Some players find it impossible to get through 90 minutes of World Cup soccer without having a little on-field snack, but what about those who are fasting from sun-up til sundown? Soccer's biggest tourney intersects with Ramadan for the first time since 1986, and Vox takes a look at the realities faced by dozens of Muslim players who can't eat—or perhaps more importantly, hydrate—during daylight hours. Here's what's at work in playing hungry:
- How do they cope? Many players opt to eat and drink as much as they can the night before; nevertheless, notes Vox, "humans aren't camels: drinking a ton of water at 6am doesn't mean you'll be fully hydrated at 4pm."
- Speaking of 4pm ... that's when Germany and Algeria—both of which have Muslim players—started play today. And because it's winter in Brazil, sunset is at 5:34pm, meaning that fasting players can hydrate to their hearts' content pretty much after the game.
- The physical toll: Studies have shown that fasting players have greater muscle fatigue and less agility, dribbling, endurance, power, and speed.
- But the human body is an amazing thing: As fasting players continue their training regimen, their bodies adjust, and they regain all those losses. "The first five days are difficult," says one player. "After that, the body just starts to adapt."
- The takeaway? While fasting isn't exactly an advantage, players who eat and drink enough when allowed should be able to compensate for the daylight hours when they can't.