by Mark J. Fine

Arsenal’s head Nutritionist, James Collins, provided expertise on player preparation during the record hot weather at Wimbledon.

It seems Collins is a wanted man these days. As we also report on his column in the July issue of Muscle and Fitness magazine, Collins has also provided input to BBC Sport’s Wimbledon coverage.

The BBC reported that Centre Court at Wimbledon reached over 41c on Wednesday. Temperatures that high are certainly extreme for something as physically exhausting as a tennis match.

Athletes specifically train to perform in hot weather. This includes how to avert the dangers of dehydration, as well as how to replenish the fluids required by the body’s built-in cooling system.

Collins discussed how athletes prepare for such conditions, stating, “The prime thing for tennis players is the need to balance sweat loss by taking on enough fluids so it doesn’t impair their performance.

“That depends on electrolytes, which control the fluid balance of the body. They are key because they help the body to absorb more fluid in the intestines and retain more.

“The electrolyte content that they take on is absolutely critical. Just taking on water can actually dilute it quickly and won’t hydrate them properly.”

Arsenal’s nutritionist went on to comment on the various hydration techniques that athletes use, saying, “Sports drinks have two needs. One is hydration to take on water and electrolytes; the other is to have carbohydrates to fuel the muscles.

He also commented on the use of sweets and energy gels. These are specially formulated with carbohydrates, sodium, potassium, amino acids such as beta-alanine, and caffeine to provide an energy boost during a performance, “A lot of players take on sweets or gels to replace carbohydrates, but they also have some electrolytes in there.

Athletes now use a combination of sweets and gels such as these to replenish carbohydrates and electrolytes in hot weather.
Athletes now use a combination of sweets and gels such as these to replenish carbohydrates and electrolytes in hot weather.

“All of our national teams now use gels, which are really good and popular because they can be digested quickly. These come in all sorts of flavours – cherry, orange, cola, anything.”

When asked about techniques to reduce body temperature after a lengthy match, Collins also remarked, “Elite players all have a cooling strategy. Some use ice collars, some use ice jackets – whatever it is, each individual will have practised their cooling strategy.”