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Broncos innovation continues with Gatorade hydration study

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --When some of the Broncos wore Gatorade sweat patches last weekend at practice, the goal wasn't to improve performance in July or August.

Instead, the team is searching for an edge down the stretch -- in December, in January and in February. And so inside UCHealth Training Center, the Broncos are looking for innovative ways to keep the players at peak performance. A partnership with the Gatorade Sports Science Institute is simply the latest example of the Broncos' emphasis on providing the latest and greatest technology to aid players.

Six scientists from the institute spent time at Broncos training camp on Friday and Saturday to determine specific hydration procedures for Broncos players who play the most reps. Through an intensive process that involves fluid measurement and sweat patches, the scientists tested 25 players over the course of two days to develop individualized plans that factor in volume, carbohydrates and electrolytes. During games, select players will receive personalized bottles that will replenish in a way that best serves each one.

"I think understanding individual needs when it comes to sports nutrition and hydration is definitely the future," Gatorade Sports Science Institute's R&D Scientist Tim Roberts said. "We have a greater understanding that each player has specific and individual needs. The more that we can understand and provide for that, the better potential you have to perform your best."

Director of Team Nutrition Bryan Snyder said the Broncos' use of the technology fits in well the rest of the team's nutrition and hydration plans for the players. More so, the technology serves as validation and shows the players the importance of hydration to their performance on the field.

On Saturday, nearly a dozen members of the Broncos defense took part in the program, and they all expressed their interest in future Gatorade initiatives. In September, the sports science unit will return to conduct a sleep study with the same players. The study will aim to address another aspect of the players' lives that can impact performance.

The Gatorade Sports Science Institute visited the Denver Broncos on Friday and Saturday to help create individualized hydration plans. (Photos by Aric DiLalla, unless noted)

"They've been very receptive," Snyder said. "Any time we can customize and make things a specialty for these guys, they love it. So we're able to customize and fit their needs specifically. They've been very receptive and it's been very positive so far."

As Todd Davis jogged off the field after practice, he said the Broncos' commitment to providing the very best in performance technology means a lot to him as a player.

"I think [the initiatives are] great," Davis said. "It just goes to show how great of an organization [the Broncos] really are and how much they want their players to succeed."

The Gatorade partnership isn't the first instance of the Broncos searching for ways to help their players excel on the field.  

Denver also uses a system that allows the strength and conditioning coaches to monitor acceleration, speed, distance and a number of other categories through a device that's affixed to the back of practice jerseys. The data is transferred to a coach's computer, where it's used to determine patterns and provide an analytical breakdown of a player's movements. 

And just this week at training camp, the defensive backs used blinders during a drill to help with pass coverage.

"Anything to improve our performance, help the team out, help each individual out, I think it's great," said Marshall of the Gatorade initiative. "The team goes through every length, every depth, to try to keep us on top of our game, and I appreciate it."

Neither of these programs would be possible without the cooperation of Head Coach Gary Kubiak and the rest of the Broncos coaching staff.

"Coach Kubiak has been very open to letting us do this," Snyder said, "and we're very appreciative of that. It came from the top down, and it's a complete buy in from everybody, which is why it's been pretty successful so far.

"There's not a lot of teams that do this, and there's not a lot of teams that are open to allowing their players to go through this where they put the sweat patches on. So it takes buy in from the entire organization: the players, the coaches, everybody."

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