Jan 8, 2015
One of the items that I have had on my list for the Elite League for a number of years is the development of nutrition (and hydration) guidelines so our young players could grow and get stronger. We always seemed to be behind in the whole “training” areas, including nutrition. That made many of our players not as big or as strong as some of other players in other states. I believe we have had and still have on the whole more skills in the Upper Midwest than in many other areas. Nonetheless, adding more size and strength will certainly be valuable.
Over a year ago, I contacted an old friend and former teammate at the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Charlie Alward, to see if he would work with me, then take on the challenge of developing the whole area of training for hockey players. I was delighted that he was willing and eager to get going. Charlie is not only a pediatric doctor and former hockey player, but also a former Ironman triathlon competitor – and very health oriented. He is now the fitness director for the Upper Midwest High School Elite Leagues. He also has grandkids playing at the Mite/Squirt levels (as I do) and was monitoring the whole nutrition areas with them. I’ll later give you his recipe for killer pancakes that are great tasting and great for getting top nutrition (with nuts, fruits, oatmeal, eggs, etc.). I’ve made a large batch (and froze them). They get used up as a great day starter with only a short microwave visit to “activate.”
Dr. Charlie started to dig into the youth nutrition area and met with a number of nutrition specialists, as well as getting anecdotal evidence from current players that “came over from the dark side” (potato chips, fast foot, junk food) to good nutrition and saw their bodies grow and their play improve. Most of the materials that I will lay out in this series was developed by Dr. Charlie. I’m the conduit for his developed ideas – albeit a very enthusiastic conduit. All of the materials in this series were also developed initially for players in the Elite Leagues. They have been processed to the Elite League boys and their parents in seminars and in written form. It is now time to share with all youth players.
Now is the time, no matter what age, for hockey athletes to start training. That means players who are serious, want achievement and success, and are dedicated, need to eat right, sleep properly, hydrate properly (especially before, during and after games, practices and workouts) and train their bodies.
A 5-11 or 6-0, 160-pound junior or senior isn’t as well prepared to compete as a 5-10 or 6-0, 185-pound junior or senior – and isn’t nearly as well set up for going on to junior and college hockey. All of the proper eating for proper growth and performance actually starts at an early age (6, 7, 8 years old). Getting into the right habits, including less bad carbs and more good protein, as well as good carbs – and good nutritious breakfasts – are critical as early as possible.
This series may actually be more aimed at parents – the ones that buy and prepare most of the meals – than anyone else. In this segment, I want to provide the next new Golden Rules. These new rules are every bit as important as those for defensemen, forwards and goaltenders. Nutrition has become as important as any other portion of off-ice training or development. As part of the training regimen, it will play a big role in the potential future (and present) success of young hockey players.
Once a young girl or boy reaches junior high school, they should be mature enough to work with their parents more closely in proper nutrition if they truly want to be good athletes. That’s really the key, if a youngster is to be an athlete or not. To be an athlete, a youngster needs to be in training. Early on, the training may not include big off-ice workouts or weightlifting, but it must include nutrition.
So, the following are the new Golden Rules of Nutrition, developed by Dr. Charlie (for the Upper Midwest High School Elite League) for use by all hockey athletes, all ages.
The next part of this series will get into more detail, including defining good carbs and protein, how muscle is created, and how to eat before practices and games, to name a few items.
To maximize your growth, your strength and your energy, you must have a nutrition plan. Your nutrition plan is a guide – you won’t be perfect – but the goal is to achieve it at least 90 percent of the time. Appropriate nutrition will not improve your hockey skills, but without it you will not be as strong as you could be, nor as fast, and you will tire more quickly than your peers.
A quick and simple physiology lesson:
Carbohydrates (whole grain breads & pasta, rice, cereals, fruits, vegetables, energy bars) should represent 60 percent of your daily nutrition intake. Not enough carbohydrates results in reduced energy, inability to maintain high intensity activity and muscle breakdown. Carbohydrates should be part of all meals and snacks.
A growing exercising player needs 0.7-0.9 grams of protein per pound of weight per day (a 100-pound player needs 70-90 grams of protein/day). Calculate the amount of protein you need daily: Your weight in pounds x 0.7-0.9 = No. of grams of protein to eat on a daily basis.
Protein is not stored in the body. It must be available when the muscle needs it for growth and repair. It is best to distribute your daily protein intake over 4-5 servings per day. Eating excess protein is not helpful – extra protein is either changed into carbohydrate or eliminated from the body.Protein from food sources (lean meat, fish, milk, eggs, Greek yogurt) is superior to protein supplements because food contains additional substances (vitamins, minerals, fiber) that promote overall health.
Eat breakfast. This is often the most important meal of the day. Focus on liquids, carbohydrates and some protein for this meal. Breakfast can be a real meal (eggs, cereal, pancakes, smoothie, milk) or can be as little as an energy bar and a glass of juice as you run out the door.
In order for your body to function at its highest level, you must be well hydrated. A good way to measure your hydration is to observe your urine. Urine the color of diluted lemonade is ideal. Darker urine (yellow to orange), like the color of urine the first thing in the morning, suggests the need for more fluid.
Hydration before and after workouts and games:
During activities, frequent water intake is usually sufficient.
Plan your daily eating of meals and snacks…
Eating meals with your family is encouraged because it provides a more balanced meal.
John Russo, Ph.D., is founder and director of the Upper Midwest High School Elite League. He was a captain at the University of Wisconsin, and his Coaches’ Corner columns have appeared in LPH since 1986.
John Russo’s new book, “The Best of 26 Years of John Russo’s Coaches Corner” is now available. Go to ()www.russocoachescorner.com or call 952-944-7137 to order a copy.