The Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) on the campus of IMG Sports Academies in Bradenton, Fla., is a place of discovery and innovation. Athletes sit in egg-shaped machines, submerged in spacesuit-like helmets, and hooked up to monitors as scientists measure their bodies’ abilities to perform. GSSI has worked with the most elite athletes out there: from the NFL to the NBA, the MLB to Ironman, and recently the top two women’s beach volleyball players in the country—and possibly the world—Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh.
GSSI tests athletes to further what is known about sports nutrition and exercise science and use this information to improve overall athletic performance. At the institute, they calculate each subject’s body composition (or ratio of lean muscle to fat), resting metabolic rate (or the number of calories one burns merely performing vital bodily functions), and a variety of other tests measuring reaction time, muscle strength and control, and cardiovascular endurance.
One of the tests that is most relevant to volleyball performance is the Wingate test. Performed on a stationary bicycle, the Wingate test measures short-term power, also called anaerobic power, or force created without the use of oxygen. In a sport where short, explosive bursts are necessary to block, attack, or lunge for a dig, the need for short-term power is paramount. Misty and Kerri both jumped on the bike to perform this test, pedaling all out for 30 seconds while the machinery measured the number of rotations of the wheel per each five seconds that passed.
Another essential test for volleyball players is the cognitive function test, or the Dynavision Sports D2. The subject stands in front of a huge black wall with little lights all over. As the lights turn on, the subject has to touch them to turn them off as quickly as possible, all the while reading out loud numbers that appear in the middle of the board. A fast reaction time is very important to success on the court. Although learning to read the other team and predicting what they are going to do is helpful, you don’t always read them correctly, and you must be able to react to the event after the fact to keep the ball off the sand.
Athletes need a variety of sports nutrition solutions to be fully fueled and get the most out of their bodies. To better meet these needs Gatorade created its G Series of products—supported by the latest sports science and developed in collaboration with Misty, Kerri, and other top athletes—to provide fuel, fluid, and nutrients for the rest of us to take advantage of before, during and after activity.
Originally published in August 2012