Thomason `Hy' on Hydration

Raphael Guidry stays cool during a game last season

Aug. 5, 2011

By Mark Janssen - K-State Sports Extra

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You’ve probably heard the advertisements on television, or seen the colorful rows of drinks on your grocery store shelf.

Produced by Gatorade, it’s called the “G Series” designed to hydrate athletes before, during, and after a competition.

• 01 Prime – Is designed to be taken 15 minutes prior to a competition with the blend of carbohydrates and B vitamins, which provides an energy boost, or in Gatorade lingo, a “Pre-game fuel.”

• 02 Perform – Is designed to provide “Performance Hydration” during a competition. It’s the original product that has been on the market for 40 years with the formula of sodium, potassium and carbohydrates feeding your muscles.

• 03 Recover – Is being called the first protein and carbohydrate post-exercise recovery drink formulated to quench thirst while providing hydration and muscle recovery benefits. The purpose is to rehydrate and rebuild.

Kansas State athletic trainer Matt Thomason uses the first two parts of the program, but of the 03 Recover formula he says, “The NCAA does not allow the third part of the series because the protein amount is greater than 30 percent. If our athletes want to go out and buy it, they can, but we are not allowed to give it to them.”

With the string of plus-100-degree days in late-July, and now continuing into August, Thomason’s focus on hydration is probably getting more of his attention in these opening days of K-State football practice than attending to sprained ankles and aching muscles.

“We never deny them water, and we take a mandatory break in the middle of practice,” said Thomason, who is entering his seventh season as head athletic trainer and his 10th overall year on the staff. “We also have cold towels available, and we set up a 10-by-10 tent at practice where we have a cold tub and four cooling fans, which can immediately make for a 20-degree difference.”

Saying the heat-issue is a yearly concern, it’s also a yearly educational process beginning prior to practice time.

“It’s something that we educate the guys on well before they get in the heat. Once you have that cottonmouth, it’s too late,” said Thomason, who is a member of the National Athletic Trainer’s Association. “Nothing helps the education on the importance of hydration more quickly than to suffer a severe cramp. It’s an intense pain where muscles contract without voluntary effort. A full body cramp is something any athlete will tell you they don’t care to go through again.”

When Thomason says hydration for players, he’s encouraging up to two gallons of water and/or Gatorade a day. That, he says, plus staying away from the caffeine drinks. During the heat of August, he says, “Everywhere our athletes are, fluids are nearby.”

Water, or flavored Gatorade – Grape, Fruit Punch, Lemon-Lime or Orange – is on the field during practice, at training table, in their preseason dorm, and, “We give each of our athletes a 32-ounce bottle that we ask them to keep filled and with them at all times.”

Thomason said there are a variety of waters on the market proclaiming to be the best, but as he says, “It boils down to water being water. The important thing is to get it into your body.”

Cramps during workouts are one of the first signs of the lack of proper hydration, but Thomason and his training staff also monitors the weight of the Wildcat players before after each and every practice.

“We have a weigh-in and a weigh-out after every practice,” said Thomason, who said it’s the norm for a player to lose eight to 12 pounds during a practice. “What we really look for is not what one of our guys loses in practice, but what he weighs when he comes back to the next practice. That tells us whether we need to get some additional food back in his system, or to increase the fluids.

“Even when they feel bloated, they need to know that it’s important to keep drinking,” said Thomason. “Normally when you’re full of liquids, you want to stop, but we want them to keep on drinking.”

Instead of gulping the fluids, Thomason preaches a steady pace of hydration: “Eight ounces every 15 minutes, or eight to 10 eight-ounce bottles of fluid per day.”

Along with the emphasis on hydration, each Wildcat player has access to cold towels during practice, and cold tubs are mandatory after every practice for seven to 10 minutes.

This is done by up to two players in one of 20 100- to 150-gallon tanks, four or five players in a 300-gallon tank, or, up to a dozen in K-State’s “cold plunge whirlpool.”

Thomason also plays the role of weather man each day checking on the air temperature, humidity, heat index and the wind speed.

If too severe, he says, “We have been known to alter practice times on occasion, but the norm in extreme conditions is to add to the number of breaks, or lengthen the breaks during practice.”

Whether to his own Wildcat athletes, or to those teenage high schoolers around Kansas and across the country, Thomason offers this list of symptoms of dehydration: Urine color that is not comparative to the color of lemonade, headaches, dizziness, weakness, irritability, muscle cramps, increase in resting heart rate, decrease in urination frequency, chills and constant thirst.

He adds that with even the slightest degree of dehydration, there’s a negative influence in on-field performance. That starts with a one percent body weight of fluid loss elevating the core body temperature, to five percent resulting in cardiovascular strain, and to 10 percent or more which can result in heat stroke, unconsciousness and possibly death.

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