Archive for the ‘Nutrition for Hockey’ Category

Hockey players are getting better and better at making healthy choices.

I mean you have to go back quite a ways to picture Guy Lafleur or a similar vintage player smoking.

Ok maybe you don’t have to go that far back but you get the idea.

For the most part hockey players are making a better effort at training in the off-season, getting adequate rest and trying to eat as healthily as possible.

But is this what they should be doing? Maybe not. There are certain instances where what would be recommended as healthy for the general population would be ill-advised for hockey players.

Let take  look at a few examples.

#1 – Only Drink Water

There’s an ad on tv that shows a kids soccer team drinking sports drinks during a break in the game. And one of the players asks the coach if they are drinking to replace the water they have lost. When the coach says ‘yes’ then the player asks ‘so how come we don’t just drink water’.

Now the answer to this seems obvious but here’s the greater problem. Drinking water when you are exercising intensely deals with the issue of thirst but does not address the problem of hydration.

In fact drinking water instead of a sports drink magnifies the dehydration issue. Not to get into all the science behind this but it has to do with something called osmolarity which refers to how many particles of a solid are in a given liquid.

When the osmolarity of the blood increases this serves as a trigger to rehydrate. Drinking water quenches thirst but does not address the issue of hydration and thus athletic performance suffers.

#2 Intermittent Fasting

This is something we all currently follow but just at different degrees. We all stop eating at a certain point in the evening and resume eating the following morning. So there is a period of fasting.

Now for the weight loss crowd intermittent fasting is gaining some traction as something that may be fairly effective if your goal is to lose a few around the midsection.

However when it comes to athletic performance I am not convinced the scientific evidence supports delaying or avoiding meals. I have questions as to how this impacts muscle glycogen, recovery abilities, hydration status, mental focus and fatigue levels during competition and therefore would hold off on incorporating this into your plan.

#3 – Cut Your Carbs

The average person would be well advised to reduce their carb intake. This includes not only all the refined sugar they consume but many of the starches and fruits.

A quick scan at the book store will show the popularity of this nutritional approach to improving health.

But improving health via reduced weight, increased insulin sensitivity or carb control doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as on ice perfomance for hockey.

Take for example the pre-game meal for hockey. This should consist of a minimum 60% carbohydrates and for some as high as 75%. But if you were to follow the advice for the average person this is way too high. The recommendation could be as low as 20 or 30% of the calories as carbs.

This would mean the difference then becomes proteins and fats. Here’s what you’ll feel like it you ate 80% of your pre-game calories as protein and fat.

I’ll leave it at that for now. There are many more examples in terms of how the average person and the hockey player need to be different in how they eat. The key point is to recognize these differences and to eat for performance rather than what is recommended for the general population.


Alright in the first part of this post I talked a little bit about putting on quality lean body mass rather than simply putting on weight. Unfortunately when most people look to put on size they don’t go about it the right way and will add primarily bodyfat instead on lean mass. This does nothing to increase your speed and athleticism and actually compromises both.

So to ensure every pound you add lends to more horsepower and more on-ice potential we want to follow the following rules.

1. Establish a Baseline

I’m always amazed at the number of young athletes who come to me saying they want to put on weight. And I’ll tell them need to increase their caloric intake. Their standard answer? ‘I’m already eating all of the time.’

Actually they aren’t. And they need to realize that if they are simply maintaining weight they will need to increase the amount they are eating.

How much more? Well first I need to them to journal what they are already eating. This shows me what, how much and when they are eating. From there we can make tweaks to improve the limiting factor of time, quality or dose.

2. Increase the Energy Density

The easiest way to eat more calories is to increase the energy density of our meals. Very few athletes count calories and most will eat based on portion size.

With that being said here are 2 ways to increase the energy density of your meals.

a. Increase the Fat Content

Fat has 9 calories per gram as opposed to carbs and protein which each have approximately 4 calories per gram. So you’ll get twice the calories for every gram of fat in the diet. Make sure when you increase your fat intake it is a balanced mix of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats.

b. Decrease the Water in Your Meals

Ever wonder why many weight loss diets are based around soups? It’s because when they’re made with water you can consume a large volume of soup but still have a low calorie meal.

Adding water to a meal increases the volume but adds zero calories. So you can fill your stomach without taking in lots of calories.

Think of eating foods that have been dried to remove the water content, e.g. trail mix, to increase the energy content.

3. Drink More of Your Calories

When working with someone on a weight loss goal we want to ensure the only thing they drink is water. This is because it’s too easy to add lots of extra calories to the nutritional plan when you are drinking full fat dairy, juices and smoothies.

If your goal is to put on lean mass then by all means make sure to drink as many of your calories as required.

4. Never Miss a Meal

It’s surprising the number of hockey players I’ll see who want to put on mass but skip breakfast. It doesn’t make sense.

They’ll eat their last meal the day prior at 6 pm and then not eat again until late morning or possibly noon.

Sure there  may be some late night snacking and a large lunch but they will go the majority (over 12 hours) of the day without eating. And then they’ll wonder why they can’t put on a pound. You need to be diligent and consistent with your efforts.

5. Add 250 calories to the Post Workout Drink

If after applying steps #1-4 for a couple of weeks and nothing has changed regarding your weight look to add 250 calories to your post-workout shake. This might mean adding a piece of fruit and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter to your shake. Or maybe it’s a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Whatever you chose is up to you. Just make sure it’s protein paired with carbohydrate and it’s 250 calories more than what you’d been doing previously.


Hockey is a game of speed, mobility and fitness. If you’re going to increase your mass you need to be certain it won’t affect any of these traits. Look to add the best quality calories to  up your weight and track your intake with as much detail as possible. This way you’ll know what worked for you and how well it worked.


Recently I presented a nutritional seminar to a hockey team. And although not the topic for that presentation one of the questions was how to put on weight.

And it’s important that we make the distinction between putting on weight and putting on lean body mass. Because it’s really easy to put on weight.  A few extra meals through a window everyday and you’re set.

But putting on quality lean body mass (think muscle) is more of a challenge. Especially when you play a sport where mobility, speed and agility matter as they do in hockey.

Because if we were talking about bulking up a lineman playing football this is a lot easier. But hockey players can’t afford to carry extra mass that doesn’t contribute to increased performance.

So that’s the first rule of putting on weight for hockey. If extra weight slows you down it’s not good weight. If extra weight diminishes your athleticism it’s not good weight. And if extra weight causes you to become fatigued more easily during a game it’s not good weight.

And putting on extra lean body mass is not easy. I don’t know how many times I’ve had athletes, particularly males, come in for training and tell me one of their goals is to put on 20 lbs of muscle.

Ha! As if it were that easy. Consider what an eight ounce steak looks like…

Now know that it takes 2 of these to make one pound of muscle protein. And for 20 lbs of muscle it would take 40 eight ounce steaks slapped all over the body. But since hockey relies so heavily on lower body strength and power we’ll say that the majority of these steaks are going to be applied to the legs, hips and low back with a small amount through the upper body and arms.

That’s a huge amount of muscle protein and should make you appreciate how hard it would be to put on 20 lbs of muscle.

But it gets better.

An increase in lean body mass is the result of a increase in energy intake. In other words we need to eat more. And this increased consumption in quality, nutritious calories will help contribute to the synthesis of lean body mass.

But we don’t simply put on muscle mass when we increase our calories. While the goal is to put on as much of this weight as muscle the truth is that we may increase our bodyfat as well.

When we are talking about the reverse situation, weight loss, we don’t simply lose fat. There is a loss of lean body mass as well as a loss in fat mass. But the losses aren’t the same for everyone.

People with more fat mass will lose more fat, and retain more lean mass, on a weight loss program than lean people. And it would seem intuitive to assume that the reverse condition would also apply. Lean people will have a more difficult time putting on mass than larger people will. Yeah, I know. Life isn’t fair.

In part II of this article I’ll share some tips to putting on lean body mass without compromising your performance on the ice.



I’m always intrigued when an article comes out with a position that goes counter to what we normally believe when it comes to training, nutrition and recovery. 

I think it’s good when we hear things that challenge our conventional wisdom. It makes us think about why we do certain things. Do we simply select certain exercises because they are the ones we’ve always done? 

Or do we look for new ways of doing things that generate better results, or take less time or both. 

I’d like to think I’d fall into the second category. I know what my training philosophy is and I know what has worked for the hockey players I’ve worked with over the years. And when I come across something new I ask myself: 

* What is the purpose of this new ‘thing’, whether it be an exercise, a warm up, a recovery technique, a nutritional approach etc? 

* What about it is better than the old way of doing things? 

* Does it lend to better performance or reduced chance of injury? 

* Can we safely, effectively and morally implement this new ‘thing’ into our current programming and reap the benefits? 

Because when you think about we are exposed to new options every day. 

There are new pieces of training equipment. New types of shoes and apparel. New nutritional programs. As well many other options to do the job you are trying to with your hockey training. 

Recently the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) held meetings where a lot of buzz was created by the concept of training in a fasted state. 

This goes counter to what most coaches and trainers would advise their athletes to do. AIS nutritionist Louise Burke explains the interest is related to cell signalling. As the proteins of interest are locked up carbohydrate stores, depleting the body may free up these proteins to send the signal related to the demands of training. 

I’m not entirely sold on this idea just yet. And here’s why. 

A summary of the benefits of this type of training included reduction in levels of body fat and making the body less reliant on the use of carbohydrates as an energy source. 

I could brush my teeth with a screwdriver but I’d rather use a tooth brush. What I mean is that although we might be able to achieve an end goal (lower body fat) there are better ways to do this. 

Secondly, as the intensity of exercise goes up I want my body to well trained to use carbs as a fuel source. As I lower my intensity, the body uses less carbs and more fat as a fuel source. Hockey is an explosive, anaerobic sport where I want to be able to derive energy quickly from carbs. 

Thirdly, is it fat loss one of your main goals with your hockey training? Unless you’re Kyle Wellfed this probably doesn’t apply to you and many other hockey players. 

Further, one of the main reasons we encourage a pre-workout or game meal is to provide fuel for the efforts but as well to be glycogen sparing. As you deplete the muscle and liver of glycogen you impair the ability of the body to recover post-workout. 

And to hammer the point home further this is from the ACSM bulletin by Louise Burke. 

‘Follow-up studies using TL strategies in well-trained athletes have not found any performance benefits over TH, although the muscle chemistry adaptation in the TL condition has often shown superior gains. Importantly, TL strategies have interrupted the capacity of athletes to train at high speeds or high power outputs. 

Just to summarize Burke’s view on this topic: 

* there are no performance benefits 

* high speed and high power training is interrupted 

when applying a low carbohydrate approach as recommended per the AIS discussion. 

So what should you take out of all this? 

Basically, for now I would not recommend this approach for hockey players. Even if your goal involves losing bodyfat there are better ways to accomplish. 

Plus we should wait and see if other, independent labs can reproduce the same results and demonstrate benefits to training in a fasted state. 


So what does your post-workout plan look like? Is there a plan? Do you know what you’re supposed to be doing but sometimes forget to make the arrangements ahead of time? Or do you have no clue and will follow what everyone else is doing regardless of whether it is effective or not?
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