Hockey Blog

Many people like the summer...

Many people like the summer. But for hockey fans it is a massive abyss of melancholic longing for the puck to drop on another season. During such times, the sports media must stretch to find some story any story to appease this hockey crazed country of ours.

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You might think someone such as myself, a Registered Dietitian, Certified Exercise Physiologist and life-long hockey fan, would be happy to have this downtime filled by reports of NHL players off-season diet /training regimes. On the contrary the type of diet/ training regimes I usually hear about make me madder than an NHL lockout.

The latest example of NHL nutritional non-sense that is my displeasure to direct you towards appeared on NHL.com on Aug.27, 2012. (http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=640410). It outlines the story of how this promising young defenseman has used a nutrition plan designed for him by his personal trainer to get into peak condition for the upcoming season.

Allow me to provide some more direct quotes from this article, including this one that seems to summarize how this player is eating to get ready for an NHL season:

" I eat a lot of protein steak in the morning, steak in the afternoon, fish, chicken," he told NHL.com during a recent trip to his training facility. "At the start of the summer I order a whole cow from a grain-fed farm .

Blasphemy! I cannot emphasize strongly enough that this is essentially the direct opposite of what the science tells us is the best way for a high-level athlete like a hockey player to eat. This is not like a debate about who is the best goaltender of all-time where one person says Patrick Roy and the other says Martin Brodeur; it's like a debate where one person says Patrick Roy and the other says Hardy Astrm.

The article also states the diet includes: No eggs. No toast. No potatoes . Further it is stated that the player and his trainer have eliminated all grain, wheat and dairy products . The trainer goes on to elaborate: As the phases go on, we start to implement good carbs into his diet, good starches. Still no wheat and no grains, but we like good starches like yams. There are no breads, no pastas. "

Any elementary student would be able to tell you there are four food groups and this diet eliminates two of them. Any first year nutrition student would be able to add that the activities of high level athletes like hockey players are best fuelled by carbohydrates and this diet is grossly lacking in them (not to mention a bunch of vitamins, minerals and other beneficial substances which this trainer and player erroneously believe can be obtained with: freshly blended vegetable juice, fish oils, Vitamin C and various other multivitamins but that's a whole other issue). Given the elimination of so many foods, including most of the best carbohydrate sources, I am left shaking my head as to what exactly is fueling the astronomical energy demands of this players workout regime:

On Mondays, gym in the morning and doing field training later in the afternoon. Tuesday features more morning gym work and an afternoon on-ice session. Training twice on Wednesday, once on Thursday, twice on Friday and takes Saturday off. Sunday nights, pickup game with several other NHLers .

The theoretical calculations would estimate that this much activity, undertaken by a 23 year old male who weighs 220lbs (as per the article), would result in a mind-bogglingly high caloric requirement. But let's stick with our main focus and examine just the carbohydrates: the American Dietetics Association, Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine joint position stand on nutrition and athletic performance recommends a total of 6-10 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight per day. For arguments sake, let's use the lowest end of this range as our starting point for this player. Now let's make a further concession that this range possibly over-estimates the carbohydrate needs for an athlete like a hockey player. In reality I have a hard time accepting this, especially during the summer when a hockey player is engaged a workout program as colossal as this one. Make no mistake about it, a summer training program like this easily dwarfs the physiological demands of an NHL season, the centerpiece of which for this particular player last year was averaging 24 minutes and 18 seconds of physical activity (average ice time per game as per stats at NHL.com) on 81 nights (games) over 156 days (the length of the season). Such a comment might offend some NHL players it shouldnt. If the games are harder than your training sessions then you should fire your trainer. But I digress. Lets reduce the carbohydrate recommendation even further by cutting the bottom end of the range in half. Even after all this reducing, the player still needs to consume 300 grams of carbohydrate per day.

So where is he getting them? Well they like yams. Good. A yam has around 30 grams of carbohydrate. Is this player eating 10 yams per day? Is he eating 10 yams per day every day of the summer? Oh but I forgot this diet does grant him (a few) other carbohydrate containing foods. Lets say that yams make up only half of his carbohydrate intake; yes that's better five yams per day every day for a summer is much more reasonable. What about the carbs in this freshly blended vegetable juice? Well that would give him about another 50 grams of carbohydrate if he drinks 1litre of it every day. Now he has only to find another 100 grams of carbohydrate. Hes also allowed to eat vegetables. Of course he is! In the long, bizarre annals of wacky diets the one food that nobody has ever suggested should be avoided is leafy greens. Stuff like spinach, lettuce, kale and Swiss chard are universally accepted as a healthy food. And good news for this player they contain carbohydrates! They contain carbohydrates in the amount of about 5 grams per 250ml. In other words all he has left to do to hit the (radically reduced) carbohydrate total that I've estimated for him is to eat 20 cups of leafy green vegetables per day. Every day. For a whole summer.

Oh and don't forget over that time he'll also be eating an entire cow.

He may have bought an entire cow, but I am buying none of this B.S.

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Posted in Sports Post Date 04/19/2017


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