I am Matt Anderson, retired professional hockey player and current hockey coach for Vermont youth. Growing up and playing hockey in the 90s, it was a big part of the culture to encourage athletes to drink Gatorade and eat carbohydrates and low-fat foods. As I moved into working as a professional hockey player, I learned more about how nutrition impacted my performance and found that for me, water was the best source of hydration. I realized how addictive sugar can be and that I didn’t need it for my body type and performance. As a coach, I relay this message to my players. In addition to sports drinks, energy drinks have hit the market in a big way in the last decade or so and I want my players to understand that the caffeine and sugar in those drinks do not support them as athletes. Water is hydrating enough, in most cases, and there are other healthy ways to consume added electrolytes for my older UVM players who exercise longer and harder. For them I may suggest a 6-8oz serving of chocolate milk as a way to restore electrolytes after intensive training.
As coach for the 14 and under youth team called Vermont Flames, I encourage the players to bring their reusable water bottles to stay hydrated during games and practices. While I never want to punish my players by taking something away from them, when a player forgets their water bottle I ask them to do some research on the topic of hydration to report back to the team at the next practice. I have had players report on dehydration; sugar content in sports, energy, juice, and soda beverages; how much water is required to stay hydrated during vigorous exercise, the effects of caffeine on dehydration, and healthy ways to add electrolytes into our diets. This is a really nice way to educate all of my players on the importance of hydrating with water while encouraging them to remember their water bottles!
Retired Hockey Player, NHL and Swedish Hockey League Volunteer Assistant Coach, UVM Men’s Hockey Coach, Vermont Flames