athletes, this amount is impacted by the extent of our activity, environmental conditions and even our clothing; it is therefore important that we can learn to fuel our body according to its needs.

When it comes to hydration however, your body becomes a trickster, adapting to the amount of water that it is used to receiving and fooling you into thinking that you are well-hydrated. In fact, the less you drink, the less you think you need to drink! Many of us are actually, on some level, in a state of continual dehydration. Just imagine the benefits that can be achieved by simply drinking that little bit more.

Effects of dehydration on performance:

  • Reduced ability to concentrate
  • Decreased cardiovascular efficiency
  • Fatigue
  • Increased muscle exertion
  • Increased stress on thermoregulatory system
  • Reduced endurance
  • Muscle cramps

In order to avoid these negative impacts, it is important to understand more about what you should be drinking and when you should be drinking it. Being hydrated for optimal performance is not a matter of gulping down pints of water when you have already begun to tire.

When To Drink?

Hydration needs to begin prior to any activity – and this being best achieved by adopting and maintaining regular drinking patterns.  Adopting a lifestyle of hydration is not only beneficial to overall health, but will ensure that you are never wasting energy battling to reverse the effects of dehydration and, that you are always primed to put your all into every practice – ultimately, making you a better hockey player.

As with many things in life, proper hydration is about balance. Drink too much fluid, and you will not only be uncomfortably carrying around excess liquid, but flushing your system of the very nutrients you are trying to retain. Instead of gulping down pints and pints of water, you should be consuming small amounts of fluid every 15-20 minutes.

What To Drink?

This balance should also be applied to the types of liquids that are being taken-in. Although water is often hailed as a ‘cure-all’ and is great for both everyday consumption and short-duration exercise, during periods of prolonged, higher-intensity activity, your body requires liquids containing carbohydrates (from sugars) and electrolytes (from salts) for optimal function; with these often being obtained through sports drinks.

Again however, sports drinks should only be consumed during particularly intense exercise, and too many individuals are consuming an unhealthy amount of these products in the belief that their performance will improve. There are in fact, cheaper and healthier ways to create your own sports drinks and perform to your best.

Monitoring Hydration

Considering that the body is a surprisingly poor regulator of its own fluid needs, learning how to monitor your own level of hydration is also important. On a basic level, hydration can be measured by simply recording the change in your body weight from the beginning to the end of exercise. In addition, learning how to monitor your urine (yes, your pee), although not particularly pleasant, is a simple and effective way to regulate your fluid intake.

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About The Author

Lauren Penny

Lauren is a former International Hockey Player, Performance Coach & Mentor specialising in helping hockey players to be more confident, improve their fitness and perform more consistently to get noticed and reach higher teams.