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Are supplements needed in hockey?

By Mike Fabbro on November 10, 2014

I’m working with more and more young hockey players, up to the junior level, and our conversations on training always cross over to nutrition, supplements and game day preparation. 

The questions and feedback I get compelled me to write this article. 

Full disclosure, I’m not a medical professional and have no formal education in nutrition. My suggestions, however, are all based on personal experience and have all been extensively researched and validated by medical professionals specialists in sports nutrition. What follows is what my teenaged boys and I use to support our athletic activities and training.

Vitamin Z
Sleep, or “vitamin z” is the first and most important supplement for athletes because it allows your body to rest, recover and repair itself. During sleep is the only time the Human Growth Hormone is released, which is needed for repair and growth. Growing boys and girls need a minimum of eight hours of sleep every night. Add one hour of sleep for every hour of hard training, in the gym or on the ice. Almost all pros have a nap during the day to supplement their evening sleep.

Magnesium Citrate
Speaking of sleep, Magnesium is the sleep vitamin and helps calm sore muscles after a late game or practice. I recommend you take 150-250 mgs. with water after evening sessions. 

Omega 3
Omega 3 is a powerful anti-inflammatory compound derived from fish oils. It is completely natural and has many benefits including brain development. I prefer to take Omega 3 in liquid form first thing in the morning for maximum absorption and benefit. In the winter I take Omega 3D, which has 1000 mg of added vitamin D per teaspoon. If you eat fish two to three times a week, you won’t need to supplement your diet, otherwise this one is tops on my list.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin and boosts your immune system to help avoid catching those winter colds and resist whatever nasty bugs lurks in hockey change rooms.

Greens in powder or pill form are a great, natural “superfood.” It’s like having a fresh salad in a pill. They contain chlorophyll-rich spirulina and chlorella that provide an energy boost. They also lower the body’s acidity level, caused by lactic acid build up from heavy training, which is good for your skin.

Multivitamin for Athletes
There is no harm in taking a generic multivitamin on a daily basis, just in case you didn’t eat as well as you should have. There are also many multivitamins designed specifically for the needs of teens and athletes. To maximize their potential, take them at night before bed, with water.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C is one of the safest and most effective nutrients to take. It’s water soluble, boosts the immune system and is an an antioxidant. Medical experts recommend 500 mg daily in support of a healthy diet.

Protein Powders, Bars and Drinks
There is much debate and conflicting information when it comes to protein and how much to supplement, if at all. Our bodies need protein to grow and repair. The key is to have a steady supply of protein throughout the day. We all get enough protein at supper, but a bowl of cereal for breakfast and a meat sandwich, fruit and chocolate milk for lunch won’t feed the needs of a growing, active hockey player. As a general guide, I recommend one gram of protein for every pound of body weight spread throughout the day. 

My 13-year-old son, who gained 30 pounds last year and 50 pounds in the last two, weighs 130 pounds. He was always hungry and was getting a tan from the light in the fridge until I spread out his protein intake. He now has peanut butter and toast for breakfast, a peanut butter or meat sandwich and a protein bar for lunch, a “standard” supper and a 30-gram protein drink right after his evening practice or game. His total intake is around 120-140 grams of protein per day. He still eats pizza and junk food like everyone else, I just make sure he has his protein first, then his carbs or sugars. 

Creatine is an organic acid produced in the liver that helps supply energy to your body’s cells, including your muscle cells. Athletes take creatine supplements to improve their
performance because it allows the body to produce more energy, and to train harder. I only recommend the use of creatine for off-season training or if a hockey player is losing too much weight during the season from extensive training. 

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) help decrease exercise-induced muscle damage, increase muscle recovery, and regulate protein synthesis. This means being able to train at a higher intensity for a prolonged period of time. BCAAs are in all whey powders but also come in powder form. They should be taken within 30 minutes of finishing your workout for maximum benefit. Although every bodybuilder in the gym uses them with every workout, I only recommend supplementing with BCAAs after strenuous training sessions and during the off season. 

Some players still take energy drinks before a game and take banned substances like epinephrine between periods. There are web pages filled with proof of why this is not only dangerous, but of little positive benefit in elite athletes.

Like I said, these are my opinions and what works for me, my family and the athletes I work with. Do your own research to see what is best for you. 

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By Mike Fabbro| November 10, 2014
Categories:  Performance

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