After more than a decade of being known as the NBA Development League (NBA D-League), the Association’s minor league announced a drastic change on February 7th, 2017. That came when the league announced it would rebrand as the NBA G League starting for the 2017-18 season due to their expanded partnership with Gatorade. This move marked the first time that a professional sports league in the United States had an entitlement partner.
Obviously, a rebranding meant a new logo for the G League which would be on everything from game balls, jerseys and oncourt signage, the move was also promised to be beneficial to the league’s players. Within that same press release, the league hinted towards it could do as it stated that “teams will have the opportunity to collaborate with Gatorade to help players maximize their athletic potential and oncourt performance”. That help would come courtesy of Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) scientists who would help players with nutrition and training programs.
Aside from that press release from February 2017 and a promotional video from later that year, we really didn’t hear any more details about how Gatorade and their GSSI scientists actually help players reach their full potential. Fortunately, that’s changed as Ridiculous Upside recently had a chance to interview GSSI’s Senior Principal Scientist Kimberly Stein to discuss how Gatorade helps the league with more than just branding.
Ridiculous Upside: Beyond sponsoring the league, what involvement does Gatorade have with the G League?
Kimberly Stein: For Gatorade, the partnership goes far beyond naming rights. The brand is offering services and resources to help the players improve their performance. Our team at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) is collaborating with G League teams by conducting sweat testing, implementing a recovery program and providing sports nutrition consulting to help players maximize their athletic potential and on-court performance.
RU: In what ways does Gatorade help G League players both during the training camp and G League regular season?
KS: One of the primary testing protocols GSSI is running with a number of NBA G League teams is sweat testing, which we’ve done for many basketball teams and players over the years, including Dwyane Wade and Paul George. A sweat test provides information about a player’s fluid balance and sweat sodium concentration during practices or games, which GSSI uses to help determine personalized fueling and hydration plans for before, during and after practice and games. These plans help athletes understand what they need to put in their bodies to help optimize performance. Research shows you only have to lose two percent of body mass through sweat to become dehydrated enough to negatively impact performance.
Gatorade is also offering access to registered dietitians who specializes in sports nutrition to all G League teams that do not currently have a sports dietitian resource on staff. GSSI scientists will collaborate with the dietitians to provide athletes with a holistic approach to health, wellness and nutrition, helping athletes make better everyday choices and discussing specific nutrition-related issues that may impact their health or performance. Lastly, GSSI is implementing an in-depth recovery program with the goal of creating recommendations that will help players maintain their performance throughout the long season. Through a series of assessments and multiple touch points, GSSI will garner insights about player recovery that will be shared with the league.
RU: Does each G League team participate in these Gatorade Sweat Tests?
KS: GSSI is offering sweat testing to all NBA G League teams. For the 2018-2019 season, 19 teams have completed testing
RU: If so, describe the process of these tests and how you create these plans for players?
KS: A sweat analysis test reveals how much sweat an athlete produces, the electrolytes (sodium) lost in sweat and how well the athletes replace the fluids they lose through sweat. Scientists take samples of sweat from athletes during play, in this case a high intensity practice or game, to analyze and determine what they are losing during activity. Skin “sweat” patches are placed on the skin to obtain a representative sample of total body sodium loss. We track body weights before and after activity and measures fluid consumption to determine the sweat rate for the duration of exercise. The results are then used to help create personalized hydration plans for before, during and after practice and games. Maintaining proper hydration and electrolyte balance can help optimize performance.
RU: Does the nutrition and hydration plans for players change by which position they play?
KS: Each athlete is unique, from their sweat rate to their fueling preferences, which is why it is beneficial to have GSSI scientists and a dietitian on staff to help create customized fueling and hydration plans for each athlete. It may come as a surprise to some, but body type, sport and position do not necessarily dictate what type of sweater an athlete is and what fuel and fluids they require to perform at their best. For example, a heavyset center could be a light sweater while a lean guard could be a heavy sweater, or vice versa. While all G League players are professional athletes, each player has a unique sweat composition and therefore hydration and fueling needs.