Just about every athlete that I’ve worked with at Endeavor has asked me some sort of supplement question. Every individual has a different perception of supplements. I’m surprised about some of the stereotypes associated with certain supplements:
“Protein supplements are only for people that want to build muscle or ‘bulk up’”
“Creatine is like steroids” or “You put on all this water weight and you lose all your gains after you stop taking it”
“Supplements are bad for you because they aren’t natural”
I could go on and on. The argument about whether athletes should or shouldn’t take supplements is interesting. On one hand, the optimal way to deliver nutrients to the body is through natural whole foods. With that said, the overwhelming majority of athletes (and people for that matter) don’t eat many natural whole foods and are drastically malnourished. If you aren’t sure about whether you fall into this category or not, test your nutrition IQ by asking yourself these questions?
If you didn’t do so well with answering these questions (lots of “no” responses), you probably have substantial room for improvement in your diet (that’s a good thing). This is where the argument anti-supplement argument loses some steam. Most hockey players, flat out, DO NOT eat what they’re supposed to. Many can bridge the gap with intelligent supplementation, at least until we can educate them on how changing their diet may be more beneficial.
Taking a high performance athlete with terrible eating habits and switching him/her over to a high performance diet will help them perform better and recover more quickly. In most matters of advanced sports nutrition, I defer to my good friend Brian St. Pierre, who will officially be joining the Endeavor Staff as a consultant in the ensuing months. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend you check out his website, where he has a lot of great current nutrition information and delicious health-conscious recipes: Brian St. Pierre Training.
Achieving and Maintaining Low Body Fat Levels
One of the key elements of athletic excellence is achieving and maintaining low body fat levels. With few exceptions (e.g. football linemen in some cases), athletes want to keep their body fat levels low so they aren’t lugging around extra weight. An easy way to picture this is to think about sprinting full speed with a weight vest on; then sprinting full speed without it. Naturally you’d feel quicker, more agile, and less tired sprinting without the extra weight. Of course, if you add weight from muscle mass, that’s a different story because that weight is going to help propel you faster and ultimately increases the size of your “engine” and improves your athletic capacity.
Simple Science Behind Fat Loss
I’ll admit that the science behind fat loss can be quite complex, but understanding this aspect of it is quite simple. Whether it’s a training session, practice, or game, many athletes rely on sports drinks like Gatorade/Powerade, which are very high in sugar. These aren’t bad solutions for providing energy to active athletes (although they should be avoided throughout the rest of the day). When you take in a high simple carbohydrate (e.g sugary) product, your insulin levels rise. Insulin can be though of a “storage substance” as it shuttles things in the blood (in this case sugar) to the muscle. Unfortunately, when insulin has an inverse relationship to fat burning, meaning when insulin levels are high in the blood (as they are after taking in anything high in simple carbohydrates) your body isn’t able to use fat as a significant fuel source. This is one of the major limitations to sports nutrition recommendations for athletes that need to lose fat or maintain low levels of body fat. They need the energy, but not at the expense of fat loss.
As I mentioned, sports drinks (especially those combined with a protein source) aren’t a terrible option. For a while, drinks that lead to the aforementioned reaction were the best solution for athletes. The fat loss battle just needs to be fought throughout the rest of the day/diet. A couple months back I had the opportunity to meet Shaun Gagnon, a representative from a new supplement company called Generation UCAN.
Shaun described their new product to me and it really caught my attention. He pointed out that traditional sports drinks:
In comparison, their product is built around a new “SuperStarch” carbohydrate source that avoids many of these undesirable effects. This SuperStarch slows the release of glucose in the blood which avoids the energy spike and crash that traditional sports drinks can cause. More relevant to the fat loss battle, it also helps mobilize fat for fuel. Studies on SuperStarch have shown that SuperStarch is associated with greater fat breakdown both during exercise and for an extended period of time following exercise during recovery.
Hearing about the SuperStarch interested me; reading the scientific findings made me more of a believer; but what really sold me was knowing that SuperStarch receives the support of Dr. Jeff Volek, PhD, RD. Dr. Volek is the co-author of the Atkins Diet and one of the leading low-carbohydrate researchers/supporters in the world. I equate Dr. Volek supporting a carbohydrate supplement with Ghandi supporting a war.
We’ve had Generation UCANs carbohydrate/protein mix for the last few months at Endeavor, but haven’t “released it to the public” yet because we wanted to see if it was really all it was cracked up to be. We weren’t disappointed. Most of our hockey players took one packet of the whey protein and carb blend before they trained and one after. None of our players noticed a drop-off in energy delivery compared to more “sugary” sports nutrition options and the effects on body fat have been favorable.
If you are or work with high-level athletes or other athletes that need to be body fat conscious, I highly recommend you look into Generation UCAN. You can find out more information about their products at their site: Generation UCAN. As a loyal visitor to my site, I talked to Shaun about hooking you up with a special discount too. If you buy anything, enter the code “KNHockey” into the code section on the order summary page.
To your success,
Kevin has rapidly established himself as a leader in the field of physical preparation and sports science for ice hockey. He is currently the Head Performance Coach for the Boston Bruins, where he oversees all aspects of designing and implementing the team’s performance training program, as well as monitoring the players’ performance, workload and recovery. Prior to Boston, Kevin spent 2 years as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the San Jose Sharks after serving as the Director of Performance at Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ. He also spent 5 years as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with USA Hockey’s Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, and has been an invited speaker at conferences hosted by the NHL, NSCA, and USA Hockey.