Thirst for success: How the appliance of science is fuelling the boys in Brazil

Star players are expected to perform at optimum levels thanks to new research from sports hydration experts Gatorade

Once upon a time, the World Cup was a competition which pitted country versus country in a raw contest examining opposing nations’ respective talents with a football.

But now, as the 20th tournament draws ever nearer, it is clear that Brazil 2014 will bring some of the greatest scientific advancements in sport to the table, as teams bid to maximise every possible advantage.

It is hardly the first time the game has benefitted from the appliance of science. For example, developments in medical treatments have helped thousands of players prolong careers that would otherwise have been curtailed by injury.

However, for a number of elite footballers in Brazil this summer, the latest research means they will never have been better prepared to perform at the optimum level.

Sports hydration experts Gatorade has set up a ground-breaking link with the Brazilian national team which has seen Selecao players handed personalised programmes to give them the physical edge in key moments at the World Cup.

The Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) was first established in 1985, but has opened two new laboratories in the United States and Great Britain in recent years. This has helped to spread its knowledge and experience from decades of work in sports such as American football, baseball, basketball and tennis into the upper echelons of football.

With partnerships involving many of the game’s top clubs, including Arsenal, Barcelona and Liverpool, Gatorade ensures that each player makes up for the loss of reserves during exercise at the top level of the sport with the exact level of electrolytes and carbohydrates required to return the body to its natural state.

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“There are number of reasons why it is important to take on electrolytes and carbohydrates,” GSSI director James Carter told Goal. “For anyone exercising, particularly in hot conditions, the main way of losing the heat that the body is generating is by sweating. If players lose too much sweat then they can become significantly dehydrated.

“But sweat is not only composed of water, it is composed of a number of other things, including electrolytes such as sodium. So Gatorade has sodium extracts in it to help replace that, and also sodium has some other benefits in that it aids in the transport of carbohydrate and fluid into the blood stream.

“And we are not just sweating as we exercise, we are also burning our fuel stores, and of our fuel stores it is the carbohydrate we have only a very limited supply of.

"As football players exercise harder and harder, they will use predominantly more carbohydrate and as they play 90 minutes – and at the World Cup potentially 120 minutes – players will be in danger of running very low on their carbohydrate stores. So Gatorade also contains a source of carbohydrate to help replenish those stores.”

Yet no two people are the same, and as a result the work of GSSI becomes even more important at the top level as it selects the required course for each individual player in the bid to gain a competitive edge when it comes to the biggest moments of the most monumental fixtures.

“We have done some work with the Brazilian players over a period of months in terms of characterising their fluid needs in different environmental conditions, and we have also developed some technology which tracks the players’ fluid intake,” said Carter.

“That allows the coaching staff to constantly monitor what is happening with the players’ drinking behaviours. So if certain players are drinking very little they can ensure he starts to adopt a different behaviour because of the tracking system which tells them how much carbohydrate and electrolyte the players are taking on. No other team has got that system.”

So when the going gets tough this summer, Brazil will be in a great position to stay the course, with the appliance of science putting them ahead of the game.

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