J.J. Watt knew he’d be in for a temperature transition when he moved from his native Wisconsin to play for the Houston Texans, but he never guessed how extreme it would be.
Between June and August of 2011, prior to the defensive end’s rookie season, Texas recorded the hottest summer temperatures the U.S. had ever seen. Blistering daytime highs surpassed Oklahoma Dust Bowl levels set 77 years ago.
Watts says, “When I’d turn on my phone in the morning to get the weather update and see 101, 102, 103, I’d just look at it and think, ‘Is this a joke?’ There’s nothing you can do to prepare yourself for this heat.”
Geoff Kaplan, head athletic trainer for the Texans, says the punishing heat causes players to lose between five and ten pounds of sweat per practice, even with his staff pushing fluids on them throughout the sessions. (Kaplan explains in more depth in Everything to Prove: Episode 27, Part 2.)
“A ten-pound weight loss is not a ten-pound tissue loss, it’s ten pounds of fluid,” says Texans dietitian Roberta Anding. “Do the math. You left out on that field 160 ounces of sweat.”
Kaplan says his number one priority it making sure his athletes stay hydrated. His training staffers know that sweat is more than just water. It contains important electrolytes like potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and sodium.
“Athletes who sweat a lot often see white residue on their clothes or skin from the sodium that’s being lost in their sweat,” says Dr. Kim White, senior scientist at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute. “That sodium is very important. It helps you retain fluid and hold onto it in your blood.”
Lose too much sodium, and you risk cramping and dehydration.(See Why Your Body Needs Sodium During a Workout.) Watt knew he couldn’t afford to suffer those setbacks, so he turned to Gatorade to help him beat the heat. He says, “Gatorade taught me everything I needed to know to take better care of myself. I use Gatorade Perform every day at practice. I drink so much of it just to make sure I’m fueled.”
His dedication paid off big-time. During his rookie year, Watt helped the Texans win their first-ever playoff game, knocking off the Bengals 31-10. He made a key interception and returned it for his first career NFL touchdown, giving Houston a lead it never relinquished.
The Houston heat continued in 2012, and so did Watt’s dominating performance. He played even better, racking up 16.5 sacks and 15 tipped passes—the first player ever to reach those totals in a season.
Along the way, Watt started using Gatorade chews before games and at halftime. It’s hard to argue with the Pro Bowler’s results.