We’re just days away from the official start of summer, but temperatures are already heating up all over the country.
Playing football in Denver presents some different challenges compared to other climates. Because Denver is so dry and sits at 5,280 feet above sea level, the Broncos have a unique advantage when playing at home. However, they must condition their bodies the right way in order to be able to take advantage of the thin air on game day.
“The biggest thing is the altitude adjustment,” Broncos team nutritionist Bryan Snyder said Saturday morning at the Football University Denver camp. “You automatically have to increase hydration and carbohydrates because you’re burning more fuel and perspiring a little bit more.”
Snyder and Broncos linebacker Von Miller talked to high school players on behalf of Gatorade’s Beat the Heat program, which educates athletes, parents, and coaches about heat related illnesses.
“Here in Denver, I’ve had to start drinking water and Gatorade early in the morning to get those electrolytes in because it’s so dry here,” Miller said. “I weigh-in every day before practice and after practice during training camp.”
There’s a whole new stable of guys working to condition their bodies so that they can play at altitude during the warm summer months. Snyder said that the easiest way to measure hydration is to get the pre and post weight on players that Miller referred to.
“We’ve had guys lose 7-8 pounds in practice, so they basically need 7-8 bottles of water of Gatorade just to replenish back to where they were,” Snyder said. “If we have high risk guys like that, and we know who they are, we’ll get them on the scale before and after.”
Gatorade and the NFL have partnered up with Korey Stringer’s story in mind. Stringer was an offensive lineman for the Minnesota Vikings who died from exertional heat stroke after a training camp practice in August of 2001.
“The Beat the Heat program is important because of its focus on providing educational resources that aid in the prevention, recognition and treatment of heat-related illness during the summer sports season,” said Douglas Casa, Ph.D., chief operating officer of the Korey Stringer Institute (KSI), which is housed at the University of Connecticut. “You can’t change the weather but you can change how you prepare to practice or compete in hot weather.”
According to the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI), roughly 70% of high school football players showed up for practice inadequately hydrated. Dehydration or poor hydration can increase the risk for heat illness.
Miller knows quite a bit about the importance of hydration since he grew up playing football in Texas.
“I think hydration starts early,” Miller said. “If you can create a routine of drinking water in the morning, at lunch time, and at night before you go to sleep, it will be easier to carry over to the next day.”
Along with Miler, other NFL players associated with the Beat the Heat program include J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans, Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers, and Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys.
Gatorade is offering a free heat safety kit, which provides educational resources that aid in the prevention, recognition, and treatment of heat-related illness during the summer sports season.
Snyder said that when it comes to educating new Broncos’ players, he emphasizes the recovery aspect just as much as the importance of staying hydrated before and during the workout.
“Your body is in a very unique metabolic state for 30 minutes after working out,” Snyder said. “We give the guys shakes after every workout, after every lift, after every practice that has a nice blend of 3:1 carbohydrates to protein. The carbohydrates help refuel their muscles, the protein helps rebuild their muscles. That’s the biggest misnomer. You need more carbohydrates than protein 30 minutes after working out, so that’s what I’m always drilling into guys, especially during training camp.”
If a player stays ready then he doesn’t have to get ready. That’s what makes the NFL a year-round business nowadays.