Posts Tagged ‘carbs’

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.


Do  you have a favorite post workout drink? Or maybe something you always grab after a game to chug back?

Hopefully you answered ‘yes’ and hopefully it’s something healthy.

Because here’s the problem.

Many players will finish a game, practice or training session and that’s it. There is no post-workout shake or drink. They simply hit the showers and then grab a meal once they get home or the restaurant when on the road.

That’s too bad.

By not having a post-workout shake they are delaying the recovery process. Plus it helps control the level of muscle damage as evidenced by reduced levels of creatine kinase. And so they won’t be as well rested and ready to go in the next game if they had a drink right after.

And right after is the key. As soon as you leave the ice. Or right after the last rep in the weight room.

I remember a few years ago visiting a colleague who was the strength coach for the Colorado Avalanche. We were watching the game together until about half way through the third period when he excused himself to go make the post-game shakes for the players. Sakic and company would then have a drink ready for them right after the final buzzer.

So what should this post-workout drink look like? Honestly it doesn’t have to be anything too fancy. What we’re looking for is a carb to protein ratio around 4:1. And if you’re on the road and don’t have access to a kitchen, sink, blender etc there’s something else that works just fine. Chocolate milk.

Really? Yes and a recent study look at how effective chocolate milk was at enhancing recovery.

What they did was use two different drink samples. One was chocolate milk and the other was a carb and protein mixture. Both drinks had the same amount of calories as well as the same of carbs and protein.

The researchers had a group of cyclists perform high intensity sprints after which they were given chocolate milk or the carb plus protein drinks. These drinks were consumed immediately after finishing the sprints as well as two hours later.

15 to 18 hours later they had the cyclists do another physical test. For hockey players imagine playing in a tournament and finishing a game Sat at 6 pm and then playing again Sun at 9 am  or 12 noon. A week later the cyclists repeated the test only this time they drank the opposite drink from the first week. If they had chocolate milk the first time now they had the carb plus protein drink. And vice versa.

What did they find?

There was no significant difference in time to exhaustion of the cyclists nor was there a significant difference of the levels of creatine kinase in their blood.

In other words chocolate milk was as effective as a commercially available protein recovery supplement in terms of recovery and minimizing muscle damage.

Here’s the citation for this study:

Pritchett, K, Bishop, P, Pritchett, R, Green, M, and Katica, C. Acute effects of chocolate milk and a commercial recovery beverage on postexercise recovery indices and endurance cycling performance. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 34:1017 – 1022. 2009.

And here’s the nutritional info for 1 cup of chocolate milk:

energy 192 cal

protein 9 g

carb 27 g

fat 6 g

So when you’re stuck for what to have after training or a game grab a chocolate milk. It has good dose of protein, a decent carb to protein and it doesn’t hurt that it tastes great as well.




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.