Touring the Gatorade Sports Science Institute

When the NBA and Gatorade partnered to rebrand the NBA D-League as the NBA G League, the natural question that arose was, “Besides the new name, what does this mean?” The announcement of the rebrand came with the news that the NBA G League would “collaborate with the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) on programs to enhance player sports performance and recovery.”

Ahead of the minor league’s first season of its new era, NBAGLeague.com joined media members for a tour of GSSI to get an inside look at some of the ways in which Gatorade will work with players this season and beyond. Here’s what we saw first-hand on the campus of the IMG Academy — a boarding school and sports training destination — in Bradenton, Florida:

9:30 AM ET: Introduction to GSSI

We start by walking through the doors of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute’s facility, across from IMG’s outdoor soccer field and next to one of its many weight rooms, past the Fuel Bar and upstairs to a glass-enclosed conference room.

Jeff Kearney, Gatorade’s global head of sports marketing, is waiting to welcome the group and explain more about GSSI’s mission. Kim Stein, Gatorade’s senior principle scientist and a former basketball player and coach, is on the phone as an additional resource.

They explain the sports nutrition consultation and recovery program that Gatorade offers, and how they present those resources to athletes. They also provide details on their plans to work specifically with NBA G League teams and players this season – everything from “fueling plans” based on nutrition research to health-based travel schedules; for example, when you arrive in Erie at 10 PM, what are the healthiest food options available to you?

11 AM: Gearing Up

Waiting in one of GSSI’s two locker rooms – bookending the ground floor hallway, with lab rooms in between – is full NBA G League practice gear for the participating media members.

We provide urine samples for hydration testing, change and board the bus to one of IMG’s indoor basketball gyms.

11:45 AM: Workout Time

At the court, GSSI senior scientist Kortney Dalrymple explains what they’ll be testing during our workout: sweat composition (i.e. how salty it is), sweat rate, total sweat losses and rate of sodium loss. Based on the results, GSSI will provide an individualized report with recommendations for fluid intake and nutrition to outline our needs for this specific workout.

The process starts with a body weight measurement, then patches are applied to each of our arms in order to collect sweat during activity. We each have bottles – one 30 oz. water bottle and one 20 oz. Gatorade – with our names written on them. We’re even instructed to alert GSSI staff of any necessary bathroom breaks, so they can collect urine samples and determine hydration levels.

Before the pickup hoops begins, the warmup consists of:

… with periodic water/Gatorade breaks. Once we’ve sweated enough for GSSI scientists to remove our arm pads, we break into a 3-on-3, half court game – which eventually turns into a best-of-3 series with games to 11 (1s and 2s).

After an hour of activity, we’re once again weighed to determine how our body mass changed.

2:15: In the Lab

Back at main facility, GSSI principal scientist Melissa Anderson leads a tour of the lab area on the ground floor, past the Fuel Bar.

She begins by telling GSSI’s backstory: The branch opened in the fall of 2011, 26 years after the headquarters opened in Barrington, Illinois. IMG provided an ideal setting, with more than 1,100 athletes living on campus during the school year, ranging from 13-year-olds to adults – from beginners to pros.

We walk through a hallway that features locker rooms, consult rooms and labs. There’s…

3 PM: The Results Are In…

Back upstairs, we sit around a table lined with Gatorade products, including thirst quenchers, protein bars and shakes and energy chews, as Dalrymple goes over our test results.

Each of us receives a four-page packet that features the data captured – hydration levels, sweat composition, sweat rate, total sweat losses and rate of sodium loss – and recommendations based on that data.

The information represents just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the resources that will be available to players and teams around the NBA G League beginning this season.