Kevin Neeld — Hockey Training, Sports Performance, & Sports Science

Hockey Nutrition: Supplements

Today I want to wrap up this series on hockey nutrition by taking a birds eye view into supplements. If you missed the first two segments, you can check them out here:

Hockey Nutrition: In-Season Eating

Hockey Nutrition: What to eat?

Players generally look to supplements to fulfill one of two roles:

  1. Improve health by either adding to an already well-rounded diet (rare) or by helping to fill in the gaps between what they should be eating and what they are eating
  2. Improve performance and/or recovery

In both regards, there is a lot of controversy surrounding the necessity of supplements. I don’t think there’s a correct answer to that question in most cases, so I won’t participate in a futile argument. I will say, however, that whether it is POSSIBLE to get all the necessary nutrients from real food isn’t nearly as important as whether it’s PROBABLE that players will actually do what it takes to make that a reality. Moreover, supplements add an element of timeliness and convenience that real food can’t always offer.

With those things in mind, here are a few supplements that I have our players look into:

Whey Protein
Use: Use a serving as part of a snack when real food protein source is unavailable, and immediately before and/or after a training session.
Recommended Brands: Biotest Grow (TMuscle.com) or Optimum Nutrition (BodyBuilding.com)

Fish Oil
Use: Take 2g of combined EPA and DHA everyday to promote expedited recovery, low body fat levels, and overall health
Recommended Brands: Carlson Labs Elite Omega Fish Oil (Vitacost.com)

Carlson Labs has a bunch of different fish oil supplements. Because I’m cheap, I analyzed the amount of combined EPA and DHA per $1.00 and the “Elite Omega-3 Gems” turned out to be the most valuable.

Greens
Use: Take one serving everyday to help bridge the gap between optimal and realistic nutrition
Recommended Brands: Greens+ Berry (Vitacost.com)

Creatine Monohydrate
Use:
Take 5g per day to help preserve muscle mass throughout the year. If possible, divide dose into two servings and take one 30 minutes before and one immediately after training or practice
Recommended Brands: Biotest (TMuscle.com)

Creatine consistently demonstrates improved strength and muscle mass compared to control groups. The concerns about excessive water weight and “losing it all when you stop” are completely unsupported.

Beta-Alanine

Use: Take 4-6g/day to improve performance in prolonged high intensity activities
Recommended Brands: Biotest (TMuscle.com)

Vitamin D3
Use:
Take ~2000 IUs per day to help ward off the negative effects on bone strength and hormone production associated with insufficient sunlight exposure. If you can, get your school doc to check your levels of this so you can cater your exact dose more closely to your individual needs. This can have a HUGE impact on that mid-season/winter energy lull that most players go through.
Recommended Brands: Anything from the grocery store will work

Those are the core supplements that apply to hockey players. Of these, all but beta-alanine can pretty much be recommended to athletes in all sports, and even non-athletes. Similar to eating in general, supplements provide a means of improving overall health, which isn’t just a desirable goal for athletes.

Anytime I write something on supplements I invariably get a slew of emails from parents asking if these apply to their teenagers. The truth is that there is little to no research examining the safety of these things in teenagers. It’s unlikely there ever will be, as doing research on minors involves a more laborious research process and is generally a pain in the ass to do. That said, there isn’t really a reason to think that teenagers would respond drastically different than adults to the above products. As I mentioned in the recommendation above, I think teens may not have developed as significant of a Vitamin D deficiency as adults (yet), so it’d be a good idea to get levels tested by a doctor before blindly taking 2,000 IUs per day. Beta-alanine could be taken in lower doses (3-4 g/day depending on the size of the teen); creatine could do (2-3g/day).

Making the call on whether or not teens should take supplements is more a psychological concern than a physiological one. Many parents feel that allowing their kids to take supplements sends the wrong message, and that the kids should learn to eat properly first. I don’t disagree. Supplements should not be used to crutch a miserable diet. That said, supplements can support a mediocre diet, and kids need to be EDUCATED on why and how to eat well.  Young athletes tend to get excited by supplements, making them more likely to be compliant with their training program and to pursue other information/behaviors that help them improve. This certainly isn’t the case with EVERY kid, but for many supplements is a “gateway” into more optimal choices. As long as they’re aware that supplements are just a piece of the puzzle, not the whole picture.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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Kevin Neeld

Kevin Neeld Knows Hockey

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.