Welcome to the Hockey Nutrition guide. This is the complete guide to eating properly as a hockey player for maximum performance on the ice.
You will learn how to eat properly on game day and during the off-season to maximize your performance, along with tips for hydration, fat loss, weight gain + more. Whether you are a hockey player, parent or coach you will find this Hockey Nutrition Guide useful.
Because this guide is extremely in-depth we’ve created a Table of Contents below so you can bookmark this page and come back to resume your reading. Enjoy!
Table of Contents
- Hierarchy of Hockey Nutrition
- Protein for Hockey Players
- Carbohydrates for Hockey Players
- Fats for Hockey Players
- Optimizing Hydration for Hockey
- Why Hockey Players Need to Care About Nutrient Timing
- Hockey Game Day + Training Nutrition
- How Hockey Players Should Drop Body Fat
- How Hockey Players Should Gain Lean Muscle Mass
- Evidence-based Sports Performance and Recovery Supplements
Sport and exercise nutrition is a relatively new discipline that is rapidly gaining importance and recognition. It was only a handful of years ago (probably less than that actually) where sport nutrition was a topic that was only covered in exercise physiology textbooks, and in most of these textbooks it only received a single chapter.
But in more recent years, sports and exercise nutrition as a whole has gained massive traction and has developed into its own mature discipline with its own scientific journals and textbooks. Thank god, the old “one-chapter strategy” only scratched the surface of what should have been discussed – and if that chapter was wrong, it sent a very misguiding message to all who were educating themselves under that provider (which unfortunately happened often).
The role of sports nutrition has become increasingly more important because the research is clearly demonstrating its role in adaptations from exercise, recovery, fueling sport-specific activity, regulating body composition, improving health and career longevity, as well as taking athletes from sub-par performance to an improved performance measure just through nutrition alone – no training intervention required.
It’s only common sense to realize that nutrition impacts nearly every process in the body involved in energy production and recovery from exercise. You can’t just create energy out of nowhere for sport-specific physical expenditure – and you also can’t just create energy out of thin air to replace the energy you just utilized during a workout or hockey game.
Biology doesn’t work like that. There are specific supply and demand chains that you need to meet if you want to optimize both performance and recovery.
To understand and apply the principles of hockey nutrition properly, some basic understanding of nutrition is necessary, as is some knowledge of the biochemical and physiological processes that occur in cells and tissues and the way in which those processes are integrated throughout the body.
For that reason – I won’t be providing you a “meal plan” to follow and then washing my hands with this article.
No. It’s going to be much, much more than that.
We are going to be breaking down protein, carbohydrates, and fats to their finer details, discussing nutrient timing and why that’s important, investigating which supplements are worth your money (and which aren’t) – as well as opening with a “hierarchy of nutritional importance” so that you not only learn new information, but you are able to place this information in the right order of importance as you are learning it.
The material presented throughout this article follows a very logical format, so I highly recommend starting it from the beginning and working your way through to the end – although that’s not mandatory if you want to skip ahead. I just feel going that route will provide the most thorough and effective learning experience for you.
I have personally put many years of very passionate research into sports nutrition and you will be able to see that jump out from the screen as you read through the sections.
Nutrition is a true specialty of mine and is a category that has allowed me to quite literally travel the world because other coaches, teams, and professional organizations have invited me to come speak at events and symposiums to teach crowds of strength and conditioning professionals how I get the results that I do with my athletes.
Pay close attention to the information and strategies in this article because they are not only deeply rooted within the scientific literature, but they are strategies that have been proven on the battlefield at the highest possible levels of human performance multiple times over with my personal clientele.
I sincerely hope that this article inspires you to achieve your potential, be it academic or athletic. Most of all, I hope that you enjoy reading my work on this fascinating subject.
The Hierarchy of Hockey Nutrition
The HockeyTraining.com Nutritional Hierarchy Pyramid
If you will have a look at the above graphic you’re going to see a legitimate breakdown of how effective the separate components of performance nutrition are in regards to your body composition, health, and hockey performance.
The pyramid idea is in place to represent the most important aspects of nutrition from the bottom up.
The bottom represents the most important part of any structure; the foundation. While you move up towards the peak of these components, and properly integrate them into a well-rounded nutrition plan, you can effectively coach and create a well-rounded system.
Always keep in mind the foundation represents the solid base that must be built first before you advance up the pyramid. Too many athletes get this backward, and we’ll talk about this a little later on.
First, I want to make it very clear here before we continue, the importance scale can vary drastically depending on the hockey athlete’s current metabolic health and lifestyle.
For example, a severe vitamin deficiency or a completely stressed out lifestyle could alter the pyramids structure in a client case-specific scenario. But, in an otherwise healthy hockey athlete, (which is often times the case) this is how it breaks down.
The Daily Grind
You can’t beat the basics; the daily grind has to be there.
One of the biggest problems I see with hockey athletes and even sometimes their coaches is that they focus on the minutia to an obsessive degree while completely bypassing the basics, and therefore completely bypassing what is actually going to have a more meaningful impact towards their body composition and performance.
The most common example of this usually sounds a little something like:
Hockey Athlete: “Oh yeah for sure, I make sure to have 50g whey isolate immediately post-workout every time”
Me: “Ok that’s good, how much total protein are you taking in per day?”
Athlete: “I have no idea”
This is what I like to call majoring in the minors.
You’re focusing on the wrong things right now and your priorities are mixed up.
The type and timing of your nutrients is a far cry from what will actually create meaningful progress in comparison to your daily total intake, this is what the daily grind is all about (total include referring to your total intake of calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fats).
The differences are not even close. This is why in the hierarchy graphic displayed above, your daily grind of staying on track with your intake is the foundation at which all else is built off of.
You can think about this foundation like the foundation on a house. That concrete needs to be laid down before you can begin building up. As such, your total daily intake needs to have some consistency before adding additional strategies such as supplementation and nutrient timing.
If your daily intake isn’t being monitored, don’t worry about nutrient timing.
If your daily intake isn’t being monitored, don’t worry about meal frequency.
If your daily intake isn’t being monitored, don’t worry about looking into performance supplementation.
I think you’re seeing the pattern here.
What you do on a day-to-day basis with the total amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats you take in will benefit you infinitely more than any supplementation and other strategies.
Now, that’s not to say that supplementation, meal frequency, nutrient timing and other components don’t work. They do, and their combined effect can have a meaningful difference in your hockey performance and body composition.
But without that foundation, we’re just guessing. I don’t want to guess when it comes to getting results, and I’m going to be that you don’t either.
That’s not why I am writing this article for you, I want you to know what works and what doesn’t and be able to quantify those in a hierarchy so that you can better understand all information you come into contact with for the rest of your life.
You came here looking for ways to optimize you or your team’s body composition, health, recovery, and performance. Guessing isn’t exactly the best way to get there. Nobody can build a physique or create a hockey career out of guessing, it won’t happen.
When you have control over what you’re taking in, you not only lay the proper foundation that is required to move into more advanced performance nutrition strategies, but you have also now laid the foundation down to make better future decisions from.
Meaning, if you run into a plateau with either your fat loss, performance, or muscle gain– you will have a logical first step to take with your nutrition in order to get over that hump.
In another example of what control can bring to your life; you know what type of pre-workout meal(s) agrees with you best, gone will be the days of:
“Dude, I just couldn’t get into today”
“I can’t gain weight, I’ve tried everything”
“I couldn’t focus today”
“My body just doesn’t burn fat very fast”
“I felt bloated out there”
These situations will all resolve themselves along with many other factors that contribute to performance as you dial in your nutrition towards a known intake in combination with a regular meal frequency.
When these two boxes are checked, the troubleshooting aspect of getting better results is standing on a much more solid ground so you can confidently make your adjustments using solid, pertinent information.
This “daily grind” foundation that I keep bringing up is composed of two primary things that are at the forefront of nutritionally based hockey performance, health, recovery, and body composition enhancement. These two vitally important components of the grind are:
- Energy balance
- Total daily macronutrient intake.
#1: Energy Balance
Energy balance simply refers to the relationship between calories in vs. calories out (CICO). “Calories in” representing the foods and liquids taken in throughout the day, while “Calories out” is a measurement of energy burned through physical activity and several digestive and metabolic processes.
Your energy balance at the end of the day is your most powerful tool towards body weight management, recovery, and performance. Re-read that last sentence three more times, it is your #1 most powerful tool.
This relationship of energy is defined by the laws of thermodynamics and dictates whether body weight is lost, maintained, or gained. Essentially, the nutrients we consume will be transferred to the “calories out” side of the equation through three main pathways:
- Physical movement
- Tissue accumulation in the form of fat, bone or muscle
Beyond this, there are three potential energy states the human body can be in regarding the energy balance equation:
- Hypocaloric state: This is a term that is used to represent a situation where the calories in are less than the calories out so, therefore, you will lose weight. This state is typically characterized by somebody who needs to drop a little bit of body fat in order to improve performance or body composition. This must be done carefully as to not sacrifice performance or muscle loss.
- Maintenance: This is a term that is used to represent a situation where the calories in are equal to the calories out so, therefore, you will neither gain nor lose weight. This is normally the situation I see people in whom are currently at a plateau in either direction.Some people feel they are doing everything right and can’t seem to drop body fat, conversely, other people feel that they “eat all the time” and can’t seem to gain any body weight.I hate to be the bearer of bad news my friends but if your body weight has been stuck at a certain number for a month or two now the odds are quite high you’re hanging out at maintenance.
- Hypercaloric state: This is a term that is used to represent a situation where the calories in are greater than the calories out so, therefore, you will gain weight. This state is typically characterized by somebody who is looking to gain some body weight in order to improve their health or muscle mass. This must be done carefully though as to not sacrifice nutrient partitioning and gain unnecessary body fat.
Very important note coming up right here: I have been very careful as to say body weight for each and every example of CICO. This says nothing about the actual composition of that weight. How much lean muscle mass to body fat you have is a far greater equation than that of just CICO.
Calories are king for weight regulation. But that’s just it, weight regulation.
Calories aren’t tissue specific, meaning they only govern how much you weigh. They don’t care how much of you is fat and how much of you is muscle. This is the difference between weight gain, and muscle gain. Or weight loss, and fat loss. Two very different things.
Weight doesn’t account for composition. This is very important to remember going into the future topics.
Calories of course play into many other components as well such as energy substrate use during exercise and recovery ability (a hypocaloric athlete is not going to recover as effectively as a hypercaloric athlete regardless of what he/she eats or what supplements they’re on) but strictly discussing physique transformation ability you should be looking at it as a body weight indicator and predictor, but not necessarily a body composition indicator and predictor.
Components that contribute more towards the actual composition of that body weight are things such as genetics, amount (and sensitivity to) of certain hormones, sleep quality, stress levels, overall health, nutrient timing, resistance training, anaerobic/aerobic conditioning, and macronutrient distribution.
It’s worth noting here that some people like to point out that it’s impossible to know for sure EXACTLY what’s happening with CICO within the human body on a day to day basis, and they are in fact correct in their statement.
Where these people normally go wrong is that they use this statement in order to claim that the CICO model is a bad place to start. This is a completely nonsensical way of thinking as your CICO estimations are definitely going to be close enough in order to produce results, and that’s what we are after.
Generally, the BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate – the number of calories you burn per day to sustain life) equations have about a 10% +/- variance. But, having a foundation and number to start with is incredibly empowering.
When you have a known starting point, you also have a known “next move” to make within your coaching should progress halt. Whereas if you didn’t start with a known foundation, who knows what your next move could be because you don’t have any known intake to make proper decisions from.
Do you need to eat more overall?
Do you need to eat less overall?
Or is it just more protein?
Or…is it not even a nutrition problem at all?
If you don’t have a baseline – nobody knows. Again, you’re guessing.
It’s important to note here that many things can sneak under the radar of where the energy balance is perceived to be by the hockey athlete who thinks they’re being honest. Such as:
- Various condiments (ketchup, mayo, salad dressings, BBQ sauce, etc)
- Overdone cheat meals
- Sports drinks
- Multiple coffees per day with cream and sugar
- Cooking oils
For those of you out there who aren’t familiar with the impact that CICO has on body weight, you’re going to want to include these in your equation as well – everything counts.
These “undercover calories” go under the radar in many people’s mind. Not because they are bad or uninformed people, but just because it doesn’t register to them as a meal or something that should count.
But these things add up quickly, for example, two tablespoons of olive oil is already 270kcals – that’s a whole lot of calories packed into one tiny little area that’s very hard for us to recognize unless we become educated in CICO.
You have learned a lot about how human metabolism and CICO works this far, and this was not by mistake. It is #1 within our hierarchy for meal plan design.
Because it’s a true deal breaker for your hockey goals, no matter what they are.
For example, you can have 100% organic food for every meal, the world’s best supplements, the world’s best training program, zero stress, and top of the line gym equipment. But if your goal is weight loss and you’re eating at maintenance every day?
You aren’t going anywhere. I can promise you that – CICO has yet to be disproven within the research in over four decades of well-controlled research now, and although your Mom may think you’re a special unique little snowflake, I’m here to remind you that the laws of thermodynamics don’t care.
You’re always in a certain state of energy, and that energy state will determine what happens with your body. Period.
Anybody who says calories mean nothing has no idea what they are talking about. On the other hand, anybody who says calories are the only thing that matters also has no idea what they are talking about.
As always, extremes in the fitness industry never turn out to be correct and the truth is always found somewhere in the middle. Careful consideration is required, especially when you’re taking into account the importance of performance levels.
The word macronutrient simply represents the bigger things in our food such as protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Essentially, this is what our food is made up from and determines the total calorie content of a given food item.
Protein: 1g = 4 calories
Carbohydrates: 1g = 4 calories
Fat: 1g = 9 calories
Alcohol: 1g = 7 calories
1 cup of quinoa measured cooked = 4g fat, 39g carbs and 8g protein.
4g fat: 4 x 9 = 36 calories
39g carbs: 39 x 4 = 156 calories
8g protein: 8 x 4 = 32 calories
Total calorie content of 1 cup quinoa = 224kcals
Once we have our most important component (calories) set in place, we now need to figure out what is the most optimal way in which we can make up those calories.
Put another way, how many grams of protein, carbohydrates and fats are optimal to take in if we are looking to maximize health, body composition, and hockey performance within this caloric allotment?
As you know now, this is very dependent on context and needs to be tackled in a client-specific manner. The macronutrient breakdown can change from one person to another, which is why some diets work more effectively for some than they do for others.
Approaching this scenario, we always set calories first and then after that we determine the macronutrient breakdown.
Thinking about it from another angle, don’t allow “recommended macronutrient intakes” to dictate your calorie intake, instead, you have to make your macronutrients fit within your set calorie intake.
We’ll get into how to calculate your calories a little later, for now, just understand that that’s the angle we are always coming from.
At the end of the day, the energy balance equation and your daily total macronutrient content make up what we call The Daily Grind. The daily grind separates the people who get results, and the people who don’t. Period.
Look, nobody is going to make you do anything and nobody owes you anything. You have to follow through on what you want to do in life. People who get the best results do this because they set themselves up for success.
A person who truly understands The Daily Grind is going to:
- Make sure he eats a good breakfast when he wakes up and not fast food on the way to the gym, rink, or work
- Makes sure he brings both his solid food nutrition and his liquid nutrition to the gym and anywhere he is going that day
- Makes sure he gets a good night’s sleep each and every night
- Doesn’t say things like “I was out and about today so I just grabbed something quick” — “I’ll do that tomorrow” — “I go out for lunch at work everyday, but this is close enough right?”
- Embraces the daily grind to become the best he can possibly be
If you snooze your alarm and eat crap on the way to work, that’s your fault.
If you went out for beers the night before and then performed poorly at your job or in the gym, that’s your fault.
If you didn’t bring any food to where you were going and then said, “oh there was just nothing healthy to eat around here,” you better bet that’s your fault too.
People who get results in every area of their life have everything already ready to rock and roll well beforehand because they set themselves up for success. They don’t allow failure to even enter their mind.
If you’re 100% prepared and you do everything you can to ensure success on that day, you will win.
It will be no surprise to yourself or to anybody else who is looking in why you are performing the way you are or getting the results that you’re getting because you did everything you possibly could within your preparation.
You create a scenario where you aren’t doing only doing tasks that match your strengths, but instead you’re bringing up your strengths to match any task.
Don’t leave anything up to chance. If you fail to plan you are planning to fail.
The HockeyTraining.com Nutritional Hierarchy Pyramid
Let’s move on to our second tier of the HockeyTraining.com pyramid, nutrient timing.
Nutrient timing is a fun and fascinating topic that isn’t without some hot debate in the industry.
Essentially, nutrient timing refers to the timing protocols of any and all macro- (proteins, carbs, and fats) and micronutrients (water, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants/phytonutrients).
I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that nutrient timing is alive and well within the scientific literature and that there are many strategies in which you can utilize to optimize your approach.
This is why I have been such a large proponent of it in my past blogs on game day nutrition and why I was brought out to Colorado to speak at the NSCA Hockey Strength and Conditioning Clinic specifically on the topic of gameday nutrient timing for optimal performance.
One of the biggest problems I see during debates on nutrient timing is that nobody provides any context or considers the importance continuum.
Does nutrient timing matter for somebody who is 40% body fat and looking to lose some weight?
Absolutely not, even a modest approach to not eating poorly would generate meaningful results in this scenario.
On the flip side, will nutrient timing matter for a hockey athlete looking to be the best in the league, or to impress the coaches/scouts in camps this year?
You bet it will, nutrient timing will have a huge impact here.
In a completely inarguable example, will nutrient timing matter for a seriously motivated hockey athlete who regularly engages in twice-a-day training sessions?
Of course, if they didn’t consume high glycemic carbs during these times they would massively negatively compromise their body composition, immune function, and overall performance on and off the ice.
Here’s a list of where nutrient timing carries the least importance:
- Obese individuals seeking general health goals
- Brand new trainees seeking modest health goals
- Non-fasted training bouts lasting less than an hour
- Goals that don’t involve any extremes or short timelines
Here’s a list of where nutrient timing carries the most importance:
- High-level athlete nutrition
- Competitions involving more than one glycogen depleting event in one day
- Fasted training
- Competitions exceeding 2hrs in duration (most hockey games once you aren’t a youth athlete anymore)
- Goals that involve extreme ends of the spectrum
You see how easy that was?
Once you provide actual context to the situation, it’s very easy to demonstrate when and where nutrient timing carries the most importance, but it’s absolutely silly to say it’s completely unnecessary.
I would venture as far as to say that anybody who says nutrient timing is useless also hasn’t trained very many hockey athletes. I have seen it create massive differences time and time again.
If that wasn’t enough, the research is very solid behind it as well. So, I’m blown away when hockey athletes are referred to me and then I hear that their coaches make outrageous claims like pre/intra/post-workout and/or game nutrition doesn’t need to be calculated.
Nutrient timing plays a major and performance-positive role in:
#1: Meal frequency – This represents how many meals you eat per day and what impact in has on our physiology and psychology. Hockey athletes should ideally be consuming 4-6 meals per day throughout the day.
#2: Timing of macronutrients – When and where you place an emphasis on proteins, carbohydrates and fats throughout your training and non-training days. Proteins should ideally be constant everyday, whereas your training days should have a higher number of carbohydrates, and your non-training days contain a higher number of healthy fats.
#3: Pre/Intra/Post-workout nutrition – When and how you set up your food and supplementation to create the best performance and recovery possible. We’ll be discussing this in depth below.
#4: Supplementation – What supplements have timing dependant protocols and what supplements can be taken at any time of the day for the same effect. For example, Citrulline is an effective supplement for hockey players but it is best taken in the pre-workout area, whereas something like creatine (although many people take it pre-workout) can be taken at any point in the day and still have a positive effect.
#5: Recovery – How and where to place certain nutrients to prevent fatigue accumulation. This is very straightforward, it is a supply and demand chain. Hockey is a glycolytic sport, meaning, it primarily utilizes carbohydrates as its primary fuel source – therefore, the more intelligent we structure our diets, the greater impact we can have on performance and recovery. This is a timing equation you need to solve.
In the proper context, nutrient timing can be a real breakthrough for hockey athletes and utilizing the strategies we will discuss in future sections of this article are tools that I have proven on the battlefield at the highest levels of human performance with my clientele.
So, although it falls one step below in importance to the daily grind, it has an undeniable impact on many important parameters that will lead hockey athletes to faster results in their health, body composition, and performance goals.
The HockeyTraining.com Nutritional Hierarchy Pyramid
Now that we have reached the peak of the hockey nutrition hierarchy pyramid, we run into the supplementation category.
All too often I find hockey athletes flip the pyramid upside down and focus too much of their time, effort, money, and research into the different supplemental advantages they can utilize to improve performance and body composition while simultaneously neglecting the other two, much more effective components within the hierarchy of nutrition.
It is these people that can sometimes feel offended when told that the vast majority of supplementation currently in existence probably has no measurable effect on body composition or performance.
There just simply isn’t enough high-quality research volume and research consensus towards many of these ingredients.
Unfortunate, but true nonetheless.
I tell you this from the perspective of having my finger on the heartbeat of the research in this industry for many years now— but also as a guy who has wasted plenty of my own and my client’s money on the wrong supplements (oops).
Supplementation holds itself at the top of the pyramid being the least important of them all. Although it can have a meaningful positive effect on your health and performance, its overall effect is a detail in comparison to energy balance, macronutrient distribution, and timing strategies.
In reality, there are only a handful of supplements that are truly worth your time, money, and effort. The rest is mostly just crap science and excellent marketing.
It’s tough to make CICO sound cool, but it’s really easy to make the NITRIC OXIDE 5000 VOLUMIZER sounds awesome, even though CICO is so much more relevant to your success that it’s not even funny to joke about.
Detailed analysis of the supplements that actually are good have already been discussed in a handful of my blogs and will be continued to be discussed in a comprehensive section below exclusively dedicated to going over supplementation.
What I wanted to point out in this section is that although supplementation can provide some benefit towards your nutrition program, it is at best going to contribute to 5-10% of the overall effectiveness of the plan. The other 90-95% is coming from you remaining consistent with your energy balance, macronutrients, and nutrient timing strategies.
It should also be noted here that supplementation strategies can be highly individual.
Meaning, depending on your current metabolic state you may or may not benefit substantially more or substantially less on some supplemental strategies.
For example, bringing up a vitamin or mineral deficiency can be a night and day difference within an athlete’s performance and state of mind. But if you have no relevant deficiency and the nutrient you are supplementing with is already present in ample quantity from the foods you are eating, then you may feel nothing at all and will have no real need to supplement.
A supplement is called a supplement because it supplements your diet.
The diet is the key performance, health, and body composition enhancer here – and should be the primary focus of everybody looking to reach their potential.
I hope with this hockey nutrition hierarchy section that I was able to open your eyes to the truths behind what really works and how beneficial each component of performance nutrition is towards your goals, while also providing you a mental framework to gauge the efficacy of future material you read from myself and others.
Some strategies although beneficial, fall very short in comparison to the bigger components. This gives you an order of importance to focus on and should always be as follows (from most important to least):
- Total daily energy intake
- Total daily macronutrient intake
- Nutrient timing strategies
If you can follow these directions, you’re going to be a better coach and/or hockey athlete because of it. Before I close this section, I want to make an important note that this is a hierarchy of the “Outside-in” factors of nutrition, and not the “Inside-out” factors.
If you are totally stressed out, highly inflamed, and have gut issues; you’re in a different ballpark. These are calculations, and these calculations will act very differently in an unhealthy body.
What Are the main Takeaways?
- Nutrition is vital to realizing your true potential in hockey. Nutritional habits can make or break anybody, any day of the week
- Once you have your daily grind down (calories + macronutrients), then and only then is it ideal for you to move on to nutrient timing strategies. Once nutrient timing strategies are comfortably locked into your routine, then it is time to look into some supplementation. Don’t get this order twisted
- Looking at the pyramid, you have to work your way from the base up if you are serious about changing your body composition and performance out on the ice
- Calorie and macronutrient targeting is infinitely more important than nutrient timing, in the same vein, nutrient timing is infinitely more important than supplementation. Most people flip the pyramid upside down and look at supplementation without addressing their diet, this is a big mistake. This supplement-focused approach will not get you far and there is a high chance that the only weight you will lose will be coming from your wallet
- Nutrient timing is very effective, within the correct client context
- Supplementation is also effective, within the correct client context.
Protein for Hockey Players
One of the most popular topics in sports science nutrition is without a doubt, protein intake. Athletes from all walks of life understand the importance of protein in the diet, but in most cases, they don’t know exactly why protein is important and how exactly they should be consuming it on a day-to-day basis.
In most cases, this is how the conversation goes:
Hockey player: “Yes absolutely Coach Garner, I make sure to take in a scoop of protein after every single training session”
Me: “Ok that’s great, how many grams of protein are you having in the entire day?”
Hockey player: *blank stare*
The fact of the matter is that the most important information you will need to know is how much protein you have throughout the entire day is the most important component towards your protein intake, and when you have it is a detail in comparison to the importance of total intake.
Meaning, it’s a great thing that this athlete has a protein shake after training. Good on him. But, that doesn’t mean he’s good to go, far from it. Optimizing your protein intake comes down to four primary factors:
- How much you are having in total throughout the day
- When you are consuming that protein
- How much you are consuming at each sitting
- What kind of protein food choices you’re making
How Much Protein Should I Have in A Whole Day?
The short answer here is 0.8-1g per pound of bodyweight every day, whether it’s a training day or not.
The reason for the range in the recommendation is due to body fat percentage, overweight people do not need as much protein as lean individuals.
This intake is more than enough to suffice maximum muscle growth during a lean mass phase. It is also an appropriate amount to take during a cutting phase to ensure minimal loss of lean mass.
For example, if you are 200lbs and 30% body fat, you do not need as much protein as a 200lbs individual at 10% body fat due to the fact that he has a greater amount of lean tissue to support than you do.
For simplicity’s sake, if you’re over 20% body fat it’s best to stay in the 0.8-0.9g per pound of body weight zone. But if you’re less than that, you can move up to 1g per pound of body weight.
We have seen in the literature an untold amount of times now that the total amount of protein is the most important factor by a long shot, so if you’re only going to do one thing in this entire article, make it this one.
When Should I Have My Protein?
Once you have nailed down your total daily protein intake number, it is best to split that number up into 4-6 feedings per day in equal amounts. For example:
- 200 lbs lean athlete
- Since he’s lean, we’ll put him at 1g of protein per pound of body weight per day
- 200g total protein per day
- Separating this into five equal parts, our meals should look like:
- Meal 1: 40g
- Meal 2: 40g
- Meal 3: 40g
- Meal 4: 40g
- Meal 5: 40g
When it comes to protein timing, an even distribution throughout the day is the most important strategy you could ever use. We do this to protect ourselves from what is known as the Fractional Breakdown Rate (FBR), and we also do this to support what is known as the Fractional Synthetic Rate (FSR).
You see, the body is constantly breaking itself down and rebuilding itself again. Meaning, your muscles are breaking down and repairing themselves every single day, whether you train or not. This is known as Protein Turnover.
The FBR measures the rate at which you are losing body protein (catabolism), whereas the FSR measures the rate at which you are adding protein to the body (anabolism).
Why am I telling you this?
Because muscle growth doesn’t occur solely within the few hours post-workout. Muscle growth is a 24 hour a day process and depending on the volume and intensity of your last workout, you could be feeding your muscle tissue with amino acids for the purpose of growth for up to 4 days.
And since the actual process of training is catabolic (you have to break tissue down to send the signals for it to build back up stronger), you now have both the FBR and FSR running at the same time, 24hrs a day. So if we go an extended period of time without a meal, the FBR will exceed the FSR and you will lose lean body mass.
This is also why post-workout only protein doesn’t mean anything to me. If muscle building only occurred post-workout, then concentrating only on the post-workout period would be a smart thing to do. But the research tells us FBR and FSR rates are active for up to 4 days after a workout, meaning you need protein throughout the entire day, not just post-workout.
The muscle growth process operates 24 hours a day and is amino acid driven so the best strategy you can adopt is to supply your body with amino acids for as much of the day as you possibly can to support the FSR and fight the FBR.
In the end, this strategy yields much greater overall gains and much less overall losses.
It’s not something you will notice immediately with your results, but, if you and your friend were to start training intensely together and one year passes while he doesn’t care about this strategy and you made sure you got equal amounts in throughout the day everyday…
You would be the man who made much better gains in the long run.
How Much Protein Should I Have at Each Sitting?
You might think this wouldn’t matter, but it does. There is such a thing known as Protein Synthesis. Synthesis simply means growth, so in laymen’s terms, adding protein to the body (muscle growth).
To do this though, we need to reach the Leucine Threshold at each meal. Without this, we won’t be creating the stimulus for protein synthesis.
Leucine is an amino acid found in protein that is very well known as the king muscle-building amino acid.
It gets this reputation through research demonstrating that leucine even in isolation (not including any other amino acids from protein) stimulates protein synthesis, whereas other amino acids either don’t do this at all or do it much less effectively.
Leucine does this through stimulation of a pathway known as mTOR, which basically sets off an intracellular signaling cascade to tell the body “let’s grow some muscle”.
What we know from research though is that there is something that is known as the “leucine threshold”, where in order to stimulate mTOR and protein synthesis you need to have a certain amount of leucine content within the meal and/or supplement that you’re taking.
Luckily for us, if you follow any of the recommendations I gave above on protein intake and consume an animal protein source at each meal, you will be able to cross this threshold relatively easily.
In fact, adding leucine supplementation or BCAA supplementation to already protein-rich meals has been shown useless both in the short-term and long-term research on a variety of levels including strength, muscle building, and fat loss. More is not better here.
As a minimum, the world leader on protein research Stu Phillips recommends you should be seeking 0.3g/kg of body weight of protein per meal, and that this meal contains a complete amino acid profile (just eat an animal source to keep things simple).
As an example, the average 200lbs male would successfully be achieving leucine threshold content and stimulating protein synthesis with 27g of high-quality protein per meal.
Having more than this is not a bad thing whatsoever, in fact, it can be positive because what is not used to stimulate the FSR is still used to fight the FBR.
The only time in which I would perhaps recommend additional amino acid supplementation on top of a meal is if the meal contains poor, plant protein sources.
To throw a target figure out for you that would be 100% safe and effective to elevate muscle protein synthesis at each sitting, you’re ideally looking for 3g leucine per meal.
Here’s an easy on the eyes table I made for you to gauge the leucine content of popular protein sources so you can have a good idea on what 3g of leucine per meal looks like:
|LEUCINE CONTENT OF DIFFERENT DIETARY PROTEIN SOURCES|
|SOURCE||LEUCINE %||AMOUNT OF PROTEIN NEEDED TO REACH 3g OF LEUCINE||AMOUNT OF FOOD REQUIRED|
|Egg||8.6||35g||4.5 large eggs|
It should also be noted that the older populations (beginning at the age of 40+) likely require a greater amount of protein per meal in order to stimulate protein synthesis as effective as their younger counterparts.
This is due to what is known as Anabolic Resistance and is a very complicated topic that goes out of the scope of this section. But, in application, it is very simple. The resultant equation for the older population would need to reach 0.4g/kg of body weight, everything else is still the exact same.
What Kind of Protein Should I Be Having?
As far as sources go, people typically divide them into two different categories:
- Whole foods
Whole foods of course representing whole food sources such as fish, chicken, steak and cottage cheese. Whereas supplement sources representing whey, casein, plant powders, and soy protein.
To complicate things, some proteins are better used by the body than others.
For example, animal proteins typically have a 90-95% efficiency whereas vegetable protein sources fall slightly below that at 80-85% efficiency. Additionally, animal protein sources have a far superior amino acid profile than plant protein sources for muscle growth, fat loss, and recovery.
To determine the quality of proteins, many different ratings and scales have been created in the past, such as Biological Value, Chemical Score, Net Protein Utilization, and the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score.
None of these are very important for you to know about, leave those for guys like me who love to nerd out on this stuff. I’ll tell you the easy application once I get out of my cave, I mean office.
What I can tell you though is that it can be made simple. Your best choices are meat, dairy products, and eggs. I want to make note that when I say meat, I don’t just mean red meat. I am referring to all chicken, fish, red meat, wild game, pork, buffalo, etc. In second place are plant sources such as legumes, nuts, and high protein vegetables like peas, broccoli, and spinach.
Although it’s wise to get a premium source of protein at each meal, research has demonstrated that it really doesn’t matter much so long as you’re getting an adequate intake in per day.
Meaning, if you’re getting in 1g per pound of body weight of protein per day, the sources in where you get that protein from becoming less and less important the more and more of it you eat.
There is a very low probability that you will be lacking any amino acids at that kind of intake, that is unless your diet is really messed up.
Where protein quality sources matter the most is in diets where protein is inadequate, such as in suffering and/or starving countries. Giving them a high-quality protein source does fantastic things for their health, but for the 200lbs athlete already eating 200g of protein per day, not so much of a big deal.
Supplements, on the other hand, have their own unique benefits.
One of the big advantages that a protein powder shake offers is convenience. So, while it’s always better to get your protein from healthy food, consuming protein powder during and post workout is perfectly fine and even preferred due to its quick absorption rate.
Also, making your last meal of the day a casein protein powder shake is also perfectly fine.
Casein protein powder absorbs slower into your bloodstream than whey protein powder. Casein can take as long as seven hours for complete absorption. If you take it before bedtime, it gives you a steady flow of amino acids during your sleep to continue to fight the FBR and feeding the FSR.
Another time to use casein protein powder is when you know you are not going to be eating again for at least five hours.
A general rule to follow for powder protein is that if you’re going to use protein powder to replace a regular meal (excluding your intra-workout and post-workout whey protein shake as these should be whey isolate only) your best option is a 50/50 split between whey and casein protein powder.
Intra/Post workout: Whey isolate
Meal replacement: 50/50 split between whey and casein
Before bed or if you know you’re not going to eat for 5hrs: Casein only
That’s Enough Protein for Now
I hope this section was able to clear up some myths for you and provide plenty of actionable items that you can use today to start optimizing your protein intake and optimizing your hockey performance.
Eat right and train hard.
Carbohydrates for Hockey Players
Now on to our second macronutrient that makes up the diet of hockey players, everybody’s favorite, carbohydrates!
For those of us who train very hard and compete in hockey on a regular basis, we know that nutrition is vitally important to optimizing results through enhancing performance and supporting recovery needs.
Most of us on the basic level know that if we eat fewer calories we will burn fat, if we eat more calories we will gain weight, and if we consume enough protein we can support post-exercise recovery quite well.
And you know what?
That’s totally on point.
But, what about carbohydrates?
Some people think they’re terrible for you, whereas others go off the rails and seem to “carb load” every single night.
Let me not serve you any BS within this section and cut right to the science:
Carbohydrates are a huge and irreplaceable macronutrient for hockey players. This includes those who want to get leaner, stronger, bigger, or improve their speed/conditioning – carbs help everywhere for hockey athletes.
Since this is a hockey article, I’m going to spare you of all the nitty gritty textbook details behind carbohydrates, but it is important to go over a few things.
Carbohydrates are created almost exclusively through plant matter and they compose of 4 calories per gram of intake.
When any kind of carbohydrate is eaten by somebody, it undergoes an extensive process of digestion, assimilation, and conversion into glucose (if not ingested as glucose already).
All eaten carbs pass through the liver and are mostly either converted to glucose and sent out into the blood or stored as glycogen (a bunch of glucose molecules linked together and stored for when they are needed) right there in the liver.
Sometimes, carbs are converted into fat or other molecules, but in hard-training this is relatively rare, especially if calories are not massively (and too far) over maintenance levels.
This is why you see high-level athletes “get away” with eating high carbohydrate foods often – it’s some genetic anomaly, it’s because they expend tremendous amounts of energy and their bodies are asking them to replenish that energy.
Blood Glucose vs. Muscle/Liver Glycogen
The glucose that doesn’t stay in the liver to be stored as liver glycogen is sent out into the bloodstream to perform a variety of tasks, it will one of five things:
The five pathways carbohydrates follow post-digestion are:
- Krebs cycle
Whenever you see the word “genesis” just think “the formation of” and then you’re right there in terms of understanding the word. You will see this a lot in biochemistry and the big words can seem intimidating, but they are not, for example:
Glycogenesis: The formation of glycogen
Lipogenesis: The formation of fat
Neurogenesis: The formation of nervous tissue
Glycogenesis is the transformation of glucose into glycogen. Glycogen is the stored form of carbohydrate within the body, averaging 1.1lbs of total storage throughout the muscles, liver and kidneys.
For glucose to be stored as glycogen, it must enter the desired cell through specific carrier proteins to then be converted into glucose-6-phosphate which is a broken-down version of glucose that won’t leave the cell.
This process costs the body 1 ATP (unit of energy). Beyond this, glucose-6-phosphate is put through a series of reactions and acts with the enzyme glycogen synthase in order to be added to the current storage of glycogen.
During training or any other period of high energy need, the body will send signals to break up the glycogen (which is several glucose units forming long glycogen molecules) into usable forms of glucose for energy use. This process is called glycogenolysis.
As a memory trick, just like the above mentioned “genesis” meaning to form something, “lysis” refers to something being broken down. For example:
Glycogenolysis: The breakdown of glycogen into glucose
Lipolysis: The breakdown of triglycerides into fatty acids
Proteolysis: The breakdown of protein
In order for glycogenolysis to take place and glycogen to release glucose, the enzyme glycogen phosphorylase has to be activated. Through certain chemical pathways this enzyme breaks the bonds holding the glucose unit on to the glycogen molecule.
From here, this glucose can go three ways:
- Directly into glycolysis for skeletal muscle energy metabolism (which will be discussed next)
- Used to generate liver ATP
- Released into the bloodstream to become free glucose
It’s important to point out that through these processes, the liver can either utilize ATP for itself or release glucose into the bloodstream to feed other tissues lower on glucose, such as working muscle groups during a training session.
The free glucose being released from the liver can also feed tissues such as the brain since the brain can’t store its own glucose, it relies primarily on recent meals and liver glycogen.
Now on the flip side here, skeletal muscle glycogen does not have the ability to share, it’s greedy. Once glycogen is stored within the muscle it must be utilized for energy within the muscle.
When a person is very well fed, typically at a state of maintenance or hypercalorism, glucose storage is high due to circulating insulin levels and energy availability. Therefore, glycogenesis predominates.
When you’re well fed, the body is in storage and growth mode, this means very little glycogenolysis will occur.
Conversely, when you’re dieting or in any state of hypocalorism, glycogenesis is largely decreased as the body is in need of energy and uses what it gets.
Therefore, glycogenolysis runs high in these scenarios. This increase in glycogenolysis is largely stimulated by glucocorticoids and glucagon, these hormones are being signaled due to low blood glucose, stress and continued energy demand.
Glycolysis is essentially the process in which either blood glucose or stored glycogen is converted into usable energy by the body.
If you will recall, when glucose enters the cell it is converted into glucose-6-phosphate, additionally, when glycogen is broken apart to form glucose it comes back out at glucose-6-phosphate as well.
Once this occurs, a series of chemical steps occur which change the shape of this molecule and transform it into two molecules of pyruvate.
Two things happen next, first off you create usable energy for the body to perform a given physical task, but this also comes at the price of creating fatigue producing by-products as well.
These fatigue producing by-products (such as lactate and hydrogen ions) can be recycled and cleared from the cell before they become an issue, but this entirely depends on how high the energy demand is.
If energy demand is low (such as jogging), they will be recycled and will not shut down muscle contraction.
But if energy demand is high (such as sprinting) and glycolysis is being run quickly, the hydrogens will be bound right to the pyruvate and lactic acid will be formed under the help of an enzyme called lactate dehydrogenase.
Two different glycolysis pathways for two different energy demands.
#4: Krebs Cycle
The Krebs cycle is an energy producing monster that holds no restrictions. Proteins, carbohydrates, and fats are all welcome and will all be eventually converted into ATP.
All of these macronutrients can be converted to the entry molecule known as Acetyl-CoA where it all kicks off (seen in the graphic below).
This acetyl-CoA is transferred into the mitochondria and eventually (through a seemingly endless number of steps and enzyme reactions) converted into ATP.
Remember back in glycolysis when the end product was pyruvate before ATP?
Well, some of this pyruvate can also get converted into acetyl-CoA, but again this depends on the energy demand. If energy demand is super high (intense activity), not much will get converted into acetyl-CoA because this process takes much longer to produce ATP.
But if the energy demand is lower (low to moderate intensity), a large majority of that pyruvate will get converted into acetyl-CoA for Krebs cycle metabolism.
Here you can see a glimpse of the fascinating processes that occur within our body, and exactly why I saved you from going through each and every detail for all the steps – believe it or not, what I’m going through is the shortened version!
A point I want to make here before moving on to the last pathway of carbohydrate absorption and metabolism is just how important micronutrient availability is as well.
I have said many times in my career that the best nutrition possible is far more than just calories and macronutrients. The nutrients required for each of these intermittent steps illustrates my point perfectly.
Just to convert pyruvate into acetyl-CoA, vitamin’s B1, B2, B3 and B5 are required.
The same thing for protein. Protein is converted into keto acids and then into pyruvate which also requires B1, B2, B3 and B5.
See on the right-hand side there in the above graphic converting isocitrate into a-ketoglutarate?
That’s going to need B3, magnesium, and manganese.
These examples can go on forever and don’t only exist within the Krebs cycle.
In an anaerobic energy demand example, magnesium alone is required for 6 different steps for burning glucose in the absence of oxygen (think sprinting as fast as you can without breathing).
Nutrition is so much more than just calories and macronutrients because if deficiencies exist you are directly negatively affecting energy metabolism.
If optimizing your performance, physique, and health is something you want to accomplish for yourself or your clientele these deficiencies and/or sub-optimal statuses cannot exist and must be dealt with immediately through proper supplementation and healthy eating habits.
Gluconeogenesis represents the process in which glucose is created from non-carbohydrate sources such as pyruvate, lactate, most amino acids, and glycerol. The body utilizes these many ways of creating glucose because that’s our brains preferred and primary fuel source.
You recently learned through glycolysis that the liver can break down its glycogen into glucose for brain energy demand, but in times where liver glycogen is low, the body utilizes these other pathways to get the job done.
Although, it is not only utilized for brain energy. Gluconeogenesis can also serve as a way in which to fuel exercise as well during prolonged bouts by breaking down your actual muscle tissue in order to fuel the energy demand.
Therefore, gluconeogenesis will most often occur during high energy demand or periods of fasting to keep the brain fueled.
When it’s time for gluconeogenesis to occur, the body does this in a manner that is almost identical to the opposite of glycolysis. In almost all cases for normal people with good diets, the liver alone can take care of the body’s gluconeogenesis needs.
Something important to note within gluconeogenesis is the conversion of the often evil touted lactate into glucose. Under normal exercising conditions, blood lactate elevates alongside fatigue levels and this lactate is then put through a pathway which is known as the Cori Cycle where it is transported to the liver, converted back into glucose and returned to the muscle for further energy use.
Additionally, elevated blood lactate levels can also be used to synthesize glycogen post-workout. Not so bad after all!
Hockey Specific Advantages for Eating Carbohydrates
If you have an adequate amount of carbohydrates coming in the diet on a daily basis, neither blood glucose nor muscle glycogen are deficient – which gives you several distinct advantages in both performance and recovery from your workouts and games.
Here are some of the major benefits you can expect that have been researched thoroughly within the science of sports nutrition:
- Higher training intensity: Fully restored glycogen stores and high blood glucose levels allow both your muscular and nervous systems to perform at their peaks. If you want to lift heavier weights for your sets of 5, run faster sprints in your speed training, and do more jumps for your agility work, getting in enough carbs helps.
- Quicker recovery between sets: High glycogen and blood glucose levels will allow you to recover more completely between sets if you don’t change your rest intervals, or they can allow you to shorten your rest periods without lowering performance compared to the effects of a low carb diet.
- Quicker recovery between workouts: Not only do carbohydrates allow you to recover faster between sets, they allow you to recover faster between workouts and games (which is why they are so important around tournaments and playoff time).
- Less training intensity decreases with long duration bouts of physical activity: The longer you work out, the lower your muscle glycogen drops, which lowers your training intensity. In addition, your blood glucose drops too, which lowers your intensity further still as the nervous system becomes less effective at stimulating your muscles to move you. By consuming adequate carbohydrates throughout the day as well as pre- and intra-workout, you can offset this decrease by keeping your fuel supply chain full. Allow you to train harder, longer.
How Many Carbohydrates Should I Have Per Day?
Carbohydrates have a very large range and that is because they are physical activity dependent.
Carbohydrates can be set anywhere from 0 – 4g per pound of body weight per day. The range is so large because everybody’s activity levels are different from one another, and carbs are simply a source for fuel and recovery needs. So, the more you move, the more you need.
They are not essential for survival like proteins and fats are, they are primarily just used as a fuel source. Which is extremely important to athletes, but just not important for the inactive folks. Which is why some people “get fat” on carbs, whereas highly active athletes never do.
General recommendations are around 0.5-1g per pound of body weight on non-training days and 2g per pound of bodyweight on average training days. 2g+ per pound of body weight per day for extreme training days or multiple workout sessions (Example: Weight training + A conditioning session).
If you can stay close to these recommendations when starting, you will be pretty close and can adjust accordingly from there.
That’s Enough Carbohydrates for Now
I know some of you may have wanted to discuss carbohydrate supplements and carbohydrate timing strategies, but these topics are highly complex which is why I have given them their own entire section within this article.
You can read all about them below!
Fats for Hockey Players
Most people think of fat in the diet as a bad thing.
They think that they are going to get fat if they eat it. Or, the images that pop to mind are bacon, butter, lard, and perhaps how the governments recommendations have been making them feel as though fat is going to give them an immediate heart attack once they finish their cheeseburger.
Of course, none of this stuff is true.
Extreme fat intakes aren’t recommended, and neither is going low fat. When you dig into the scientific literature, you’ll find the truth almost always lies in the middle.
To be clear, the topic of fat intake and its effect on our metabolism and physiology is an absolutely massive topic. So, to save you from sitting here for the next two weeks reading things you will never need to know, I’m going to keep it really simple and discuss how fat intake can impact the body composition of hockey athletes.
And to keep it even more simple, we are only going to discuss the major fat types within the diet, and not the never-ending list of other chemicals which are also technically defined as lipids.
The major fat sources we are going to cover in respect to body composition are saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats.
Right off the bat, it’s important to point out that dietary fat intake has been demonstrated repeatedly to have a linear correlation with most anabolic hormones in the body. Getting an adequate amount of fat can increase testosterone production, and thus play an integral role towards performance, recovery, and training adaptations for hockey athletes can all be benefited by these heightened levels of testosterone (yes, I’m looking at you too females).
Although, dietary fat is not just anabolic (tissue building) through increasing levels of certain anabolic hormones, nor is it only anabolic by simply providing plenty of calories. What we see in the literature is that it is a little more complex than this and that certain components of fat (known as fatty acids) have unique anabolic properties that can impact both muscle gaining and fat loss.
Let’s break each fat down and have a look at what we can extrapolate towards the hockey athlete who is looking to become the best version of him/herself.
Monounsaturated fats (MUF)
Some research has been conducted into the area of anabolism from MUF, but not as much as we would like to see. What we can draw upon that is the results of Noakes’s research comparing three different weight loss diets.
What was found here was that the high unsaturated fat diet had an outcome that created significantly more lean muscle mass retention than the other 2 diets, which was super surprising since another diet group in this study was eating considerably more protein.
Although this is not causation, it definitely creates a strong correlation between the potential for MUF to have anabolic effects on our body that we don’t completely understand just yet.
Saturated fat (SF)
When it comes to saturated fat, there is a considerable amount of data suggesting that it is absolutely anabolic in the long term due to its clear ability to raise anabolic hormones in the body (more so than other types of fats).
This is likely the reason why higher saturated fat containing proteins became known as “muscle builders” by the bodybuilding community.
Red meat, eggs, milk, and cottage cheese all have a respectable amount of saturated fat in them in addition to their excellent amino acid score, giving it a 1-2 punch towards muscle growth and anabolic hormone production.
Backing this up, we’ve seen whole milk outperform skim milk as a post-workout anabolic potentiator in the past, the results of this study were particular giving a hat-tip to saturated fat since the skim milk group consumed more protein post-workout, and yet still produced a smaller anabolic response when compared to whole milk.
Polyunsaturated fat (PUF)
Polyunsaturated fats (not including Omega-3’s, which I’ll revisit below) seem to have a very clear anabolic role within our physiology. Something known as the LIPOGAIN project found this to be intriguing when they overfed 750 different test subjects on different eating protocols and found that the PUF group gained more than twice as much muscle and less fat than the other group.
Beyond this, Norris’s research group found when comparing CLA and Omega-6 that the CLA group lost a significant amount of fat with no change in lean muscle mass, but, the Omega-6 group gained a significant amount of lean muscle mass with no change in body fat.
This supports PUF role in anabolism, beyond the large amount of animal literature we have on this topic (not as impactful since it’s animal research, but still adds to the body of evidence we have).
Omega-3 is a real no-brainer here for hockey players, it almost sounds like a multi-level marketing pitch when I discuss what positive effects they can have on the body.
Omega-3’s have been shown to reduce inflammation markers, reduce blood pressure, improve the LDL to HDL ratios in the blood, reduce total cholesterol, reduce triglycerides, reduce cortisol, increase nutrient partitioning, increase testosterone, increases post-prandial anabolism, reduce depression, improve gut bacteria status by lowering LPS, improve body composition, reduce liver fat, among many other things.
A crazy amount of research demonstrates that optimizing your Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio can have a major impact on your body composition. The ratio can be no higher than 4:1 (meaning 4x as much omega-6 than omega-3 in your diet) but seems to be better for physiology if you can get this closer to 1:1.
To point something out particularly important for hockey players, Tsuchiya showed with his data in 2016 that Omega-3’s can increase strength and muscle, but also improve the range of motion a joint can move through. Powerful stuff, and very hockey specific if you ask me.
Recap and Total Daily Intake of Fats for Hockey
To wrap this up, it is very important that hockey players consume healthy fats within their diet every day, and you can clearly see from the literature above that each fat provides its own unique impact on our body, which is why I lean heavily on the idea that we shouldn’t just focus on one (like some gurus who don’t understand human metabolism try to do).
We need all of them, the body is always after balance—not domination.
The ratios from one another is very important. And it is still very important to include carbohydrates every day, they are the prime fuel source for both the muscular system and nervous system for hockey players during training and game time.
For fats, you should be looking to get an even distribution within your diet:
And your fats should be targeting a caloric intake of 15-25% of total calories on training days, and 25-40% of total calories on non-training days.
Sticking to these recommendations will optimize your fat intake to optimize your body composition and performance. Over time, these recommendations will make their way out onto the ice and help you dominate your opponents.
Optimizing Hydration for Hockey
After oxygen, water is the most important substance in the human body. It is a necessary component for nearly every single chemical reaction, acting as a solvent and transport medium.
There’s a big reason why your body is about 70% water, both performance-based and essential health processes require it.
Zooming out from the cellular level, water helps to cool down the body and dissipate heat which is crucial towards delaying the onset of exercise-induced fatigue. It also helps to remove waste products from the body that can cause us to be less healthy, but, also cause us to fatigue quicker than we otherwise would during physical activity.
As you will find below, even slight dehydration within the body can create negative implications for both health and performance.
In almost all cases, by the time you actually feel thirsty you are already dehydrated to some degree. The very signal of thirst is the clear indicator that it is already too late, and your body is demanding action from you in order to fix this problem.
This makes pre-planning your hydration strategies crucial as proper hydration pre, during, and post-workout and/or game will provide the greatest training quality and therefore the greatest changes in fat loss, muscle building and sport performance.
These strategies become even more critical when you realize that heavy sweaters performing exercise in the heat can lose up to two quarts of sweat per hour while the small intestine can only maximally absorb 1 quart of water per hour.
To utilize these absorption rates to their ultimate potential it’s advantageous for us to consume not only just water but electrolytes, carbohydrates and amino acids as well, as they all work together in their own way to drive optimal hydration in hockey athletes.
Dehydration and Performance
- A 0.5% loss in body water: Increase cardiac output (more stress on the heart)
- A 1% loss in body water: Decreased aerobic endurance
- A 3% loss in body water: Reduced muscular endurance
- A 4% loss in body water: Reduced muscle strength, reduced motor skills, and increased heat cramps
- A 5% loss in body water: Heat exhaustion, cramping, fatigue, reduced mental capacity
- A 6% loss in body water: Physical exhaustion, heatstroke, coma.
- A 10-20% loss in body water: Death
As you can see, the decreases in overall hockey performance begin at such an early stage of dehydration. So, for those of you who know you don’t drink enough water day in and day out, a simple increase in water intake could be next push you need in the gym or on the ice to better yourself.
How Much Water Should Hockey Players Drink?
Well, if you’re a hockey athlete it should go without saying that you should drink fluids regularly, drink during your training/games, and maintain a clear or off-yellow urine color throughout the day. This will encourage proper function of all your organs and muscles, while keeping your performance levels optimal.
But, perhaps a more accurate way to answer the above question is with another question:
How much water do you lose during exercise?
If we can answer this, we’ll know how much we need.
There are some people who leave a pool of sweat wherever they go when they’re exercising, and then at the same time there are others who only sweat lightly while performing the same given work as the heavy sweater. To add more individual variation, some people are salty sweaters while others are not.
You ever see sometimes on gym equipment, or on your hockey equipment, that little white line that surrounds your sweat marks?
That’s salt, and that’s what I mean by a salty sweater. Some people just let more sodium go per unit of sweat than others.
Salty sweaters who are not focused on their hydration strategies can result in issues such as electrolyte imbalance, impaired absorption from the G.I. tract, and sub-optimal fluid balance. These scenarios all play different roles in the optimal hydration strategy game for hockey.
If you want to find out how much you sweat during exercise, a weigh-in pre and post workout can help guide you in the right direction. This is a great strategy for everybody to do, but especially for those heavy sweaters who are reading this. Simply put, if you weigh less after your workout than you did before, you didn’t drink enough. If you weigh more, you drank too much.
For proper hydration, whatever loss was made in exercise should be made up with 1.5x in fluid.
For example, if you lost 1lb during exercise that would equate to 16 fluid ounces and therefore should be replaced by 24oz (16oz x 1.5 = 24oz).
Having said this, you don’t want to become a manic stress ball and weigh yourself every workout. Once you have done it a few times you know your rate of loss and can estimate from there.
Hockey athletes should ideally be consuming anywhere from 6-12oz of water every 15-20 mins during exercise. Additionally, electrolytes and carbohydrates should be added to this mixture as well as they act like a sponge and draw water into the muscle cells of the body.
This drives a more complete hydration at a faster rate, while simultaneously decreasing the pH levels of the muscle (electrolytes) which aids in delaying the onset of exercise-induced fatigue and also provides the body with a readily available energy source to train hard (the carbohydrates).
Creating Your Hydration Shake
This liquid mix should come in the form of a 6-8% solution. Meaning, the powder should comprise of only 6-8% of the total drink you’re going to have either during a game, or during your workouts.
Going higher than this it has shown in research that it is going to delay gastric clearance, which means it is going to sit in your gut longer and take longer to get to your muscles.
These nutrients need an appropriate amount of water in order to get optimally and quickly transferred out of your gut. This otherwise delayed gastric clearance is almost certain to cause some unwanted G.I. distress and that “waterlogged” feeling. You know what I’m talking about here.
Here’s an example of how to set up an 8% solution:
500ml x 0.08 = 40g
So, if your drink has 40g of total powder in it, your water content should be a minimum 500ml. If you’re just trying this for the first time, I highly recommend sticking to a 6% solution to start as that will be the easiest on your G.I. tract.
After you find out what’s comfortable for you and what’s not, adjust accordingly based on your preference. Post-game, you don’t have to worry about the percentages anymore. It can be over 10% because absorption will occur anyhow and performance is no longer the #1 priority, getting home and avoiding going out for wings is.
Another option for improved hydration and performance during exercise is the addition of amino acids (or) whey protein isolate into this solution as well. Protein/amino acids prevent muscle tissue breakdown (loss of muscle), and also to provide energy substrates if need be.
Beyond this, adding a source of protein or amino acids can actually enhance hydration, most people don’t know that certain amino acids found in protein also contribute to enhanced absorption of water and sodium through the small intestine for even further enhanced muscular hydration (Aspartate, Glutamine, Alanine, Cysteine, Serine, and Glycine to be precise).
The more effective we can create a hydration passage through that small intestine and the more digestive pathways we can utilize to maximize hydration, the better.
Keep in mind though, if you are going to add in amino acids to your drink it still should be a 6-8% solution.
Lastly, if you’re a salty sweater, having a couple pieces of beef jerky alongside your post-workout shake or post-game meal would be a good idea to restore some sodium balance. This is a very easy, simple trick as beef jerky takes forever to go bad and can easily transport with you anywhere you go.
Although I should add, there is a very large misconception out there that sodium is bad for you, it’s not. So long as you drink enough water, you are A-OK to take in high amounts of salt.
Quick Strategies and Tips
- Taurine + Electrolytes seems to help drastically with cramping if you are still cramping after the proper rehydration strategies discussed above
- Your pee should be clear or slightly yellow throughout the whole day. If you’re peeing 7+ times per day within these color ranges, you’re doing a good job
- There are many water intake guides out there; my personal favorite is Body weight / 2 = daily intake in ounces. For example: 200lbs / 2 = 100oz daily water intake. This is just a guideline and is also just a starting point, you must adjust accordingly from here as body weight suggestions can be lofty sometimes given that muscle is 75% water whereas fat is only 10% water. Different hydration needs for different active tissues depend on your current body composition (overweight people have less hydration requirements due to lower levels of muscle tissue). Additionally, this recommendation does not account for the during exercise recommendations as people sweat at different rates. It’s a great starting point, so use it as such.
I hope this section was able to point out some seriously important factors as to why you should be taking more action towards your personal hydration status. Your action plan today is to calculate how much water you need daily, figure out how you’re going to hit that goal every day, and start putting together the pieces you need for your intra-game and intra-workout shake to maximize your hydration.
Why Hockey Players Need to Care About Nutrient Timing
Peri-Workout Nutrition Defined:
The peri-workout nutrition period refers to the time within 3hrs pre-training, the time during training, and the window immediately post-training. Peri, as a prefix, simply means “around”, so when I say Peri-Workout training that is simply a way in which to use one term that represents the entire pre, during, and post-workout window.
Throughout this section I am also going to use the terms “game” and “workout” interchangeably as peri-workout nutrition is also applicable to be used as peri-game nutrition in hockey since hockey athletes are primarily utilizing carbohydrates both on and off the ice.
Building the Argument
My objective with you here is to demonstrate very clearly how nutritional timing interventions are beneficial within a variety of populations through a variety of different contexts. The primary emphasis of this section will revolve around your resistance training.
I will touch upon endurance work, but I will mainly be bringing data, discussions of relevant physiological adaptations, and then ultimately lead you to applicable strategies within the future section on “Game Day Nutrition” that you can try moving forward with in the world of performance, health, and body composition management.
It is also my objective to drive these points home with as minimal technical jargon as possible. As you have been able to see through my videos, through my writings, and through my Q/A’s for you VIP members that are reading – I am not a fan of making things sound complicated in order to appear intelligent.
Using big words is an ineffective form of communication for 90% of the people you talk to, and 100% of the athletes you have (if you’re a coach).
It’s very important that whenever you talk to athletes or even other trainers, the most effective way in which you will get your point across and still be a respected intellectual will be your ability to make complex topics sound simple, but, not make them simpler than they are.
Communication too complex will not get your point across. Likewise, communication simpler than it actually is won’t get your point across either. The key to effective communication for these topics is to make it as simple as it can be, but no simpler.
With that in mind, all the data that I will be presenting today is rooted in very complex and modern procedures performed and tracked by absolutely brilliant people.
Don’t take the simplicity of the explanation to represent the simplicity of the research, these details are very finite and can be debated for hours.
Additionally, before we dive into the carefully sequenced topics I have outlined here I want to make the difference between training and exercise very clear.
Exercise is simply physical activity, the body is in motion and burning some calories and this may be a one-off event, such as a recreational pond hockey game.
Training, on the other hand, is planned out, sequenced bouts of physical activity intense enough to create an overload stimulus on the body that causes it to adapt in some form depending on how you train it (strength training = gains in strength, hypertrophy training = gains in size, etc).
Now having said that, understand that almost everything I am going to discuss below is relevant to training, not exercise.
What The Heck Are Muscles?
In order to set the foundation for a proper conversation about nutrient timing for hockey performance and body composition, we need to discuss muscular structure.
Very similar to why I preceded all macronutrient discussion with a conversation first about energy balance and digestion, we need to first start here with muscle physiology so that we know the tissues we are trying to augment and enhance, right down to the cellular level.
This is what gives us a structure with which to make our logical decisions moving forward towards ensuring we are doing the best things possible for our game.
Skeletal Muscle Protein Composition
You will see the above graphic outlines both the macro and microscopic levels of muscle tissue structure. Have a good look at the above graphic, you will see muscle fibers are all wrapped in a connective sheath, individual fibers within the sheath are known as myofibrils, the mitochondrion are off to the side and provide the muscle with energy, and we can work our way all the way down into the nucleus where the individual’s genetic information is stored.
If you don’t have a background in what all of these structures and terms mean, that’s ok for two reasons:
- There are plenty of low cost and free resources for you to get caught up.
- I will be focusing only on a few of the microscopic details throughout this document
What I want you to take most note of from the above is that skeletal muscle is composed of three major proteins:
- Myofibrillar protein (contractile, structural protein)
- Sarcoplasmic protein (anaerobic enzymes, RNA, inner liquid, etc)
- Mitochondrial protein (aerobic enzymes, structural protein)
Typically, when people discuss resistance training they only focus on the myofibrillar units because these are the proteins that do the physical muscular contracting. However, I want to stress the point that we can’t always look at one tissue structure and think we have things all figured out.
For example, the sarcoplasmic and mitochondrial proteins contain both your anaerobic and aerobic enzymes. These carry out many different performance-based processes during exercise and become crucially important for performance enhancement and muscular adaptation as well.
Long story short,
Myofibrillar = Contractile protein, what we want big so we look jacked
Sarcoplasmic = Center of the cells that contain important enzymes for anaerobic events and support the muscular “pump”
Mitochondria = Aerobic energy power supplier for the cell
Now moving forward, when I bring all these proteins up in different scenarios you will know exactly what tissue and possible physiological processes are being affected either negatively or positively.
What Happens When We Resistance Train?
Although resistance training is ultimately an anabolic event (provided you’re eating enough, sleeping enough, not stressed out, and training properly of course), the actual process of resistance training is catabolic in nature.
Within this vein, we have an interesting teeter-totter between an act that is both catabolic and anabolic at the same time, but where we ultimately end up on this teeter-totter depends largely on the above mentioned biological and environmental factors.
Let’s discuss what catabolic and anabolic factors occur during this time so we can better understand our strategies to optimize the peri-workout/game window.
Catabolic events that occur during resistance training
Glycogen depletion: The skeletal muscle carbohydrate stores become depleted through your use of their anaerobic energy during resistance training exercise. Although many people point towards endurance events as being largely glycolytic, resistance training follows a very similar pattern with research demonstrating only 3 sets of 10 biceps curls depleted the biceps muscle glycogen 25%, and other research demonstrating that 6 sets of 10 reps on the leg extension depleted the quadriceps up to 40% of it’s muscle glycogen.
This is important to care about due to the fact that many people perform far more than 3-6 sets per muscle group when they go to the gym, let alone the high-level athletes who may perform multiple bouts of intense physical activity per day. You can begin to theorize from here how crucial nutritional strategies such as preventing muscle glycogen breakdown or replenishing muscle glycogen after exercise as soon as possible can be towards performance and recovery.
Skeletal muscle protein breakdown: During exercise, the old saying “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” is quite well represented here. The myofibrillar proteins in the muscle receive microscopic tears in them from hard resistance training, it is these tears that send many molecular signaling pathways through the body to basically tell your brain “Hey, Brain! This idiot just deadlifted 200kg, send more muscle here so we can deal with that more safely next time!”
This can be good, but what if your diet isn’t on point?
Well, then you have protein breakdown, but no rebuilding stage. Think about it like digging a ditch, but instead of refilling the hole you just left it a hole. Put another way, you created muscle protein breakdown via resistance training, but didn’t supply the body with the raw material and energy that it needs to actually build the muscle tissue itself.
Muscle protein breakdown occurs during exercise, but gets into its highest state (highest levels of breakdown) within the immediate post-workout area. Once this breakdown occurs, signaling processes start taking place and the body increases its muscle protein synthesis (anabolic) processes for 2-4 days in a row to recover from exercise.
My argument here would be that it would be advantageous for all trainees to minimize this muscle breakdown process during and post-workout before the body naturally turns around and boosts its muscle protein synthesis processes and begins to grow. Thus, over time, you’re spending less time in breakdown and more time in synthesis. The results of this small change is likely unnoticeable in the short term, but in the long term the trainee who spends less time breaking down is ultimately going to be the bigger, stronger athlete.
Increased metabolism: In most cases people would perceive this to be a good thing, we want a higher metabolism, right?
But remember, it’s highly likely that during this time we are in a state of protein breakdown exceeding protein synthesis. If we have a higher metabolic rate and therefore are expending a greater amount of energy, that energy has to come from somewhere and there is a likely chance that more muscle protein breakdown could be occurring beyond the demands of the resistance training due to the need to fill energy demands. Put another way, burning up muscle tissue for energy use.
This is where nutrition comes in again, provide the body with readily available fuel and raw material sources so that we can provide our increased energy metabolism with the fuel it needs to perform and recover without having it resort to utilizing our own muscle tissue.
Increase in cortisol: Cortisol is a catabolic stress-based hormone that I am sure many of you are already somewhat familiar with so I don’t want to spend too much time on it.
One thing I do want to point out, however, is the reliable increase we see in cortisol levels within the post-workout window after exercise.
Table from the Journal of Applied Physiology Examining Pre vs. Post-Exercise Cortisol Levels
As you can see here, pre-workout cortisol levels are dramatically lower than post-workout cortisol levels, and cortisol doesn’t seem to return to baseline until up to 2hrs later. Knowing cortisol is a catabolic hormone, this is not the ideal environment we would want our resistance training population to be within for any extended period of time.
I want your gears to start turning now and start asking yourself questions such as:
“Ok, we have known catabolic processes that occur within the body both intra and post-workout. These processes occur in varying degrees in response to the intensity and volume of the exercise.
Are there possible nutrition strategies that I could utilize to try and offset these issues to create a better adaptation from the exercise that they are doing? What could I implement to take this client from good, to optimal?”
You would likely start thinking about strategies to offset muscle protein breakdown, rapidly replenish muscle glycogen, decrease post-workout catabolic stress hormones, and supply the high energy metabolism with the energy specific substrate that it needs in order to perform without tearing down muscle tissue.
Inflammatory response: This is a section I’m going to cover later in this section, but wanted to add it here for completeness around the discussion of catabolic processes that occur during resistance training. Inflammation is to represent the free radicals, tissue swelling, and oxidative damage that can occur. These in excess can create some catabolic signalling in the body which ultimately lead to greater protein breakdown.
Anabolic effects of resistance training
Let’s now have a look at the anabolic effects of resistance training. I just talked about the various negative effects that can occur during training in order to create the muscle building stimulus that we want to create, but of course there are many positives to be had along with this.
Increased muscle blood flow: During and immediately after exercise there is an increase in blood flow to our working muscles, this is known as the “pump” in most weightlifting circles. This is where the muscles swell up and look great.
But how is this blood flow anabolic?
Well, if that blood is full of nutrients and blood is being preferentially directed towards working muscle; then those nutrients have a fast and efficient speedway to get right to your muscle tissue. Think back to the catabolic events, through increased blood flow with the now accompanying nutrients; glycogen can be spared/replenished, protein status can remain positive (and not net-negative due to protein breakdown), and your energy metabolism will be more effectively met through the readily available nutrients so it won’t have to break down your own muscle tissue for energy use.
At rest, skeletal muscle blood flows may be 1-4 ml/min per 100g; maximal blood flows may reach 50-100 ml/min per 100g depending upon the muscle type. Therefore, blood flow can increase 20 to 50-fold with maximal vasodilation
Endocrine: The endocrine system creates a great amount of anabolism on the body through the action of exercise. Exercise in many cases has been demonstrated to increase testosterone, growth hormone, and IGF-1 in the body, all highly anabolic hormones with very different, powerful effects on the body. Although these seem interesting to dive further into, the increases are short-lived and are unlikely worthy to create a peri-workout nutrition system around. Most of these hormone’s changes increase noticeably during and after exercise, but return to baseline within 2hrs post-workout.
Inflammatory response: Now I know you’re probably thinking “You put this in the catabolic phase, why is it here in the anabolic one as well?”
Well, the inflammatory responses from the immune system seem to be both catabolic and anabolic in response to exercise. To put it simply, trauma to the muscle tissue itself creates an inflammatory immune system response and it is this inflammatory response that signals the body to grow muscle.
We need that inflammation in order to signal to the body “Hey! That hurt! We need to grow!” The only problem that occurs is when there is too much inflammation.
Too much inflammation can activate catabolic pathways in the body which ultimately lead to muscle breakdown.
This is where a lot of the ideology around having antioxidants during and after training comes from, or lots of Vitamin C after training comes from, to reduce inflammation and therefore support muscle growth. Remember, this proper functioning of the immune system is one of the most important components towards muscle growth because it is actually your immune system which:
– Signals muscle growth
– Cleans up and removes the damaged tissue from resistance training
– Sends in the biological network needed to build muscle tissue once the signal has been made
Long story short, immune function both signals muscle growth and makes it happen. We need inflammation for signaling, but we need to manage inflammation to reduce catabolism. The key term there is manage, not eliminate.
Adaptations To Resistance Training
Taking into account the now learned battle between the anabolic and catabolic processes in the body that exercise creates, let’s talk about how that plays out over the long term of a well-designed program.
What type of adaptations will the body make in order to respond and adapt to these stimuli that you are placing on it via resistance training/exercise?
- Muscle hypertrophy: Muscular hypertrophy from resistance training includes an increase in myofibril size and number, an increase in storage capacity for glycogen, an increase in total water content, as well as an increase in the size and strength of the surrounding tendons and ligaments holding it all together.
- Increase in enzyme content and activity: Increasing protein synthesis is not only associated with muscle growth because enzymes are also proteins. An increase in protein synthesis will also provide you with growth in both the content and activity of the enzymes in the muscle cell which are responsible for all energy metabolism. Long-term training enhances enzyme count and activity for both aerobic and anaerobic events.
- Structural changes in muscle for future demands: When you stress the muscle and damage it, the body doesn’t want to get damaged again so it will take on the structural properties to better deal with future stressors. This includes the already above-mentioned adaptations but with a more-or-less teeter-totter effect (if you train anaerobically, you will gain more anaerobic enzymes. Likewise, if you train aerobically you will gain more aerobic enzymes) but also includes the structural changes that can happen to your muscle fiber type.
- Neural networking: Over time, you can enhance the neural networking of muscle tissue in order to recruit a greater amount of muscle fibers in a shorter timeframe, therefore increasing power and strength output. This is why the biggest guy in the room isn’t always the strongest guy in the room, this is also why sometimes you see 80kg lifters deadlifting 300kg. Strength increases within a muscle cell can come exclusively from an enhancement in neural networking and not size development.
Numbers one through four are all long-term adaptations to training, we won’t gain any of those in the short term. But if we train right, eat right, and manage our lives properly; that’s the future we can be looking at.
But how about the short term?
What can affect our adaptation from exercise?
Without any doubt, anti-oxidants.
I chose my words very carefully above in that I told you to manage your inflammation, not eliminate it. We have seen time and time again in the data that anti-oxidants can decrease adaptations from exercise.
Most notably, Vitamin E and Vitamin C have been demonstrated to reduce both aerobic and anaerobic adaptations from exercise, and Vitamin C has even been demonstrated to delay recovery from exercise.
Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) production during exercise is essential for muscle growth. Hypertrophic processes in muscle are associated with a number of redox-sensitive signaling pathways, suggesting that acute exercise-induced oxidation plays a central role in this process.
Muscular hypertrophy induced by intense resistance training causes an increase in protein synthesis, as we have already discussed, but cellular rates of protein synthesis are regulated by an enzyme complex referred to as the mammalian target of rapamycin complex (mTORC).
There is a direct relationship between training loads, muscle growth, and mTORC activation. When ROS production is inhibited in skeletal muscle, mTORC signaling is significantly reduced.
This suggests that antioxidants may directly inhibit muscle growth in response to intense training. While this has not yet been established in vivo, in vitro evidence suggests that this may be the case. IGF-1 is a potent growth factor that stimulates hypertrophy and inhibits muscle breakdown.
A recent study found that physiological ROS production is required for IGF-1 signaling in cultured muscle cells. Treatment of the cultured myocytes with antioxidants inhibited hypertrophy by eliminating ROS production, demonstrating that ROS production is necessary for IGF-1 induced hypertrophy in vitro.
This is just one example of many that can be pulled from the literature.
But, it makes sense, right?
Our body will only adapt and change itself if it is exposed to a stressor. The inflammation and ROS we create from intense exercise is that stressor, so if we eliminate it our body has nothing to adapt to. Your body will essentially have this type of conversation:
“Whoa this is heavy weight! Yikes! I better signal lots of strength and muscle growth!”
“Wait, hold that thought muscles. There is a large surplus of antioxidants coming in, I don’t think we will need to adapt any further because we have everything we need right here to neutralize this damage. Thanks diet!”
With this section, I really wanted to articulate the many reasons why peri-workout and peri-game nutrition can and should be utilized. There are nutritional timing opportunities within this physiology that you can see which will allow us to lower catabolism, support anabolism, and ultimately lead to greater overall adaptation.
We’ll get into the “how” behind all of this later, but for now, I want you to understand that by looking at the research and textbook muscle physiology we can create an incredible argument towards optimizing performance and making sure that with the right moves, we get every last drop of adaptation we work our butt off for in the gym.
Now you are empowered because you’re armed with the necessary physiology to understand why we include this in our HockeyTraining.com programming and why it is in your best interest to start incorporating it today. To conclude this section, I’d like to leave you with a list of what peri-workout nutrition can do for you when done properly:
- Readily available fuel source to prevent glycogen depletion during training
- Maintain blood glucose concentration to feed both the muscular and nervous system
- Maintain muscle glycogen status at full capacity after training
- Increased muscle blood flow (enhanced creatine, glucose, and amino acid uptake)
- Increased insulin levels (enhances muscle nutrient uptake, increased glycogen storage, decreased protein breakdown, increased protein synthesis, increased creatine uptake)
- Decreased post-exercise cortisol
- Rapid post-exercise glycogen replenishment
- Increase hydration and electrolyte status to support muscle performance
- Maximally stimulate protein synthesis (mTORC pathways)
- Remain in a state of positive protein balance
- Management of inflammation will optimize protein synthesis
- Understand the anabolic, catabolic, and adaptive responses within muscle tissue to exercise to properly prescribe peri-workout protocols that will enhance their performance and maximize their recovery
Hockey Game Day and Workout Nutrition
Simply put, if you want to perform to the best of your ability you have to be properly fueled.
It doesn’t matter how talented you are or how good you are – if you aren’t properly fueled you will never be playing to the potential that you could otherwise be playing at.
You cannot create a fuel source for physical energy expenditure out of thin air. The body needs certain nutrients in order to perform at its best and depending on the demands of the sport those nutrients may vary in amount and type.
Different activities require different substrates in order to maximize sport-specific energy efficiency.
Hockey is an alactic-aerobic sport, meaning it involves high intensity/high power output efforts interspersed with low-intensity aerobic work.
For example, skating as fast as you can down the ice on a breakaway and then performing a slap shot that ends up getting passed the goalie and scores you a goal.
This is very high-intensity skating plus the shot was high power output, but immediately afterward you did a calm stroll either back to center-ice or to the bench. A perfect example of an Alactic-Aerobic effort — high intensity followed up immediately by low intensity, there is no in between.
Understanding the energy system demands of your sport allows you to be able to make proper decisions regarding what nutrients fuel those energy systems and how you can create the best nutritional and supplemental strategy for optimal performance.
Hockey players always ask me “What should I eat before the game?”
Which is a great question, but not the right question.
Everything in the performance world is connected to context. A better question to ask would be “What can I do to be properly fueled for my hockey game?”
Now we’re talking.
The viewpoint of strictly pre-game nutrition is certainly a component of gameday nutrition, but not the whole picture.
You don’t prepare for the game with one meal, you prepare for the game with your lifestyle.
The “big picture” here comes from your dietary habits including the days leading up to the game in addition to whatever you decide to do on game day. If you’re a guy who is looking after his nutrition all the time, then you are much more prepared for the game then the guy who is only looking after his nutrition on game day. The comparison isn’t even close.
I won’t extend this section to include the many factors that daily nutritional habits have on athletic performance as this chapter is to be directly game day focused.
So, I’m going to stick closer to the game day window and factors affecting the game day window—but you will soon discover just how connected all of your habits are just by learning about this specific performance window.
The Importance of Carbohydrates on Game Day
One of the most important factors to note is the fact that hockey is so highly anaerobic that the absence of carbohydrates in the diet is, in all honesty, a defeating tactic for hockey specific performance. Going “low carb” – “keto” – or “paleo” may all sound cool because the marketing can be done very well, but these are not hockey performance diets.
Carbohydrates are a phenomenal fuel source, especially for hockey players. Do not be sold otherwise.
Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel source for both anaerobic movement and the nervous system during anaerobic movement. This keeps your mind, your neural networking, and your muscles functioning at full capacity during the game.
This is where the above statement on understanding the bodies energy system demands during specific movements comes into application. Carbohydrates fuel anaerobic activity and hockey is an extremely anaerobic dominant sport, so to properly fuel yourself for the game you need adequate amounts of carbohydrate in the diet. No questions about it.
I’m sure there are some athletes out there who feel they “get by” on low carbohydrate diets in anaerobic sports, but from both the research and my experience working with thousands of athletes, there is a big difference between good and optimal.
Optimal represents covering all your bases by understanding muscle physiology and sports science to meet the substrate demands of your sport (in this case, carbs for hockey performance). Going low-carb just doesn’t bring more pros then it does cons from both a performance and recovery perspective.
Now, having touched upon the necessity and importance of carbohydrates in the diet for hockey players, it is also very important that you time your carbohydrates properly for optimal performance and glycogen synthesis (the storage of carbohydrates into your lean muscle tissue for future energy use).
At the end of the day, getting in your total macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) and calorie intake for the day outweighs any other nutritional factor in regards to your performance on game day.
But, when it comes to creating an optimal effect and performing at your best and attaining the best possible body composition for hockey timing is a factor. It’s one of those “Do you want good, or optimal?” scenarios.
Especially for glycogen synthesis.
Tying into my statement above regarding the importance of your nutrition in the days prior to the game (but really, all the time), I was mainly referring to your overall recovery and the synthesis of glycogen.
Of course, other important factors are there as well regarding everyday nutrition and its effects on the body (energy, hormone balance, sleep quality, etc), but when it comes to fueling your body for a game of hockey – maximal storage of glycogen is going to bring you that energy you need late into the 3rd period to still be strong and explosive (and have that hockey specific anaerobic energy you need).
I’m assuming every hockey player reading this is currently resistance training as well. So, this is going to benefit you both during the season and in the offseason. It is very well documented and agreed upon in the research that glycogen replenishment in the muscle cells is at its best during resistance training and within the 6 hours after resistance training.
Immediately after resistance training, the pathways that your body uses for post-workout glycogen replenishment aren’t even insulin dependent (which most people think) due to the muscles translocation of GLUT-4. I know GLUT-4 sounds pretty fancy, but it’s really not.
The simple process of training hard with resistance activates GLUT-4 (GLUT just means glucose transporter, it’s taking glucose out of the bloodstream and shuttling it the muscle tissue you worked that day) and this sucks up carbohydrates into your muscle cell as glycogen extremely effectively while avoiding nearly all susceptibility to fat storage.
The post-workout window is nearly bullet-proof for avoiding any fat storage via carbohydrate consumption, so this is an area you should be consuming the highest amounts of carbohydrate within your day. Additionally, moderate amounts of protein support the glycogen process as well as provide the necessary amino acids for optimal muscle repair.
In essence, you are setting yourself up for maximal recovery, and in turn, setting yourself up for maximum performance the next time you partake in physical activity. You can only perform based on how well you effectively recover — so “pre-game nutrition” really begins once you have completed your most recent bout of intense physical activity, even if it was a couple days prior.
Additionally, the couple meals you have after that post-workout shake within the 6 hours after training should also contain moderate to high amounts of carbohydrates because it is during this window they are maximally absorbed as energy into the muscle as opposed to being stored as fat.
Put another way, it is either going to be lean tissue on your body or fatty tissue on your body – I think we both know what you’d rather have.
I give my 1-on-1 clients about 70% of their daily carbohydrates within the 6 hours after training for all of the above exact reasons.
Why Muscle Soreness Matters
Here’s something a lot of coaches don’t know, but if you really dig into the research you will find that as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) slowly increases at a linear rate after hard training, so does insulin resistance in the muscle group trained.
Meaning, as the muscle you trained progressively gets sorer (think what it feels like the day after a hard leg day) and is exiting further and further out of this 6-hour post-workout window, it is also becoming more resistant to the storage of glycogen from the carbohydrates you are consuming.
For example, if you train your legs and you do your normal routine. Those legs are going to soak up carbohydrates very efficiently for up to and around 6 hours post-workout. But, if you say to yourself the next day:
“Man! I am so sore, I am going to eat a bunch more carbohydrates to help fuel this recovery”
It doesn’t exactly work like that.
The maximal amount of insulin sensitivity within your trained muscles has now passed and now that your legs are extremely sore this is a great indicator that the carbohydrates you are eating are not being optimally stored as lean tissue and are more than likely circulating in the system to be stored elsewhere (perhaps in another muscle you didn’t train, or your liver), burned off for readily available energy, or to be stored as fat.
This is why I have many of my athletes decrease carbohydrates on non-training days, it doesn’t add any greater benefit unless you’re depleted.
To put it short, optimally consuming carbohydrates during and after resistance training OR a hockey game is going to ensure greater synthesis of glycogen and therefore contribute to a greater performance in your next game.
This is why it’s so important to eat well throughout the week, it is priming you and fuelling you for future physical bouts of anaerobic effort, just like your hockey game.
Keep in mind I am intentionally leaving other aspects out such as protein and fat as I want to gear the article strictly towards the most applicable game related material.
Which brings me to the next important factor, hydration.
Water and It’s Hockey Performance Benefits
People generally overlook hydration in physical performance. They know it’s important, but, they pay no attention at all to the research behind optimal hydration, nor do they have any idea what an optimal intake should look like for them to perform at 100%.
I’m here to tell you right now that it plays several massive roles in all aspects of hockey development. This includes health, muscle building, fat loss, injury prevention, and energy levels both on and off the ice.
Think about it, muscle is literally 75% water, how well do you feel a dehydrated hockey player is going to be able to perform?
Not very well!
Beyond this, research has shown even slight levels of dehydration can not only negatively affect performance but also create rises in the stress hormone cortisol.
Cortisol runs antagonistic with testosterone, meaning; if you’re dehydrated, your testosterone levels are suffering as well. Cortisol is also catabolic to muscle tissue, which means it breaks muscle tissue down.
So, something as simple as chronic dehydration can neutralize what you’re trying to accomplish in the gym. The above carbohydrate strategy would also not work very well because for every 1g of carbohydrate you want to store in the muscle cell in the form of glycogen you are also going to need an average of 3-4g of water to go with it.
If you don’t have water, you also don’t have stored energy. Water is that important.
Levels of Dehydration and Their Negative Implications on Athletic Performance:
- A 0.5% loss in body water: increase cardiac output (more stress on the heart)
- A 1% loss in body water: Decreased aerobic endurance
- A 3% loss in body water: Reduced muscular endurance
- A 4% loss in body water: Reduced muscle strength, reduced motor skills and increased heat cramps
- A 5% loss in body water: Heat exhaustion, cramping, fatigue, reduced mental capacity
- A 6% loss in body water: Physical exhaustion, heatstroke, coma.
- A 10-20% loss in body water: Death
Put another way, you are weaker, have less cardio, have less muscular endurance, have an unnecessarily elevated heart rate, and have reduced coordination abilities at only a 4% loss in body water.
The decreases in overall performance begin at such an early stage of dehydration.
So, if you know you are one of these people who don’t drink enough water day in and day out, a simple increase in water intake could be next push you need in the gym and on the ice to better yourself.
The major point I want to drive here though is that you can’t just drink a lot on game day. Hydration needs to be a seven day per week effort in order to be done properly. Especially when it comes to your electrolyte balance because you can’t just correct potassium, magnesium, calcium, or sodium deficiencies in the moments before a game. Physiology doesn’t work that way.
There are many water intake guides out there, but my personal favorite is:
Body weight / 2 = minimum daily water intake in ounces.
Example: 200lbs / 2 = 100oz daily water intake.
Keep in mind that this recommend number shouldn’t include exercise as different people sweat at different rates. This is simply a guide to represent what you should be taking in on a daily basis, training or non-training day. If you sweat a lot, you’ll need to add more water to your calculated number.
To dial things in even further, your pee should be clear or slightly yellow throughout the whole day. If you’re peeing 6x throughout the day and 2x after a workout, you’re doing well.
Also, if you’re somebody with chronic cramping issues during exercise, the amino acid taurine and some added electrolytes seem to help dramatically in this department.
Hockey Game Day Nutrition
Now having discussed two “big picture” concepts of carbohydrate intake and hydration, let’s take a more zoomed-in look at the pre-game and during game windows to answer the common question of “what should hockey players eat before a game?”
The research behind pre-game and during the game nutrition can become extremely complicated, but the main objectives are simple:
- Maintain hydration
- Maintain blood glucose
- Maintain amino acid levels
- Add in performance supplementation if desired
To accomplish these with the highest degree of effectiveness we approach the game in 4 different phases.
PHASE 1: 1-3 hours prior to the game
PHASE 2: 20-45 minutes prior to competition
PHASE 3: During the game
PHASE 4: Post-game
1-3 Hours Prior To Hockey Game
To top off your glycogen stores and have readily available glucose circulating around waiting the be burned off as energy during the game, it is ideal to have a 1:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein in the form of a solid, whole food meal approximately 1-3 hours before the game.
The carbohydrate source should come in the form of a low glycemic index choice such as sweet potato, brown rice, oats, brown pasta, or quinoa – and the protein should ideally be an animal source such as meat or egg whites.
I give the range of 1-3 hours pre-game because you know your body better than I ever will. You need to gauge this based on your own rate of digestion speed/clearance and have this meal pre-game, your goal is to find that sweet spot where it is not sitting in your stomach during the game (causing gastrointestinal distress) but you’re also not hungry during the game. Find that time and stick to it.
It is important to note here that if you choose a very fatty meat (such as steak, ground beef, or salmon), you should keep it further away from the game as fat tends to slow the digestion of carbohydrates and protein down while simultaneously not adding any performance benefit (this also means it’s not exactly ideal to add a bunch of avocado or oils to this meal either).
A good example of a phase 1 meal would be 6oz of chicken breast with 1 cup of cooked brown rice. Or if you’re playing in the morning, 1 cup of egg whites with 2/3 cup of oatmeal (measure both the egg whites and oatmeal uncooked before cooking).
If you can stick closely to the 1:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein and keep the fats and fibers low, you’ll be doing a great job. It’s also permissible that you bump the ratio up to 2:1 if your workout and/or game exceeds two hours in duration.
20-45 Minutes Prior To Puck Drop
Phase 2 is in some cases an option for you if phase 1 doesn’t work. For whatever reason life brought you, you couldn’t get a meal in.
Here at the 20-45 minutes pre-game mark you would have a combination of liquid protein and carbohydrates (liquid so it absorbs much faster through the G.I. tract and you are still very well fueled for the game).
These nutrients heighten alertness, focus, concentration, and will get you “in the performance zone” faster. They do not just work through a physical anaerobic energy component, but they also work to bring the brain up to another level of performance. You could say they allow the brain to fire at a higher RPM.
I left out the dosages as when it comes to stimulants/neural stimulants as everybody has such a wide range of sensitivity and if I’m not working with you one on one it is tougher to call.
For example, some people go nuts on 1 cup of coffee whereas others could go to sleep after it. I recommend always starting at the lowest possible dose, and only working your way up as needed.
During The Hockey Game
Keeping our 4 main objectives outlined above at the forefront of our decision making, it is of the utmost importance to consume a high glycemic carbohydrate source combined with either free form amino acids or whey protein isolate plus some electrolytes.
I want to make a note here that I don’t recommend any marathon/triathlon style strategies. Meaning, I don’t recommend using candies, gels or any type of solid substance during the game.
Liquid nutrition causes the least amount of gastric distress and due to the explosiveness of hockey you are at a great susceptibility to having gastric distress. Keep it liquid, it won’t bother your stomach and it is easily accessible on the bench.
Inside your bottle should ideally be 20 – 40g of high GI carbohydrates (sugars), 10-15g whey isolate (or 5-8g amino’s) + magnesium/potassium/sodium.
This mix should come in the form of a 6-8% solution. Meaning the powder should comprise of only 6-8% of the total drink. Going any higher than this it has shown in the research that it is going to delay gastric clearance which means it is going to sit in your gut longer and take longer to get to your muscles.
For example, 500ml x 0.08 = 40g.
So, if your drink has 40g of total powder in it, your water content should be a minimum 500ml. Post-game you don’t have to worry about the percentage really, it can be over 10% as performance is no longer a concern.
Carbohydrates are there to keep glucose and energy levels high throughout the whole game. Protein/amino acids are there to prevent muscle tissue breakdown (loss of muscle) and also to provide energy substrates to fuel performance if need be.
On the amino acid note, essential amino acids (EAA’s) specifically downregulate certain neurotransmitters in the brain that are correlated with exercise-induced fatigue.
Neurotransmitters in the brain are what your body uses to communicate back and forth and give signals to what is happening in the body. EAA’s help prevent the body’s fatigue signaling ability from a neural perspective.
This can help you to go harder, longer; and since it is neurotransmitter related you are also going to be mentally sharper as well (which is super important as all hockey performance begins with the sharpness of your mind and reaction time). While the electrolytes are in the drink to drive maximal hydration and optimal muscle pH levels.
Post-game is to take advantage of the 6-hour window we have after intense physical activity to maximally synthesize glucose into glycogen in the muscle tissue as we discussed above.
A combination of carbohydrate powder + protein powder or simply just a big meal soon after the game will do the trick! This will have you much more optimally fueled for your next physical bout down the road whether it be the next day, or even 2-3 days later.
If you go the supplement route, which is ideally your best option to start the recovery processes as soon as possible, I would recommend using these formulas to optimize your individual intake:
Carbohydrate powder: 1g of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight.
Protein powder: 0.5g of protein per kilogram of body weight.
Example: 70kg athlete would consume 70g of carbohydrate powder + 35g of whey protein isolate
Game Day Product Recommendations
Carb Powder (with electrolytes) – ATP Pentacarb by ATP Labs
Whey Protein Isolate – New Zealand Whey Protein Isolate
EAAs – ATP EAA
Game Day Nutrition Wrap Up
I hope I have shed some light on both the big and small pictures towards priming the body for optimal hockey performance today and that this article has provided you with some practical strategies that you can start using to improve your game as soon as possible.
To wrap things up, here are some takeaway points:
- Once you understand what drives hockey specific energy systems, you can then design a meal plan to accommodate for those systems
- Gameday nutrition is not just about pre/during/post game strategies, you have to look at the big picture of what you’re eating 7-days a week
- Once having completed the big picture, then you can move to pre/during/post game strategies as you are ready now for the “next level” strategies
- The main objectives of gameday nutrition is to:
- Maintain hydration
- Maintain blood glucose
- Maintain blood amino acid levels
- Add in performance supplementation if desired
- The four phases of gameday nutrition are:
- PHASE 1: 1-3 hours pre-game
- PHASE 2: 20-45 minutes pre-game
- PHASE 3: During the game
- PHASE 4: Post-game
- You can’t perform at your best if you are not fuelled properly. Period.
How Hockey Players Should Drop Body Fat
As it currently stands, the sport of hockey does not have a whole lot of solid, research-based information out there regarding how to properly fuel yourself to be the best version of yourself you can possibly be.
Sure, genetics play a role in how some people can look. But, nutrition directly impacts your ability to put on muscle mass, your ability to drop body fat, your hormone levels (such as testosterone and the many other anabolic hormones), your immune system function, your energy for games/workouts, your ability to recover quicker, the quality of your sleep, alongside pretty much everything else you can think of regarding the connection between an athlete and their ultimate hockey performance.
It’s very easy to get caught up in the training because training is the fun part.
Going to practice, playing scrimmages, going to the gym and getting a pump, breaking a new personal record in your favorite lift, etc. These are all activities that are super important for hockey performance, but they are also easier to both sustain and understand. Most people get that:
Training for hockey = Better hockey performance
That’s very easy to conceptualize on a surface level. But when it comes to the nutritional aspect of things, they pretty much just let it slide and don’t put forth near the amount of effort and accuracy as they do their training.
Most hockey players just buy a few supplements, try and get some additional protein in, and drink a little more water every day.
This average effort will lead to average results.
Imagine putting as much effort into your nutrition as you do your training?
Sets, reps, weight, and rest periods become calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
Where you place your exercises in your workout is based on a set of principals guided by sports science to optimize your strength and muscle mass, much like where you place your protein and carbohydrates (and in what quantity) is going to have an impact on your energy for training, how fast you recover from training, and how fast you get results from your hard work.
You need both to get the full return on investment from your training efforts, and you need both if you’re serious about improving your body composition and improving your hockey performance.
Ever heard that old saying “You can’t out run a bad diet?”
It’s true, and you can’t out skate one either.
This is the #1 reason people exercise for years and don’t see the results they want to see. They may workout 3-5 days a week, but they stay skinny, or stay overweight, and stay average.
Because they’re focusing so much on training, and screwing up their diet completely. You should have the same amount of enthusiasm put towards your diet as you do walking into the gym to go do your favorite workout.
So that will be the focus of this section, how should we actually be viewing our dietary intake to get real results.
More specifically, how should hockey players be viewing their dietary intake for optimal fat loss (and not weight loss, these are two very different things).
There’s always a difference between good, and optimal. When I say optimal, I mean that I want you to drop body fat, but not at the expense of your recovery or performance.
I think that’s what roadblocks most people, they begin their diet and they feel so poorly that they just eventually wind up going back to eating how they were before. But when you set things up right, you don’t have to feel bad and you can continue to recover and perform the way you should.
Where do we start?
As you have already learned in this massive article, in the 4+ decades of research, calories are the undisputed #1 bodyweight regulator.
Plenty of theories, hypothesis, and pseudo-intelligent oppositions have come and gone throughout the years but in the end, legitimate research always wins (and not quick-fix marketing scams).
You will see in nutritional circles when discussing calories regulating bodyweight, they will use the term “energy balance”
This simply refers to energy (calories) going both in and out of the body. Or, to put in the most simply way:
Calories in VS. Calories out
Calories in representing the consumption of food and drink, in combination with how efficiently your body is breaking down and absorbing those nutrients (remember, it’s not just what you eat, it’s what you absorb).
Calories out representing the calories you burn every single day to sustain life (metabolism, organ function, etc) as well as the additional calories you burn through physical energy expenditure (workouts, hockey practice, etc).
Therefore, the balance between your calories in and calories out at the end of the day is going to determine how much you weigh. There are only three possible states one can be in with respect to the energy balance equation:
Hypocaloric: This is a state of energy balance where your calories in are LESS than your calories out. Therefore, you are expending more energy than you are taking in per day which will result in weight loss. This is typically characterized by somebody who is in a fat loss phase.
Maintenance: This is a state of energy balance where your calories in are EQUAL TO your calories out. Therefore, you’re in exact energy balance which will result in no weight change. This is typically characterized by someone who is happy with their weight and wants to stay in the same place, or, people who are “plateaued” with their weight gain or loss goals and are simply hanging out at maintenance unintentionally.
Hypercaloric: This is a state of energy balance where your calories in are GREATER than your calories out. Therefore, you are consuming more energy than you are expending on a daily basis which will result in weight gain. This is typically characterized by somebody who is in a muscle building phase, or, eating a little too much over the holidays.
This is all very important stuff to care about because unless you’re exclusively the enforcer (which is pretty rare these days), you need to be very calculated in order to reach your true potential in this game.
Without diving into too much detail, hockey is a highly anaerobic sport that relies heavily upon the fast twitch muscle fibers for shot power, skating, agility, conditioning, etc.
This fast twitch muscle fiber dominance is exactly why you MUST drop body fat using primarily nutrition, and not the “I’ll add some additional cardio” route. What happens is most athletes (or people in general) will decide they need to drop more body fat and start incorporating lots of additional jogging, rowing, walking, and low-intensity cardio all together.
This is all good and well, but only up to a point.
Hockey players need to be very fast twitch dominant athletes and when you do plenty of low-intensity cardio such as jogs, you are telling the body “Ok we need to activate our slow twitch muscle fibers now, so let’s make a bunch of those”, and the body responds accordingly because its job is to adapt to any stress you place on it.
What happens then is that you are sending the body mixed signals between hockey performance, and your low-intensity cardio, so the only thing your body can do is meet you somewhere in the middle because it doesn’t know if you want to be a dominant fast twitch hockey player, or a low-intensity cardio machine.
When you meet in the middle, you don’t optimize hockey performance, and when you don’t optimize hockey performance you are missing the point of your fat loss journey right out of the gates.
Calculating Your Starting Point
Now that you’re caught up on energy balance and what it truly means to regulate body weight, we can start diving into the more exciting strategies towards what EXACTLY you should be doing with your nutrition in order to effectively drop body fat for hockey.
By a long shot, what matters the most here is the “big picture” behind it all. I’ll give you an example conversation to illustrate what I mean by that.
Hockey athlete: “Hey Coach Garner! Yes, for sure I make sure I get my protein shake in after every single workout. 30g of whey isolate plus carbohydrates and creatine, I’m diligent about that!”
Me: “Ok that’s awesome, nice work man. How many grams of protein are you eating per day?”
Hockey athlete: “I have no idea”
This is a problem.
What your total intake is at the end of the day is light years more important than when you actually had it. Don’t misunderstand me here, timing is important, but it is a detail in comparison to how much of an impact the big picture has on your physique, performance, and health.
So today, we’ll keep it simple (because I have done full 8-9 hour seminars on single topics alone in nutrition, trust me there is a boatload of context, research, and performance components to take into consideration) and only talk about the energy balance formulations as it is easily the most important and routinely overlooked component of nutrition for fat loss.
It always starts with first finding your maintenance energy balance, because once you have determined this intake estimation you can then either add or subtract calories in order to gain or lose bodyweight. For the active population (you!), one of the best maintenance calculators to use is the Katch McArdle formula:
370 + (21.6 x Lean Body Mass[kg])
Utilizing this formula is going to give you an accurate estimate of what is known as your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR for short).
A BMR total is simply how many calories your body burns each and every day in order to sustain life/function. What this does not include is your activity level, which is why you also need to utilize activity multipliers:
Sedentary: 1.2 – 1.4
Lightly active job + 3-5 workouts/practices per week: 1.5-1.8
Active job + 3-5 workouts/practices per week: 1.7-2.0
To clear the air, let’s do an example calculation.
- Average Joe Hockey Player
- 185 lbs at 15% body fat (To find his lean body mass for the Katch McArdle formula, all we do is 0.85 x 185 = 157.25lbs of lean mass. I got here because he is 15% body fat, so when we subtract 15% from 100% [which is his entire body], we get 85% which means that 85% of him is lean tissue. From there, I just multiplied 0.85 x his total body weight to get his lean mass total. Divide his lean body mass by 2.2 to get the kilogram equivalent.)
- Has a teaching job
- Works out twice a week and has hockey twice a week
- His job + his activity schedule put him perfectly in the “Lightly active job plus 3-5 sessions per week” activity multiplier
Average Joe’s customized BMR: 370 + (21.6 x 71.5) = 1914 calories
1914 calories x 1.5 (activity multiplier) = 2871kcals
Average Joe’s maintenance level calorie intake is 2871 kcals.
At this level of intake, he is expected to neither gain nor lose weight. Individual differences can, of course, change this, but time and experience has proven these equations to be very accurate within a 10% margin.
I also have purposefully chosen the Katch McArdle in this article as it is more accurate for the active population than some of the other well-known BMR calculators.
Now here’s a very important piece to the puzzle, we are only going to put his fat loss phase at a starting deficit of 10%.
Average Joe maintenance: 2871 kcals
Average Joe deficit: 10%
Average Joe new intake: 0.9 x 2871 = 2584 kcals
We utilize a percentage because that calculation self-corrects for the size of the athlete. If we just used an arbitrary number such as a 500-calorie deficit, this is going to impact each person very different relative to their size. If they are only 130lbs, this is a big chunk of their total daily intake. But if it’s a big hitter at 230lbs, this isn’t a whole lot of food.
So, when we use 10%, it automatically corrects itself because it is a percentage of the athlete’s personal intake and not just an arbitrary number.
Why don’t we go more than 10%?
Well, starting out with a very steep deficit is where everybody runs into the problems I discussed earlier. Too big of a change too soon results in hormone dysfunction, lower energy, poor recovery, poor performance, and a host of other things.
To make it simpler, you really feel like your dieting, but when you’re more modest with your deficit because you’ve calculated it ahead of time, it is much more tolerable and you can burn body fat without compromising other functions of the body.
This is the power of calculations, most people just begin “dieting” by eating healthier, or, simply eating chicken breast and salads more often and having no idea what their total intake is.
Your guess is as good as mine as to how steep of a deficit you started out with, if you felt like crap, if the diet felt unsustainable, and your performance went to crap; well then it was probably too much.
Using formulations allows you to be more calculated with your approach to fat loss, and therefore your approach to hockey performance.
The typical male hockey athlete should be anywhere from 9-13% body fat year-round, whereas the typical female hockey athlete should be looking to sustain a 15-20% body fat level.
These ranges are going to optimize both performance and health, which are going to play into you reaching your maximum ability and your long-term career longevity.
Additionally, while dieting the athlete should not look to lose any more than 0.5-1.5 lbs per week. This is a healthy rate of weight loss and is cohesive within the research to be much more preventative against the negative physiological aspects of dieting, as well as be much more realistic for sustainability, performance, and life quality.
Hockey Fat Loss Recap
I hope this section of the hockey nutrition article brought to light some powerful tools and important points that you can take with you to improve your game. I look forward to hearing your results!
- You need both training and nutrition to be the most complete version of yourself
- Nutrition directly impacts your ability to put on muscle mass, your ability to drop body fat, your hormone levels (such as testosterone and the many other anabolic hormones), your immune system function, your energy for games/workouts, your ability to recover quicker, the quality of your sleep, alongside pretty much everything else you can think of regarding the connection between an athlete and their ultimate hockey performance
- Nutrition is the #1 reason why people don’t see the change they would like to see in their physique
- Energy balance regulates body weight and is the most important component towards dieting for hockey
- It is much preferred that hockey players drop body fat with dieting, and not low-intensity cardio in order to preserve their anaerobic dominance
- The Katch McArdle and activity multipliers are an excellent place for you to start your dieting journey
- Do not aim to lose more than 0.5-1.5lbs per week
How Hockey Players Should Gain Lean Mass
Having trouble gaining some muscle mass?
Well, you’re not alone.
Type in “how to gain muscle” in Google and you’re going to get several million results. Fortunately, there are some very simple strategies that you can start today in order to get this process moving.
But first, I have to tell you that this is almost always a result of people just simply not eating enough. We have known within 4+ decades of research that calories regulate body weight, period.
Not protein supplements, not creatine, not pre-workouts, not weight training, not anything else.
Your personal calories in (via food and drink) vs. calories out (via metabolic processes and physical energy expenditure) equation at the end of the day determines whether you are going to maintain, lose, or gain weight.
Knowing this, our job is to try and hack the body into allowing you to accept storing more calories per day so that you can put those calories to storage which are going to add up as weight on the scale.
Often times it’s simply a matter of utilizing different strategies towards weight gain that are going to cope with people’s appetite. In many cases athletes will say “I eat SO MUCH food and I just can’t gain weight”
Then when you do the real calculations on their daily intake, it’s not much food (hence why their scale weight never increases) and it’s more of a perception of a large intake, in that, they do truly feel “full”, but they haven’t eaten that many calories.
This is the heart and soul of how we get these hard gainers to throw some mass on, we need to find a way to work with their appetite and utilize strategies that will allow them to take in more calories than they currently are without there being a drastic change in overall lifestyle.
Before moving on to the strategies, I want to make the quick note that in order to maintain speed, agility, quickness, and overall athletic ability; you do not want to put on a drastic amount of weight in a short time frame.
Large weight fluctuations can cause two main problems:
#1 – Anytime you gain a large amount of weight in a short timeframe, it is highly likely your ratio of fat gain to muscle gain is skewed a little too far in proportion to fat gain. Muscle can only grow so fast, even in the most genetically gifted athletes.
It’s important to understand that weight on the scale doesn’t mean muscle mass gain, it simply means weight on the scale.
Stay smart and ensure the weight you are gaining is quality weight. You can do this with weekly or monthly body fat percentage measurements, these will keep you in check and allow you to course correct if you’re gaining too much body fat.
#2 – Anytime you gain a large amount of weight in a short timeframe you can throw off your movement mechanics. If you have been 160lbs for 3 years and then you bulk up to 180lbs over the course of a couple months, the odds are high that your technical movement ability and efficiency will have dramatically changed.
It takes time to get used to a new body, but I have found with experience that if you keep rate of weight gain modest that your technical ability grows along with the process, instead of being surprised at the massive shift.
Take heed with these warnings and get your weight/body fat percentage checked regularly, although, a safe recommendation (provided you’re training properly on a hockey specific training system) for athletes would be in the 0.5-1lb gained per week ballpark. If you’re in that zone, you’re doing a good job and you’re not going too fast.
The first strategy you can use to put some quality mass on is to actively incorporate what is known as “calorically dense” food options. Put very simply, this is just the number of calories you get per square unit of food. You’re measuring a food’s calorie content relative to its size and/or volume.
For example, a great weight gaining food is raw nuts as a ¼ cup of raw nuts (normal size handful) yields over 150 calories, but, a ¼ cup of beets is only 15 calories. So in essence, you’re getting literally 15X as many weight gaining nutrients in your body per squat unit of volume with the nuts then you are the beets. This repeated throughout the day each and every day will result in a much bigger weight gaining outcome over time.
Some of my favorite calorically dense foods to work within my hockey athlete’s meal plan design are:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Organic butter
- Raw nuts and seeds
- Natural nut butters
- Fatty meats
- Dried fruit
- Whole eggs
Trying to have these in some form in every meal of your day will go a long way to throwing some muscle on.
The water content of food is very similar to the above-mentioned caloric density rule, but, seen through a different light. In that, avoiding very high water-volume foods are ideal when trying to gain weight.
When the stomach is full, there are stretch mechanisms in place on the walls of the stomach that send the signal of satiety (feelings of fullness) to the brain so that you stop eating. The stretch effect is seen much sooner in meals that contain plenty of water than in meals that do not.
Because they take up a lot of room in the stomach without providing any calories.
For example, 4oz of watermelon only has 28 calories. That’s a lot of food for almost no calories. Keeping away from high water volume foods will keep you feeling less-full throughout the day which will naturally allow you to eat more calorically dense foods which will result in weight gain.
Some high-water volume foods include:
Avoiding these foods in large amounts in your daily intake will play a great role in your long-term adherence towards eating more than you can expend each and every day.
Food Reward Hypothesis
There is such a thing known in recent science as the food reward hypothesis, in that, if you eat a food you perceive to be as delicious that your appetite centers of the brain will be less likely to send satiety signals throughout the body causing you to eat less.
Essentially, if it’s delicious, then you can eat more of it.
A problem I see with lots of athletes is they believe that for whatever reason that they have to eat things they don’t enjoy.
No, you don’t “need” tuna to hit your protein goals, you don’t “need” chicken breast, and you also don’t “need” protein powder. If any of these things don’t agree with your pallet, then don’t use them.
Utilizing foods that you love are going to not only be more likely to contain more calories, but they will also allow you to eat more of that food.
For example, many athletes believe they need to eat chicken breast and brown rice. Sure this is a good meal, but it’s really not that high in calories.
How about you switch out your chicken breast and brown rice for a steak with potatoes and butter on the potatoes?
Both meals contain excellent sources of protein and carbohydrates, but, the second meal sounds a whole lot more delicious and also contains way more “bang for your buck” calories due to the density.
This is the food reward hypothesis, use it to your advantage. You’re not stuck within the walls of traditional bodybuilding food options.
I’m really not a fan of store bought weight gainers. Most of them contain poor quality sources of protein, way too much sugar, and not nearly the amount of vitamins and minerals that you would get from just eating whole foods.
You have to eat solid food to be solid. There is no way around this.
How many guys do you know that buy weight gainers and never end up gaining weight or getting jacked?
My guess is that you know quite a few. These products just don’t get the job done, I never incorporate them in my coaching practice.
If you want to make a gainer, make it yourself.
Use whole foods to make your own gainer so that you can get the convenience of a store-bought gainer, but, use actual food to make it. Best of both worlds. Here’s my favorite homemade weight gainer:
Vanilla Peanut Butter Weight Gainer:
1 heaping tablespoon ground flax
1 cup cottage cheese
2 tablespoons organic peanut butter
3 tablespoons oats
1 scoop Vanilla whey isolate
1 pinch of cinnamon
5-6 ice cubes
Also feel free to throw 5g of creatine monohydrate in there to kick the process into another gear.
Last but not least, your total weekly training volume. Training volume is defined simply as the total amount of sets, reps, and weight you move around each and every single week in your training programming.
In many cases, more is not better. ESPECIALLY for you hard gainers out there.
Hard gainers have a tough time holding on to their calories to gain weight, so it makes much more sense to burn less calories in the gym so that you can use the food you are eating to add weight to your body, and not burn them in the gym.
Many guys out there are training 5-6 days per week and not getting anywhere in their weight gaining journey. Dial this back to 3-4 days per week and allow your body the time it needs to recover and allow your body those rest days of anabolism so you can use those days to get jacked and not to burn everything that you’re eating.
Hockey Weight Gain Recap
To wrap things up, I hope that this section provided some simple strategies that you can incorporate immediately to start gaining some quality mass.
These are 5 very simple strategies that you can incorporate into your routine tomorrow to start putting some muscle on. Start it up and let me know how it goes!
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Don’t get it twisted either, I do truly mean that it is completely useless. Not worth your money, time, or effort.
Not all of the supplements, but over 90% of them.
You might be thinking “How can you say that so confidently?”
Well, first and foremost you have been reading articles from a man who has spent an absurd and ridiculous amount of money on supplements in his lifetime.
I have tried absolutely every type of supplement on the market, mostly during the years where I didn’t know any better and I thought that supplement companies and magazines were actually trying to help me in a positive way.
Boy, did that ever cost me a lot of money.
Since then, I have done a lot of growing up and have now read hundreds of research papers. Now, I have a very strong grip on what has been objectively proven through science and am not just going off of subjective feedback and paid-for testimonials.
One thing that is really important for you to learn is that the supplement industry is cashing in BIG on a little trick your own mind can play on you called the “placebo effect”.
The placebo effect is a scientifically proven fact that your simple belief in the effectiveness of a supplement or medicine can make it work. People have overcome serious illnesses, both mental and physical, by taking substances that they believed to have therapeutic value – but didn’t.
This relates into our supplement world perfectly because many consumers believe that the shiny new bottle of muscle maximizing pills work, and then they sometimes actually “feel them working” – even though it comes out later through scientific data that the ingredients have absolutely no research behind them to support muscle growth. Or, it’s revealed that the clinical trials that were conducted on the product were funded by the supplement company itself and therefore incredibly biased and invalid.
It’s not all dark clouds though, there is a ray of sunlight shining through. In my years working with thousands of people and reading mountains of data, I have come across some worthy ingredients that are worth buying and using.
The ones worth buying are usually the non-sexy ones, and they definitely aren’t sponsored by the Mr. Olympia contenders who “take them to get into contest shape”. But nevertheless, they are scientifically proven to help you in your journey to staying healthy, keeping fit, building muscle, and burning body fat.
So, let’s go through what you should and shouldn’t spend your money on.
Protein is the #1 nutrient to aid you in muscle growth and repair – you have already learned a ton about protein above, so I won’t go into crazy detail here.
So to keep things simple for supplementation, using whey, egg, and casein powders (which are your three best options) isn’t actually necessary for your progress. But, it is definitely convenient.
Most people can’t get 4-6 whole food meals in per day due to scheduling and you know, having a life. So, most people find it very convenient to have a protein powder that they can use as part of a meal replacement strategy. I know I do.
Whey is definitely the most popular and is a staple in most fitness-oriented peoples lives. For a good reason too, it digests quickly, it tastes good, it’s easy to mix, and it’s a very high-quality protein source.
Prices can range all over the place, some are less than $10 bucks, others are over $20 bucks for the exact same servings as the $10 brand. The marketing claims used to justify the price difference also vary, some are very sensible, others are straight up stupid.
What’s going on here?
Let’s break through the price difference confusion here so you can make the right choice for YOU.
It all comes down to processing.
A lot of people don’t know what whey actually is, it’s a byproduct of cheese production. It’s a pretty clear fluid that’s left over after milk has been curdled and strained, and it used to be disposed of as waste until it was later discovered just how high-quality this protein source was.
Whey has earned its reputation in the industry because of its amino acid profile, most specifically due to the high leucine content, an amino acid that plays a big role in protein synthesis (which is the stimulation of muscle growth/repair).
Whey is most effective after training due to its fast rate of absorption and abundance in leucine. Very simply put, the faster a protein is digested, the more protein synthesis it’s going to stimulate. Additionally, the more leucine a protein source has, the more protein synthesis it’s going to stimulate. So, it didn’t take very long within clinical trials to find out that whey protein is a highly effective form of post-workout protein.
For these reasons alone, most all supplements on the market are sold in the form of whey protein. But, not all whey products are created equal. What you will find is:
- Whey concentrate
- Whey isolate
- Whey hydroslate
Whey concentrate is the least processed form, and the cheapest to manufacture. It also contains some fat, cholesterol, and lactose. Whey concentrates typically range from 35-80% protein by weight, depending on the quality you buy.
Whey isolate is a further processed form that removes the fat and lactose, and is 90%+ pure protein by weight. This is primarily why they are more expensive than concentrates, this is a more expensive manufacturing process.
In almost all cases, this is what you’re looking at when you’re looking at two products that vary in price and asking “Why is one more expensive? Might as well go with the cheaper one!” – well, it’s cheaper for a good reason. Just remember that.
Lastly, we have whey hydroslate which is a predigested form of whey protein that is very easily absorbed in the body and even free from the allergenic substances found in milk. Whey hydroslate is the most processed form (it is also 90%+ pure) and is, therefore, the most expensive form as well.
So, which one should you buy?
There’s a few things to consider to make sure it’s right for you:
- There really isn’t research to support that isolates or hydroslates are going to be any better for your health than whey concentrates. But, isolates and hydroslates do digest faster, so they are superior for post-workout protein use. So if you want a protein for just “throughout the day” meal replacement use, go with concentrate because it’s cheaper and will be just fine. But, if you want a protein for post-workout use, it’s best you go with an isolate or hydroslate.
- Don’t fall into the trap of “well this is the cheapest whey that was there, so I got this” – you need to realize there is a reason for this. Good concentrates should have 80% protein volume by weight, bad concentrates will have less than this. But in any case, there is always a reason that something is cheaper. This doesn’t just go for protein either, it’s a rule for all supplements. You have to trust me here.
- Make sure you are getting a clean protein product, meaning, steer clear of added sugars, maltodextrin, and random flours being added in. This is becoming very prevalent in the industry, and although these things aren’t necessarily bad if you’re calculating your carbohydrate intake every day – most people aren’t doing that so avoiding when possible is ideal.
- Watch out for scammers! High price doesn’t always mean high quality, sneaky companies very often create “Protein Blends” and claim that multiple sources is superior. They will claim their protein is a combination of whey hydroslate, whey isolate, and whey concentrate so that you “get maximum benefits” – and yet 80% of the product will be the lower end whey concentrates, and the whey isolate and hydroslates are just sprinkled in.I would love to tell you I’m exaggerating, but I’m unfortunately not. So, whenever buying protein, I recommend you steer clear from blends, and if you want to make your own blend, simply buy two pure products and mix them yourself.
Keep those four steps in mind whenever buying a whey protein product. Now as for casein and egg, there really isn’t much to worry about. It is a much smaller market, and hardly tampered with at all (as far as shady companies go).
If you’re buying casein, stick with a micellar casein (the highest quality) protein powder.
If you’re buying egg protein, most all companies are comparable – just don’t buy one with excessive fat, which you’ll find sometimes due to the yolks.
Weight gainers are not a “solution” for hard gainers, they are tubs of junk. They have insanely high amounts of sugar in them, among a lot of other unnecessary fillers that will not only not help them build mass, but be deteriorating towards health.
If you need to gain weight, eat more food. Or, make your own weight gainer by adding natural peanut butter and a banana to your standard whey protein shake. This will be 100 times better than buying any weight gainer. End of story.
Pre-workout drinks are some of the most popular supplements in the entire supplement world, second probably only to protein powders. But, they also have some of the silliest labels and claims you could ever think of.
In a such a competitive market, it seems that whoever can say the most ridiculous stuff gets an edge (because unknowing people actually believe it, like I used to in my teenage years).
“You’re one scoop away from EXPLOSIVE POWER”
“Take 30 minutes prior to training for MAXIMUM ANABOLIC GROWTH”
“SWITCH ON YOUR ANABOLIC DNA CODES”
And under these claims, you will see a 300lb bodybuilder with his thumb up. You know, because it was this pre-workout that got him to where he is. Right.
What’s the truth though? Are they all worthless?
No, some of them are definitely worth it and can provide some real benefits towards performance, strength, and muscle mass gain. Here’s what you’re looking for:
Caffeine anhydrous: 100-300mg (effective energy stimulator and performance enhancer)
Beta-Alanine: 3-4g (excellent for prolonging anaerobic endurance)
L-Citrulline: 6-8g (effective blood flow enhancing substance)
Creatine Monohydrate: 2-5g (demonstrated to increase power, strength, and increase lean muscle mass)
EAAs: 5-10g (building blocks for muscle growth and repair)
Carbohydrate powder: 10-20g (preferred fuel source for both the muscles and nervous system)
If you can get some or all of those in your pre-workout formula, you’re doing great. Make important note of the doses I listed above, as those are the clinically effective doses. One thing the supplement industry will very commonly do is include a supplement at trace amounts, but then claim it’s clinically dosed effects. For example:
Our pre-workout product contains beta-alanine, and beta alanine has been demonstrated to prolong anaerobic efforts and improve inter-set recovery time, allowing you to train harder, longer!
Although this is true, they only included 500mg of beta alanine in their product. So, although what they are saying is technically true, it’s not true at the dose that they are providing in their product. Sneaky-sneaky.
Beyond this, I highly suggest you keep away from all “proprietary blends” – this allows companies to hide behind a blend, and not actually show you how much of each ingredient is in their product.
Now why would a company ever want to do that…
Oh right, because none of the doses are clinically effective. Got it.
Also, be wary about companies who try to sound fancy in an attempt to overprice their product. For example, epigallo-3-catechin-3-O-b-gallate is just green tea extract.
1,3,7-trimethylxanthine? Yeah, just caffeine.
It’s extremely profitable to try and sound like your product is advanced. Don’t ever be afraid to hold off on the purchase until you Google the ingredients, this can save you a lot of money in the long run if you’re a regular pre-workout consumer.
At the end of the day, I have absolutely nothing against good pre-workout products. I myself use them every workout. You get a good kick of energy out of them, a good pump, and increased overall performance.
But, you do have to go through a lot of nonsense in order to find a good one.
Find one with some of the above ingredients at their full dose, zero proprietary blends, no confusing mumbo-jumbo, and anything more than $50 is likely overpriced.
The supplement industry is always trying to find new ways to market new products and put higher price tags on these new creatine forms. Is it actually worth it?
Creatine monohydrate is by far the most extensively studied form of creatine, it is the old standby that has been around for what seems like forever. Many other forms have hit the market over the years claiming to have superiority over monohydrate, this usually comes complete with extreme hype and some humorous promises.
In more recent years, in a crossover design Jager et al compared plasma concentration curves over an 8-hour period between creatine pyruvate, creatine monohydrate and tri-creatine citrate. In the end, investigators concluded the very small plasma differences would not contribute to any additional benefit over creatine monohydrate due to creatine monohydrates near 100% bioavailability in oral form. So there goes creatine pyruvate and tri-creatine citrate.
Moving on, presentations at the ISSN even further shut down newer expensive creatines being not worth any extra money with Tallon and Child demonstrating Kre-Alkalyn (mainly marketed as its ability to remain alkaline and not break down in the stomach) has no further resistance to acid breakdown and did not reduce the rate of creatine to creatinine conversion compared to the much cheaper and equally effective creatine monohydrate. Those same researchers also showed creatine-ethyl-ester (CEE) rapidly degrades in the stomach even more so than creatine monohydrate, which remained almost entirely unaffected.
The takeaway here is that this is just one of the many examples where the supplement industry tries to change something that is already good for no reason. Creatine monohydrate is still the king and it is also massively cheaper than all of the above.
Testosterone boosters is a trickier category, because there is excellent research out there demonstrating very clearly that zinc, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin D all effectively raise testosterone levels.
So, the supplement companies take the results of “increased testosterone levels 200%” and slap it on their labels. While conveniently leaving out the fact that these nutrients only brought up testosterone levels in subjects who had clinical deficiencies in these nutrients, and that once the deficiency was corrected, there was no additive effect on testosterone levels by continuing supplementation protocols.
At best, this is misleading customers. At worst, it’s a complete scam, and yet you’ll see it today if you go to your local store. The clerk won’t know any better either since there is no educational requirement to work in a supplement store.
The labels on these testosterone boosting products make promises only steroids could back up (and sometimes not even that). Most testosterone boosters use D-Aspartic acid, ZMA, or Tribulus terrestris.
Multiple studies now have proven Tribulus has absolutely no effect on testosterone levels, ZMA won’t do anything unless you’re deficient (as mentioned above), and D-Aspartic Acid only worked well in rats and hypogonadal men…and failed miserably in healthy populations.
The bottom line here is that test boosters aren’t worth your time, and if you are deficient in a vitamin or mineral, simply taking that nutrient will be 100 times cheaper and just as effective.
Like test boosters, most HGH (human growth hormone) boosters are a waste of your money. They’re normally just a bunch of amino acids that have never been proven to actually raise HGH levels.
One exception here is GABA, GABA has been shown to elevate post-exercise HGH levels, but, the problem here is that the forms of growth hormones that were elevated have never been demonstrated to contribute to more muscle growth (there are over 100 forms of growth hormone in your body that play many different roles).
Save your money and never buy HGH boosters.
Nitric Oxide Supplements
The nitric oxide category of supplementation contains amino acids that claim to elevate the body’s own production of something known as “nitric oxide” which widens blood vessels and thus enables more oxygen and more nutrients to be delivered to working muscle tissue to support strength, endurance, and recovery.
Although it sounds like an awesome marketing pitch, it’s actually legit.
Multiple studies support L-Citrulline, Beta alanine, and nitrates ability to provide all of the above benefits when dosed correctly. I personally have found these very helpful with myself and with my clientele.
A good pre-workout should already have these right in them, so buying them separately normally isn’t necessary. But you still can buy them separately, nothing wrong with that. The only main thing you have to watch out for here is, once again, things being under-dosed. If you can get past that hurdle, these are worth your money.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is an essential fatty acid that occurs naturally in dairy and meat products.
CLA was very promising in the early days with some phenomenal research done on rats, it had a strong ability to both put on muscle and burn fat at the same time.
But unfortunately, the research didn’t go the same way when applied to humans. Multiple studies and even full meta-analysis (compilation of dozens and/or hundreds of studies) have demonstrated CLA’s ineffectiveness towards weight control.
Be cautious though, supplement labels out there will still tout CLA as a fat burner and cite the rat research for their “proof”
So unless you or someone in your family is a rat, I’d steer clear of CLA.
“Hey Dan, I have hockey camps coming up soon and some fat I need to lose. What fat burner should I take?”
If I had a dollar every time I heard that I’d be writing this article from my yacht in the Bahamas with an obnoxious cigar in my mouth. And maybe one gold tooth, just because they’re super attractive.
Look, the weight loss industry is absolutely massive, 30+ billion dollars to be exact. Due to this volume of sales, every couple of years there will be a “new ingredient” that the media will take up by storm. This results in hundreds of millions of dollars of wasted money on totally unproven and useless supplementation.
It’s upsetting because genuinely good people use their hard-earned money believing that what they’re being told is true, and it’s just simply not.
You’ll typically see some proprietary blend of stimulants such as caffeine, guarana, synephrine, yohimbe, etc. And the occasional amino acid such as taurine to improve blood flow, and perhaps a little 5-HTP to decrease appetite.
And then also some compounds that haven’t even been CORRELATED, let alone causative, towards weight reduction like some wild herbs and various vitamins. You know, to make it sound high-tech/advanced.
To give you some perspective, even full doses of all of these (which are almost NEVER in the blends) would yield roughly a 3-5% increase in metabolic rate, coming almost exclusively from caffeine.
A 200lb male will burn ~1900 calories per day with zero physical activity (a BMR value). So, in the best case scenario, you’re going to get about 100 calories or so of additional burning. And since a pound of fat is ~3500 calories, you can see why that last fat burner you bought didn’t do anything.
The much larger benefit you can get from over the counter products is an energy boost (which helps burn more calories), and appetite suppression (which helps you eat less calories without killing your inner circle of friends).
I can’t stress this enough, weight loss is about your total daily calorie intake, a fat burner will do absolutely NOTHING if you do not have healthy eating habits. You cannot out-supplement a bad diet. Stick to diet and training. Some smart supplementation can be used here, but, you CANNOT have this be “your plan” for the hockey camps.
Instead of buying another fat burner, use these top ten tips for fat loss to get started on the right path:
- There is no “one best diet” that works for everyone, and a “weird trick” for fat loss has never existed.
- The best way to measure your results is the mirror and objective physical performance measures in the gym/ice.
- Almost everybody’s Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio is light years off of where it should be, so you should hop on a high-quality fish oil product and consume 3g of combined EPA/DHA daily, this can help with fat loss.
- Eat real food. Lean meats, vegetables, fruits, legumes, raw nuts, avocados, healthy oils, and unprocessed carbohydrates. If it doesn’t have a label, you’re off to a great start.
- An active lifestyle doesn’t just mean go to the gym. The leanest and most fit people are always walking their dog, walking to the grocery store, actively playing with their kids, and keeping busy with movement-based hobbies such as hiking and recreational sports.
- Establish a support system with your partner, family, friends, and/or co-workers. Having your folks on your side creates an immeasurable impact on your results.
- Eat slowly (at least 20 mins per meal), and only ever eat until you are 80% full.
- Preparation will make or break you. Pick a day, which is usually Sunday, where you have an hour or so to prepare meals for the week.
- I can promise you with 100% certainty that you will never out-train a bad diet.
- Fat loss is not just physical, it’s highly psychological. Stress begins in the mind and ends in the body, I really want you to pay attention to your self-talk and begin taking a positive outlook on each day. You can do this, and you can see this through.
The Bottom Line
I tried to create a combination of the most popular performance and body transformation supplements available today and give you to real, uncut truth. You will undoubtedly come across many other supplements on the shelves, do yourself a favor and skip them all (unless you have a very highly qualified coach instructing you otherwise).
While you can make great gains without supplements, if you’re willing to spend money to enhance the process, I would recommend:
- Protein powder
- Amino acids
- Pre-workout supplement (with all or most of my mentioned ingredients)
- Nitric Oxide Boosters
Hockey Nutrition Conclusion
By now, you should have a completely different perspective on what it means to dial your nutrition in to optimize performance and recovery.
In this article, you have learned all about the biochemical and metabolic differences that set you apart from those around you, and exactly what you need to do in order to optimize your own eating plan.
You’ve gained new insights on what good nutrition actually means, what’s most important, what are the differences between protein/carbohydrates/fats, how to create fat loss or muscle gaining meal plans, and what supplements are going to benefit you the most in your journey.
You have also probably gained a whole new respect for things such as the importance of workout nutrition, game day nutrition, the need to train (and not exercise), and just how much science goes into all of this stuff beyond oversimplified recommendations like:
“Get your protein in”
“Make sure you stay hydrated”
At this point, you’re armed with the tools of knowledge that allow you to create a step-by-step meal plan to completely dominate out on the ice and begin the road to creating the ultimate hockey physique.
By now, if you have gone through this entire article and read all of my other work here at HockeyTraining.com – you know good and well that I am not exactly a “here, do this” type of coach.
My objective is never to create a “quick fix” hockey training program – if you’ve been reading carefully up to this point, you know that this stuff just isn’t possible. Any effective program designed to optimize athletic performance and physique transformation is not an overnight event.
Instead, I look to optimize your physiology today, so that by the end of the in-season or off-season (depending on when you read this), you will have a completely new body that will require a completely new system.
So rather than just giving you one meal plan and sending you on your way, my intention is to help you understand where your challenges lie and help you take the proper steps in addressing them.
In that regard, I hope this article very much embodied this old saying:
“Give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach him to fish, and feed him for a lifetime”
By reading this article once, or maybe even twice, you will be able to put together the necessary principles to get results for a lifetime, and not just this month. In that case, I did my job, and I sincerely hope you enjoyed the information presented in this manual.
If you’re looking to take your hockey game to a whole new level check out the hockey training programs I’ve created here at HockeyTraining.com.