Does your hockey diet include sports or nutritional supplements? Nutritional supplements are just that—supplements. They help to balance out diets that lack a particular nutrient or two, and can bolster an individual’s efforts to better their physical state. This is no different for hockey players (and indeed all athletes). In this game of split-second events, having that extra burst or bit of reaction time can mean the difference between winning a faceoff or getting the puck in the net. Understanding the basics about what some of these supplements provide is the first step towards responsibly and effectively incorporating them into your diet (or at least recognizing what’s in that shaker bottle your friend always carries around).
The Benefits of Using Protein Powder for Hockey Nutrition
The amino acids within protein are the essential building blocks of muscle growth and recovery, along with a plethora of other bodily processes. In particular, these acids help to repair and build muscle tissue that has experienced trauma in the form of micro-tears: what we know as exercise. Protein molecules take much longer to break down than sugars or carbohydrates, meaning they last longer as a source of energy, even if you don’t feel as immediate a boost. Using protein powder as a substitute for coffee is a fantastic way to start incorporating this supplement into any diet, as it will do just as well to keep you alert without the ensuing jitters caffeine tends to bring on. Protein shakes can also serve as light meals throughout the day, and you can mix them with fruits, vegetables, and even other supplements. Times when protein absorption is most beneficial tend to lie in the pre- and post-workout stages of physical activity. Taking a protein shake up to an hour or two before and after you hit the ice or gym ensures your muscles have plenty of fuel to to use in both the exertion and recovery phases of physical activity.
Sports Drinks: Smart Hydration for Hockey Players
The advantage of choosing a sports drink over water is that it carries electrolytes where water does not. Electrolytes are minerals that facilitate the transmission of nerve signals throughout the body, particularly to the muscles. Sweating results in a loss of electrolytes, which diminishes an athlete’s reaction time. Most sports drinks also contain a source of carbohydrates in the form of added sugar, which provides a quick boost of energy upon consumption. And these sugars generally make the sports drinks more palatable than plain water. If nothing else, this generally encourages athletes to drink more fluids at rest, resulting in better hydration overall.
Water itself may not boast a specific flavor or electrolyte makeup, but it is the tried and true way to rehydrate your body. Sugar-restrictive diets may discourage the consumption of sports drinks, and while low-sugar variants exist, there is no harm in just sticking with the substance that makes up at least 65% of our bodies.
Hockey players should avoid energy drinks or sodas at all costs. While the caffeine they contain may make you hyper alert, the amount of sugar in them is simply not healthy for repeated ingestion. These beverages have also shown to be diuretic, which results in an excessive amount of fluid leaving the body. Trust us, having a sugar crash in the third period is not something you want to happen; stick to water and/or sports drinks for hydration.
Should a Hockey Diet Include Pre-Workout Supplements?
“Pre-workouts” are concentrated substances, usually in pill or powder form, that stimulate the body’s energy and focus, to provide peak performance before physical activity. Common ingredients are caffeine, B-vitamins, amino acids, and carbs. Essentially these ingredients promote a “high-burn” of energy in the body for a short period of time, which leads to the maximization of potential in the gym and on the ice.
Pre-workouts are not regulated by the FDA, just like every other workout supplement. Take care to consider what you are actually putting in your body and weigh the risks against the rewards of these substances. Many people feel “out of control” when taking one of these products. Others find they merely have more energy. The bottom line is that everyone responds differently to them, so starting out with small doses is advised. The key to safely consuming pre-workouts—and all supplements for that matter—is finding what product and dosage work with your body so that you feel comfortable with your physical state and presence of mind.
Some Common Nutritional Supplements Athletes Use
In addition to some of the cornerstones of sports nutrition, quite a few compounds exist that boast a particular benefit to performance. You can find most of them in your local pharmacy/supplement shop in powder and pill forms. For hockey players, incorporating these into your nutrition plan can provide a boost to a particular aspect of your game/training regimen.
Glutamine is one of the key amino acids in protein that helps to promote immune system health and prevent muscle breakdown. Sickness or injury draws on protein stores in the body and breaks them down to access the glutamine within. Adding glutamine to your diet while you’re sick or injured can help to maintain muscle mass and encourage quicker recovery. As a bonus, glutamine has also been shown to fortify intestinal health by strengthening the barrier between the intestines and the rest of the body.
The amino acid beta alanine helps to promote muscular endurance. A common ingredient in pre-workouts, it acts as a buffer to acid buildup within the body. Specifically, beta alanine metabolizes into the molecule carnosine, which helps protect the body against excessive acid buildup. In the gym this supplement can help you achieve an extra rep or two per set. On the ice it can stave off the muscle burn that comes from a long shift, and it can improve cardiovascular performance.
Creatine helps you build and maintain your internal energy stores. Adding creatine as a supplement in your hockey diet leads to the buildup of phosphocreatine in muscles, which is a compound that helps to produce ATP (units of energy within the body). This extra energy is beneficial in heavy lifts and other workouts of high intensity. Creatine also assists in maintaining water levels in the body, which equates to higher muscle volume and therefore more bulk overall. Those looking to maintain and build mass for hockey will find that creatine is an invaluable supplement to add to their diet.
Omega-3 can do quite a bit for a hockey player. Its anti-inflammatory properties can assist in recovery from workouts or after games. This fatty acid has continually shown to benefit heart health, which is only a good thing for cardiovascular performance. Omega-3s have also been linked to increased levels of protein synthesis within the body, which helps in the stimulation of muscle growth and recovery. Help with insulin regulation and neurological disorders also makes Omega-3 a fantastic supplement for personal well-being. Even though it is not commonly associated with the sports world, don’t overlook it as a useful and key addition to your hockey nutrition.
Before you make any changes to your hockey diet, consult your doctor about which supplements can help you achieve peak performance at the gym or on the ice.
We’ve explained what you might want to put into your body, but what about your hockey bag? Our guide to hockey bag essentials has you covered.