I recently started, rapidly worked through, and completed the Precision Nutrition Certification Course. As I read through the 440 page text book over the last week, I was bombarded with great nutrition and supplementation information that really opened my eyes on differential strategies for people of different body types, and on how to bridge the gap between theory and practice.

While I found a lot of the advanced stuff really interesting, I think it’s important that people really master the basics before even considering the advanced strategies. For example, calorie and carbohydrate cycling probably won’t make a difference if the majority of your calories come from McDonalods, snacks, and other processed foods (including the “freezer dinners”).

The importance of nutrition in hockeyperformance cannot be denied. In fact, nutrition is largely responsible for:

  • Providing fuel for athletic movement
  • Replenishing energy stores after competition
  • Rebuilding bone and muscle mass following activity
  • Maintaining an athletic body composition (e.g. adequate muscle mass and minimal body fat for most sports)

This is truly just the tip of the iceberg. On a less obvious level, nutrition drives every function in your body, from maintaining the integrity of your cells, to allowing for proper blood flow and oxygen delivery, to improving eyesight.

Nutrition information is readily available. Indeed, it’s quite difficult to anywhere, watch TV, or listen to the radio without being bombarded by some sort of nutrition-related message. Unfortunately, finding QUALITY nutrition information is a different story. There are more commonly believed myths about nutrition than any other aspect of athletic development.  
Last week I listened to an audio interview with my mentor Michael Boyle, where he referenced a nutrition axiom:

“Eat food. Mostly plants and animals. Not too much.”

Nutrition, at the most surface level, is really THAT simple. Think about all the food you eat. How much of it is actually food? In other words, how much of it is NOT a “food product”, or something that has been manufactured by mankind? My friend Brian St. Pierre refers to “food” as things that can be grown or hunted.

Gatorade? Not food. The typical school lunch of chicken nuggets and tater tots. Not food. All chips, pretzels, dunkaroos and other enticing snacks. Not food.

Nuts aside, there is NO real food here.

Looked at this way, it’s amazing how much of the typical American diet is lacking in real food. This is true of both athletes and non-athletes. The next time you’re about to prepare a meal, ask yourself how much of what you’re about to make is real food, and how you can increase the proportion of real food in the meal.

Another interesting thing regarding your diet is that the overwhelming majority of the calories you take in are used simply to sustain the vital functions within your body. In other words, if you take in 2,000 calories in a day, that doesn’t mean you need to burn 2,000 calories during a workout or through playing sports to maintain your current body composition. In physically active people, calories are burned in the following proportions:

  • 60%: Basal Metabolic Rate (Calories burned to sustain vital functions)
  • 10% Energy required to digest/absorb food
  • 30%: Physical Activity

This means that 70% of your daily energy expenditure comes from things that are just a normal process of everyday life (eating, maintaining vital functions). Of course, these factors are specific to the individual. One pretty reliable equation to determine your Resting Metabolic Rate (similar to the basal metabolic rate, but encompasses food intake and minor movements) is the Mifflin Equation:

Men:
Resting Metabolic Rate (Calories/Day) =

10 x (weight in kg) + 6.25 x (height in cm) – 5 x (age in years) + 5

Women:
Resting Metabolic Rate (Calories/Day) =

10 x (weight in kg) + 6.25 x (height in cm) – 5 x (age in years) -161

Using this equation will give you an estimate of the amount of calories you burn everyday without accounting for physical activity. In other words, this will give you an estimate of the “70%” from above.

Low Calorie Diets for Fat Loss?

With few exceptions (football linemen, sumo wrestlers, etc.), maintaining relatively low levels of body fat is essential for athletes in all sports. In fact, a gold standard amongst high level male hockey players is that their body fat is below 10% (As far as I know there is no female standard, but the 10% equivalent for females is around 16%). Some coaches will dismiss a player altogether if he’s too far above this. The most commonly held belief in this regard is that the best way to lose fat is to eat less. This may be a decent start for those that eat excessively (not as many as you’d think), but weight loss/gain isn’t as simple as calories in vs calories out.

In the PN texbook The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition, authors John Berardi, PhD, and Ryan Andrew, MS, MA, RD present a case study whereby a female cross-country skier was looking to drop body fat. She was currently 5’6”, 165 lbs and 23% body fat. She was initially counseled (by someone else) to eat a high carbohydrate, low calorie diet, which caused her to lose both fat and muscle, dropping to a mere 160 lbs and 22% body fat. Discouraged, she then consulted with Dr. Berardi’s team, and made the following changes:

After High Carb/Low Calorie 12 Weeks with Berardi’s Team Net Changes after 12 Weeks
Height and Weight 5’6″, 160 lbs 5’6″, 135 lbs Lost 25 lbs
Body Fat % 22% 9% Lost 13%
Energy Intake ~2500 Calories/Day ~4000 Calories/Day +1500 Calories/Day
Macronutrient Breakdown

15% Protein
65% Carbohydrates
20% Fat

35% Protein
40% Carbohydrates
25% Fat

+20% Protein
-25% Carbohydrates
+5% Fat

9% body fat is REMARKABLE and atypical for females. More importantly, this athlete dropped 13% body fat in 12 weeks, while INCREASING her caloric intake DRASTICALLY (60%!). These phenomenal results were the result of her metabolism becoming depressed from a severely negative calorie imbalance. As a quick disclaimer, because she was a cross country skier, she was burning a significant amount of calories through activity each day so I wouldn’t want you to blindly read this and start sucking down 4000 Calories each day.

Take Home Messages
Nutrition doesn’t need to be as complex as the special diet and supplement marketers make it. Eat every few hours, and drink water consistently throughout the day. Eat REAL food, not food products. Understand that weight loss isn’t as simple as eating less. Often times, eating more QUALITY food is the solution to achieving the body composition changes you desire and deserve.

Nutrition Coaching is the perfect compliment to a well-designed athletic development training program. I’m in the process of developing a Nutrition Coaching Program at Endeavor for our athletes there; I may extend that to offer it to online clients as well. in the meantime, if you’re in the market for a world-class Nutrition Coach, I highly recommend you contact my friend Brian St. Pierre.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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Another great content week over at Hockey Strength and Conditioning! Check out what you’ve been missing:

Video: Front Split Squat with Chains from Sean Skahan

Great variable loading exercise from Coach Skahan. These exercises are designed to unload the legs/hips during the ranges of motion when that musculature isn’t as strong (or is at a mechanical disadvantage), and overload the legs/hips at the ranges of motion when they’re stronger.

Article: If You Don’t Have Time, Make Time! A Daily Approach to Training the Hip Musculature and Core from Mike Potenza

This isn’t an article as much as it is a program. Coach Potenza outlines four unique core training workouts to target all the musculature around the hips and torso.

Videos: Dryland Skating Exercises, Part 2 from Darryl Nelson

These were cool. Coach Nelson posted these videos in response to a forum thread asking about what strength and conditioning coaches were doing off the ice, if anything, to help improve skating mechanics on the ice. Great stuff here coming from the U.S. National Development Program.

Program: In-Season Hockey Training Program (2x/Week) from me

Endeavor’s 2-day per week in-season hockey training program. As always, everything is laid out here from exercise selection to set and rep schemes.

Article: How to Choose a Personal Trainer/Strength and Conditioning Coach for Your Son and/or Daughter from Sean Skahan

Four great guidelines from Coach Skahan on how to sort through all the “hockey specific training” crap out there and find a quality coach for your son/daughter to work with. As a coach, these are things we should all be familiar with as well.

Click the link below for more information about Hockey Strength and Conditioning!

To your continued success,

Kevin Neeld

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Speed training for hockey is one of the most highly sought after areas of hockey development information. My colleague Chris Collins put together an article about an interesting strategy he uses to prime the nervous system for continued high performance following a speed training session. I’ve heard Gray Cook emphasize in the past that “the body remembers what it does last”. Within this context, Chris’ idea here is especially appealing.

Before we jump into Chris’ article, I was recently notified that there are still 100 spots left at the discounted rate for Body By Boyle Online.

Frankly, I’m flabbergasted this opportunity is still available, but it is. If you haven’t signed up yet, I highly encourage you go do so now. The video library alone is worth the initial investment, but the high quality programs are invaluable (priceless!). Click the link below to see what all the hype about this industry-changing website is all about!

>> Body By Boyle Online <<

On to Chris Collins’ article!

There was a research study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that looked at which physical tests were most strongly correlated to performance in hockey.  Sean Skahan started the discussion on this article1 and did a great review of it so that I was inspired to pick up where he left off.  Check out more of Sean’s work at his site: Sean Skahan.

The study found that bodyfat percentage and Wingate score correlated to on-ice sprint performance.  When we work with our hockey players we can strive to achieve lower levels of bodyfat and increased lower body power production in a number of ways.  One way this is sometimes this is approached is by performing sprints.

When we perform sprints for our hockey players we will start out with longer, less intense reps early in the off-season and finish with shorter, more intense reps towards the end of the off-season.  I’ll always remember the words of a mentor of mine who said, ‘the longer the interval the shorter the rest’ and ‘the shorter the interval the longer the rest’.  This is such a basic statement but unfortunately gets forgotten near the end of the off-season.  Consider the following table.

A shorter interval lasting 10 seconds could require up to 3 minutes 20 seconds recovery time with a 1:20 work to rest ratio.  However a one minute effort may require between 3 and 4 minutes for recovery with a 1:3-1:4 work to rest ratio.  The longer effort has a shorter recovery compared to the shorter effort based on work to rest ratios.

At first this may seem counter-intuitive but once you experiment with your work to rest ratios a little you’ll understand the truth behind it.  The reason for this is that the longer, less intense and more aerobic a drill is the more quickly you can recover from it.  The shorter the duration, the more intense and the more it taps into the anaerobic and ATP-PC energy systems, the longer it will take you to replenish these energy systems and recover.

But there is another key reason to be patient with your speed drills near the end of the off-season.  The reason is to allow full nervous system recovery.  For a lot of hockey players their ability to generate speed and power is limited by their nervous system.  They may achieve cardiovascular system recovery.  And they may achieve muscular system recovery.  But the nervous system may take more time so it is essential to be patient after each effort and ensure complete recovery.  The best way to explain this to your hockey players is that each effort must match or exceed their previous effort.

Bonus tip
There’s something I like to do with our hockey players at the end of every speed session and we’ll even include it earlier on in the off-season as well.  I like to call it ‘re-setting the clock’.

What this means it performing one last effort that is guaranteed to beat all previous efforts.  This may mean performing a shortened version of a drill.  Or this can be done by performing the last drill as a competition to up the intensity.  Lastly you could perform the drill with an assist such as a slight decline or a harness.  You are only limited by your creativity in terms of ways to provide the hockey player with the opportunity to exceed their 100%.

And why does this matter?  Very few speed sessions and almost no conditioning sessions end with the hockey player demonstrating their top gear.  And guess what happens when you train below your top end speed?  You compromise your speed.  But if your last effort is your best one you ‘reset your internal clock’ and provide your nervous system with a new definition of speed.

Keep these tips in mind regarding work to rest ratios and remember to ‘reset the clock’ at the end of every workout.

Chris Collins M.Sc. CSCS
Onside Hockey Training

References:

  1. Burr, JF, Jamnik, RK, Baker, J, Macpherson, A, Gledhill, N and McGuire, EJ. Relationship of Physical Fitness Test Results and Hockey Playing Potential in Elite-Level Ice Hockey Players. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 22(5):1535-1543, 2008.
  2. Baechle, TR and Earle, RW. (Eds.). (2000). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (2nd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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In honor of the international holiday that is David Lasnier’s 29th Birthday, I thought it would be appropriate to have him share with you some of his newly acquired wisdom that comes with another year of age. I asked David what he thought the three biggest mistakes hockey players make in-season were. His response below:

1) In-Season Training
One of the most important things hockey players don’t do in-season is lift.  Players from all levels starting at ages as young as 13-14 nowadays start lifting during the off-season to get stronger, faster and become better athletes in general (for younger players it’s going to be about improving neurological efficiency and motor patterns more than anything else).  And all of this off-season preparation, no matter how old you are is going to be great; players are going to arrive at training camp more ready than ever because they spent so much time training during the summer.  They’re going to be faster, stronger and more dominant on the ice, but as soon as the season starts they stop lifting completely.  How are you supposed to maintain the gains you’ve worked so hard to achieve if you don’t do anything in that regard?

Awesome.

It’s crazy to think that a player will be able to maintain these gains by simply playing hockey.  This is especially true with hockey because the season is very long and exhausting with a lot of games, tournaments, practices and it gets worse as the season gets closer to the playoffs.  Players just spend more and more time on the ice as the season progresses and fatigue accumulates.  When fatigue accumulates, the player will lose strength faster than anything else, so that’s why it’s really important to keep lifting during the season to maintain the gains made in the off-season.  While many will think it might be counter-productive because it will get players more tired, that’s really not the case if it’s done the right way.  It’s very important to understand that MAINTAINING athletic qualities does NOT require a lot of volume.  Most of the time, players will be able to maintain strength with as little as 1 or 2 lifting session per week of less than 45 minutes, which is very unlikely to affect the performance on the ice.  If anything, it will just insure that they don’t lose strength.

2) Soft-Tissue Quality
Another huge mistake hockey players make in-season is not taking care of their soft-tissue quality.  Like I mentioned previously, players spend a lot of time on the ice during the season, and it’s going to take a beating on their joints, especially their hips.  The not-so-simple motion of skating is far from being the most natural thing on the human body, and it will inevitably put stress on the hip joint and all the muscles surrounding it.  It’s no wonder why we see so many groin pulls, hip flexor pulls, sports hernia, pubalgia and the like in A LOT of hockey players when they spend a lot of time on the ice.  There are a lot of different things you can do to help reduce the risk of injuries and minimize the damage, and taking care of your soft-tissue quality around the hips is certainly one of them.  A regular visit to a qualified massage therapist during the season can go a long way in minimizing the incidence of strains, pulls and other injuries that might keep you off the ice for prolonged periods.  Once a month is a bare minimum for hockey players, and if you have the budget I would go as often as once every two weeks.  There is many different massage therapy options available out there.  While I recommend ART (Active Release Technique) more than anything else, there are definitely other good alternatives if that is not one available to you.  Whatever manual therapy or massage you get, as a general rule of thumb, it should definitely be pretty uncomfortable when the therapist works on your hip muscles, if not painful.

3) In-Season Nutrition
The last one is on a totally different note.  Players in-season travel a lot for games and tournaments and find themselves being out of town for many week-ends during the season.  Throw school in the mix and that leaves very little time for hockey players to plan meals and eat well.  It might be one of the most overlooked aspect of training and performance, but your nutrition is going to be directly related to the way you perform on the ice.  Hockey players, when away from home for games, at school and in general when hanging out with friends make horrible food choices, and they don’t realize the impact it has on their body and their performance.  They really need to plan meals ahead and make better food choices if they want to improve their performance on the ice and their energy levels for games and practices.  As a general rule of thumb, I feel like hockey players should eat more protein, fruits and vegetables and improve the quality of the carbohydrates they eat (e.g more sprouted grains, less processed food like cereals and most snacks).

-David Lasnier

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Holy content over at Hockey Strength and Conditioning over the last couple weeks. I just got caught up on all the new additions and forum posts yesterday, and there have been a lot of incredibly insightful additions (including some first time contributors!). Check out what you’ve been missing:

Articles:

  1. Friesen Physio-Fitness Summit Recap from me
  2. Treatment and Prevention of Sports Hernia from Ron J. Higuera D.C., M.S., ART
  3. MMA for Hockey Players? from Mike Boyle
  4. Goaltender Specific Movement Training- The Drop Step from Devan McConnell
  5. Why Athletes Should Avoid The Bars (An intemperate look at barbell-centric training) from Steve Myrland
  6. It’s Not About the Bike “The Specificity of Training” from Matt Nichol
  7. Interview with San Jose Sharks player Joe Pavelski- Successful physical development requires a relentless work ethic from Mike Potenza
  8. Little Known Fact from Michael Boyle

Videos:

  1. High Box Step-Up from Mike Boyle
  2. Dryland Skating Exercises from Darryl Nelson

Audio Interviews:

  1. Sean Skahan Pre-Season Audio Interview from Anthony Renna
  2. Mike Potenza Pre-Season Audio Interview from Anthony Renna

Click the link below for more information about Hockey Strength and Conditioning!

To your continued success,

Kevin Neeld

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