Exercise Selection, Hockey Nutrition, Nutrient Monitoring, and More!

A couple weeks ago I wrote a random thoughts post on topics ranging from youth hockey performance to heart rate variability to hip impingement. If you missed it, you can check it out here: Hockey Training Random Thoughts

Today’s post follows up on that with some discussion on the disconnect between exercise selection and adaptation, nutrition, supplementation, and the importance of context. Enjoy!

  1. There seems to be a general misconception that certain exercises necessarily deliver certain adaptations without a respect for how the exercise is loaded and performed. For example, we use kettlebell swings often as a power exercise. However, if the swings are performed like they are in most bootcamp settings (more like a squat into front raise), and not with a rapid eccentric loading and quick transition, the power benefit of the exercise is lost. Likewise, a squat loaded at 50% 1-RM for 3 sets of 8 may be used as a recovery or teaching tool, 50% with a rapid concentric or “up phase” could be used for power development, loaded at 75% may be used for hypertrophy, and loaded at 80-90% for 8 sets of 3 could be used for strength development.  Simply naming an exercise doesn’t always dictate the adaptation.
  2. I think people make the assumption that all food choices with the names “smoothie” or “salad” are healthy. The reality is that most smoothies that you can purchase at a restaurant or stand are complete garbage. Most smoothies are pre-made mixes or use a fruit juice base, which is almost always loaded with sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup. The “real fruit” component of smoothies means they put 2-3 frozen strawberries in the mix and may add half a frozen banana. Likewise, most salads leave a lot to be desired. Cesar salads are the worst offenders. Romaine lettuce has a nutrition value slightly above that of crunchy water, croutons offer no worthwhile nutrition value, and all your left with after that is some grated cheese and dressing (which COULD offer some valuable fats if made well). The grilled chicken that often tags along is the only thing that offers some actual nutrition. Nutrition isn’t that complicated, but the efforts to mask unhealthy food as healthy steers a lot of people wrong. If you’re at a loss for what to eat while staying within the boundaries of “healthy”, I strongly encourage you to check out Ultimate Hockey Nutrition, which provides lists of best, good, and bad food choices, smoothie recipes, grocery lists, sample snack ideas, preparation tips, and more!
  3. It seems like omega-3s and vitamin D have received a lot of attention from the nutrition community and even the popular media. More people are aware of the health benefits of monitoring and (when appropriate…which is almost always for most people) supplementing these two supplements. I think magnesium is the next big supplement to gain traction and reach the masses. Magnesium serves a lot of functions in the body, but in general it has a calming effect on the nervous system, which is one reason why it’s found in a lot of sleep supplements. Given the high and prolonged levels of stress that today’s students, athletes, professionals are under, magnesium deficiencies are probable and supplementation will likely have an immediately positive impact. This post dives into some of the science behind magnesium’s role in the body and the differences between the various forms: Gnolls.com Opens the Door to Obesity Fight
  4. In a perfect world, people should get certain health/nutrient measures monitored and then adjust lifestyle/nutrition/supplementation accordingly, a topic I covered here: Recovery Week: Monitoring Nutrient and Hormone Status. The problem with doing this within the general medical system is that there is a notable difference between “normal” and “optimal”. I’m not involved enough in the medical world to know this for sure, but I’ve read that the “norms” are determined by calculating averages of relatively large sample sizes of the population. On the surface, this appears to be a valid approach, but is undermined by the fact that widespread insufficiencies are likely to bring “norms” down far below optimal levels. With the “population average” approach, obesity in the US would be considered “normal”, and wouldn’t raise a red flag in the medical system. Naturally, this is not the case because the norms in this regard were established using prior to the obesity climb, and with some different outcomes as supporting markers.
  5. Every piece of exercise advice needs to be understood within the context from which the person is recommending it. I’m a huge believer in heart rate variability monitoring (as I discussed here: Hockey Training Random Thoughts), but I think it holds a lot more power in situations where athletes are in-season, or training 4+ days per week. Not that the information is ever worthless, but if you only have an opportunity to influence an individual’s training habits one day per week, the total stress your program will add/alleviate in an hour per week is a fairly small drop in the bucket. You could still use HRV information to make lifestyle recommendations, but the direct effect on the day’s training will be less, in my opinion. Likewise, most of the best coaches I’ve had an opportunity to learn from agree on more than they disagree on, and most of the differences in program design stem less from a philosophical difference than strictly operating under different circumstances: space, equipment, supervisors, coach:athlete ratio, athlete level/training background, etc. If you’re in the training industry, understand who you’re taking advice from before you take it.

That’s a wrap for today. I have a couple posts coming in the next week on the bilateral deficit and groundbreaking research on hip injuries, so be sure to check back!

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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