Healthy Hydration


PARTNERS / Football / West Ham United

16th December 2020

We Talk Hydration, Project Restart And Zoom Workouts With West Ham United's Head of Medical Services, Richard Collinge

Hear from West Ham United's Head of Medical Services, Richard Collinge, as we talk Hydration, Project Restart and lockdown Zoom workouts with players!

What were the key challenges of Project Restart from a Sports Medicine perspective?

What we tried to do as a team was turn it into a positive, so we used it as a period of time to educate the players.

It gave us all a bit of breathing space from the frenetic pace of the Premier League and training schedule, we used this time to develop nutrition and hydration strategies. We also used our nutritionist, Matt Jones, as an external source of inspiration in this regard to make sure that the players were getting everything that they needed at home.

This included food deliveries but a big part was also chatting about nutrition. It was a novel time in many ways, but first and foremost, we wanted to ensure, building up towards what was going to be the hottest part of the year in the summer, that we could make sure we had good nutritional strategies in place. iPRO were integral to that when they came on board, and as with any product, we want to make sure it’s palatable as much as anything.

That’s what we found with the product. The players enjoy drinking it and it formed part of a co-ordinated nutrition and hydration strategy that made sure the players came back at better fitness and athleticism levels than I think we’ve had here at West Ham in many years.

That was the positive aspect from our angle. Of course, it was a challenge, but we managed to flip it around, and I think the form after lockdown showed that we did well in that regard.

What was the most important thing for your team when preparing the players for the restart?

When they came back in and were building up to the first couple of games, Wolves and Tottenham, it was making sure that they could hit the ground running, making sure that they could sustain what was going to be a mini pre-season. They’d had a good level of conditioning during lockdown so we wanted to make sure when they came in for that mini pre-season, they were physically and psychologically ready to go for the short build-up to the nine games.

We treated those games as a mini tournament, really. It was a different philosophy compared to what we’d been used to, playing in midweek games, plenty of random kick-off times. Obviously, we had to be considerate of the travel, hotels were just beginning to open up at that time. We were also going into a period of time – May, June, July – that was going to be very hot. So, we had to make sure everything was in place for those nine games that were huge for the club.

iPRO became our official hydration partner just as the restart came into play, and with it came the drinks breaks midway through each half. Do you think that benefitted the players and if so, how?

Yes. The drinks break was a key moment where the manager and coaching staff had points they wanted to get across, but in and around that you will have seen Josh Ewens, our Sports Scientist, myself and probably a Doc as well trying to get fluids on board. You will have seen the black iPRO bottles which were full of the product being used.

Integral to that drink is obviously carbohydrate and electrolytes. When the players are sweating, they’re obviously losing fluid content and that can affect performance and concentration levels. Those drinks breaks were crucial to us for getting the product on board and making sure that whether it was getting towards the end of the first half, or more critically towards the end of the second half, the players weren’t running short on fuel, energy and hydration.

We were also using the product after the game to make sure the guys were replenishing and ready to go again because the games were coming thick and fast, and we had to get the recovery strategies optimal as well.

How does a drink like iPRO benefit players generally when it comes to hydration, more than just a bottle of water?

It is the electrolytes that are important and the carbohydrates. The body has a finite amount of carbohydrate within the muscle within the body itself that’s going to help generate enough force and power for the likes of Michail Antonio to repeatedly sprint and generate the force he needs.

It’s about how the body performs and as we alluded to before, it’s also about the mental side as well. If you’re dehydrated, you’re not concentrating as much and there certainly can be lapses of concentration which could lead to a critical error in a game situation.

The benefits are very much physical and psychological and there’s an overlap between the two.

With the fact that players do expend so much energy during a game or a training session, how do you pioneer the nutrition?

I think to be honest the two are symbiotic – they go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. There’s no point focusing on hydration if your diet is horrendous, and vice versa.

We very much had this ethos and it’s certainly something I’ve taken with me my career with 24/7 athletes. We want to make sure that the nutrition they have here at Rush Green, or a pre-match meal at whatever hotel they’re staying at, is top quality food.

Likewise, we want to make sure that any agents that we have in terms of fluid replenishment or supplements is also a top-quality product. The first thing we need to achieve is something that’s palatable; the players are not going to be compliant with it if it’s got a poor taste. The iPRO product has been well received by the players, therefore the compliance is high, and that goes hand-in-hand with other supplements and nutritional strategies that we have in place here at West Ham.

From your point of view, what were the key aspects that contributed to our fine injury and fitness record after the restart?

I think ultimately we made these boys better athletes. I don’t think we’ll ever have an opportunity quite like that where we have a protracted period of time where, testament to the Sports Science department, we put the right protocols and programmes in place.

It’s fine giving a player a programme to do, but you’ve got to make sure there’s compliance with it, we had apps that we used so we could track what the players were doing, when they were doing it and where they were doing it, so we ensured compliance and brought them back as better athletes.

Then, with the manager and coaching staff’s assistance, we needed to make these better athletes better footballers and make them fitter in terms of football fitness. We generated a good aerobic base over the lockdown period, like a normal pre-season period, but we probably had a bit longer to work with the group. We were doing the Zoom calls and fitness sessions. Josh Ewens was like Joe Wicks at West Ham!

He needs credit without a shadow of a doubt, because the form after these Zoom calls… staff were doing it as well to be honest! It was a bit of a collective mentality. We had every staff member online and we’d catch up for 10-15 minutes as players and staff beforehand and then we’d get down to the nitty gritty of doing an exercise programme together.

That really helped with the camaraderie of what we were trying to achieve and I do believe that’s carried forward to where we’re at now as a club. Ultimately, we got them fitter, got an aerobic base and had a great mini pre-season build-up from the coaching staff and the manager.

We got 12 points out of 27. Three wins and three draws, and that got us over the line with a little bit to spare. The positive results we’ve had to start this season shows that the work that we did during lockdown is still paying dividends. I think iPRO can take some of that credit as well for helping us as one of the partners.