Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Rehydrating after maximum exertion

Published:Tuesday | March 1, 2016 | 3:00 AMDr. Paul Wright
St Elizabeth Technical High School’s Nigel Ellis anchors his team to victory in the high-school boys’ 4x400 metres at the Gibson/McCook Relays at the National Stadium on Saturday.

The Olympics will be held in Brazil this year. Despite the fears of side effects from the dreaded Zika virus, Jamaicans will be not only going to Brazil, they will be glued to television and radio stations during the Games, following in great detail the fortunes of our stars, who are expected to dominate the track and field section of the Games by winning the most gold medals.

We didn't get to be the 'Sprint Capital' of the world by chance. A significant reason for our dominance is rooted in the annual competition known as 'Champs'. This annual ritual ensures that every schoolchild with talent is discovered and nurtured by coaches hoping to ensure that their charge goes on to not only secure points and bragging rights, but hopefully to become a future star who will regale a fawning public with stories about 'who discovered me'.

At my high school in the 60s, Wolmer's Boys', every one of the 600 enrolled boys had to enter at least one event in the eliminations for Sports Day. Thus raw and unexpected talent (mainly speed) was discovered and encouraged by House captains with an eye on winning on the day.

Sports Day was also used as a trial for 'Champs'. That same mindset now dominates the methods used to select the participants at 'Champs'.

Unfortunately, as Jamaica becomes more and more successful at sprinting (and now throwing) the quest to be the best seems to become the be all and end all of school. Sports and the financial benefits associated with excellence now trumps excellence at reading, writing and arithmetic.

The recent innovation known as the Digicel Grand Prix provides financial benefits to schools and children who compete in weekend events in the months before Champs. This has resulted in our children competing almost on a weekly basis for points, which will add up to produce winners who are well rewarded.

Unfortunately, this innovative method of incentives has forgotten that the participants are children, whose immature bodies are now stressed to unforeseen levels, resulting in what seems to me to be unprecedented levels of injuries that may derail the future potential of some of our more talented children.

This incentivised desire to win at all costs is having a detrimental effect on our youngsters. Last Saturday's well supported Gibson/McCook Relays is a case in point. I was shocked to see children running at maximum exertion in relays one or two hours apart, while open-mouthed reporters regaled the successful ones with unabashed praise, as if children performing multiple events in a 12-hour span is normal and should be encouraged.

Years ago, the organisers of 'Champs' revised the number of events a child could enter after the great Lindy Delapenha, of Wolmer's and Munro College, entered and did well in either eight or nine events.

That limit has been further reduced by the governing body of 'Champs', ISSA, who apparently realised that these Games are for children!

What I want to highlight in this article is the importance of refuelling after maximum exertion, a medical fact that can reduce the possibility of season-ending injury in children who are performing more than once in a 12-hour period.

The three lines of defence after maximum exertion are fluid replacement, carbohydrate replacement and protein replacement.

Drinking 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of weight lost in training or competition is strongly recommended. This fluid replacement will help to get the body of the child back in balance, remembering that sweat contains electrolytes (sodium, potassium and magnesium) therefore sports drinks are mandatory.

During training and competition, the young athlete is relying mainly on stored carbohydrate fuel in the muscle, liver and blood to energise working muscles. Thus refuelling right after competitions (or exercise) can also decrease the chance of getting an injury. The muscle becomes a sponge ready to soak up and store needed ingredients for the next event.

To complete the re-energising of muscles after training or competition, protein should be ingested in addition to the carbohydrate and fluids.

A good rule is to eat or drink a healthy snack within 15 to 30 minutes of the event or hard training session and again two hours later. It is now well established that by adding protein to carbohydrate and fluids after competition, the body stores even more energy and recovers better than consuming carbohydrate alone.

Athletes will find it hard to eat solid food after a hard workout or competition, so here are some suggestions for recovery fuel with at least 50 grammes of carbohydrate and 10 grammes of protein, necessary for maintaining good competitive health:

(1) Eight ounces of orange juice and one small low fat yoghurt; (2) Eight ounces of Gatorade and one Power Bar; (3) eight ounces of apple juice and one peanut butter sandwich; (4) Twelve ounces soy milk and one ripe banana.

These combinations are inexpensive and if consumed in the 15 to 30 minute window after competition can minimise the chance of injury while at 'Champs' or one of the other multi-event meets.