Why can’t we just eat to replenish our bodies and keep running at 110%? Well truth be told if you had the perfect diet, you could maybe come close. The reality is that in our busy lives today, we very rarely will have the opportunity to cook the perfect balanced and healthy diet. While we don’t recommend trying to use supplements instead of a healthy diet, we would be foolish to think that the right supplements can’t do exactly as their namesake says, to supplement a health diet.
The Supplement industry is a multi billion dollar generating industry nowadays, with new ‘proprietary formulas’ coming out all the time. We want to help you weed through the nonsense and only spend your money on science backed supplements that will really improve your game. Read on below for our list of must haves, nice to haves, and what to avoid. We will cite research wherever we can so you know we aren’t just making this information up!
The 7 Best Supplements For Hockey Players
1. Protein Powder
This one shouldn’t be much of a shocker to anyone who has been training for long. The most tried and true supplement of all time, helping athletes around the world get their protein content up for muscle repair and building new muscles. While in theory it is unnecessary if you get enough protein through your meals, eating 5 chicken breasts a day can get old in a hurry. You might be expecting a huge write up for every supplement, and we will go into more detail on the others – however for protein there really isn’t that much to say. It works, so use it!
Why is this important for hockey players? – Once you get in season, preserving muscle is key. Many pro players can lose 10 or more pounds during the season and its not just fat. Hitting your protein targets is paramount!
Best Type Of Protein - Whey Protein Isolate
Regular whey protein is about 80% protein by weight. The rest is made up of carbs and fat that has not been filtered out. Protein Isolate on the other hand undergoes extra filtration and is about 90-95% protein by weight. This means it is a cleaner, more pure protein which will also likely cause less issues with your gut if you have some lactose sensitivity. Look for blends with the least amount of artificial sweeteners possible to really up the ante and get a clean powder. If you still aren’t sure about which type of protein is for you, Healthline has a good article breaking down the top 7 most popular protein powder types!
I’ll introduce this one with a caveat – if you are under 18, I don’t suggest using caffeine, and if you are under 14 then i strongly suggest not using it. Once you are a bit older and can tolerate it a bit better, I think it is a great one and is one of the most studied ‘supplements’ out there. I put supplements in quotations because for your games I am not advocating caffeine pills, but getting caffeine from natural sources. This would mean drinking a coffee or tea before your game. There is a reason you see almost all NHL players walking into the rink with a cup of coffee in there hands.
Why is this important for hockey players? – Caffeine is a highly studied supplement and as long as you have no pre-existing heart or blood pressure issues, is well tolerated by the majority of the population!
Best Type Of Caffeine - Caffeine From Coffee Or Tea
Pre-workout powders and Caffeine pills exist for a reason – there is a huge market for them. And while they do work, in my opinion they don’t offer any big benefits. Caffeine pills are dirt cheap, but pre-workouts on the other hand are a super expensive way to get the equivalent caffeine from coffee or tea. After all, mother nature usually does it best! So keep things natural and get yourself a high quality cup of coffee or organic tea (cheap teas can be laden with chemicals, pesticides, or even heavy metals) and use that caffeine boost to fuel you in your next big game!
Creatine was once looked at as the big bad wolf of supplements. People thought it caused kidney damage, that it wasn’t safe, that it was a steroid, and a host of other negative opinions were formed and circulated on it. Fast forward 20 years or so to now, and it is one of the safest, most efficacious, and well studied supplements on the market.
Creatine is a combination of three amino acids: glycine, arginine, and methionine. Your body naturally creates creatine in the liver and kidneys, and stores most of it in your muscles. Creatine supplementation increases the creatine stores in your body, and Creatine is used in faster ATP formation. ATP is what helps power your muscles during quick muscle contractions – Think of it this way, the more creatine stores you have, the more work your body can accomplish before becoming fatigued.
How should you take creatine? Well you can take it indefinitely, but at the start you could benefit from a ‘loading phase’ in order to saturate your body. This will consist of 20g of creatine a day (4x5g servings) for 5-7 days. Once the loading phase is done, you are now in the maintenance phase where you can take 3-5g of creatine in perpetuity. I personally like to cycle it every few months (go off then back on) just because that is my personal philosophy on many supplements (not to take them forever, without any breaks). Either way, you should see some great strength and endurance gains once you are on it!
T-nation has a great article on creatine if you really want to dive into the science behind it, check the link if you are interested!
Why is Creatine important for hockey players? Production of ATP for faster muscles with more endurance is nothing but a positive for your game. This is a very cheap, effective supplement that will help you day in and out!
Best Type Of Creatine - Creatine Monohydrate
There are tons of different creatines available on the market today. Creatine Monohydrate, Creatine HCL, Creatine Esters, the list goes on and on. The more advanced forms all promise faster absorption, higher purity, or other claims along those lines. In the end, once you have loaded your body and then supplement for maintenance, any different you might find between the different types should be minimal to non existent. Creatine Monohydrate is the most economical choice, and will give you all the benefits you need. Don’t waste your money on fancy formulas and bogus claims!
4. Beta Alanine
This is one you may not have heard of yet, but is really an up and comer in terms of supplements you need to take your game to the next level. Beta Alanine is a non essential amino acid, meaning your body is able to create it from other amino acids and does not require a beta alanine food source.
Just because are body makes it, doesn’t mean we couldn’t use some more! Beta Alanine is used by your body to synthesize another amino acid called Carnosine. Carnosine helps your muscles keep a stable pH level, by regulating acidity. As you either play or train for hockey, you will undoubtedly feel the lactic acid buildup when you are out for a shift too long or doing higher rep sets in the gym. Carnosine will counteract the lactic acid buildup, allowing you to go longer and stronger in whatever your day looks like from an activity level.
Why is Beta Alanine important for hockey players? Feeling that lactic acid build up when you are caught out on a long shift is a terrible feeling, physically and mentally. Buffer the effects of lactic acid and get another gear for your game by using Beta Alanine!
Best Type Of Beta Alanine - Any Type!
You will typically see Beta Alanine on ingredient labels just listed as ‘Beta Alanine’. This is totally fine and is the type of Beta Alanine you are looking for. Most studies show it being effective at 3-6g per day, divided in doses between 1-1.5g.
Be wary – If you take too much or you are new to Beta Alanine, it can make your skin tingle when you take it! This is totally normal and will fade eventually, I have found that if you are tingling, the harder you workout the faster the tingling dissipates!
5. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is actually more of a hormone than a Vitamin. It is produced by your body when you are exposed to sunlight. Now picture this for a second – our ancestors prancing around naked in the sun day in and day out. Not think of your typical hockey player – bundled up in winter clothes for a third of the year, indoors, getting about 10 minutes of sun on your face at most. It’s no suprise that a recent StatsCan study found that only 2/3 of Canadians have vitamin D levels not in a dangerously low amount in their blood. In winter the number swells to 40% of Canadians with low vitamin D. Our American friends south of the border are likely not much better, unless you are living in the south half of the 48.
Vitamin D is important for bone density (A common misconception is you need to supplement calcium for this), inflammation, reducing colon and breast cancer risk, strengthens the immune system, as well as being important for your brain. Really I could throw vitamin D in an important supplement list for anyone, hockey players, senior citizens, your parents, EVERYONE needs it! But in order to be in peak physical condition, you definitely need it, so get your levels checked and if you are low start supplementing!
Why is Vitamin D important for hockey players? Vitamin D is one of the most important supplements you can take for your health and longevity. I’ve had low Vitamin D levels before and felt like complete crap. Make sure to get tested often and keep your levels on the upper site of optimum!
Best Type Of Vitamin D - Vitamin D In a Soluble Oil
Vitamin D is best absorbed if it is in some form of oil based pill or solution. I personally take 8000 IU per day from a dropper in an oil solution and my levels hover right around optimal (I live in Canada so get limited sun exposure). Longevity focused individuals shoot for 1000 IU / 25 pounds of body weight, but Vitamin D over supplementation is possible, so as I have said, get your levels checked and start off a bit lower before ramping up! I guarantee once you get your Vitamin D levels dialed in you will feel and perform much better!
WebMD has a great breakdown of why you need optimal vitamin D levels and cites several studies on the topic as well.
6. Fish Oil / Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Fish oil can be a real game changer for health. Fresh wild fish are one of the healthiest meats on the planet, but unfortunately many people do not have access to them, or they are too expensive since they need to be transported far distances inland and kept on ice the entire time. Luckily, companies have created high quality fish oils which can help us offset the inability to get fresh fish!
Fish oil has been shown to improve triglyceride levels, improve brain function and mental acuity (aka keep your brain running and your hockey IQ high!), and finally fish oil is a potent anti inflammatory. Look for brands that harvest fish from cold water and from smaller fish. 3-6g a day of fish oil can have a big impact on overall health and help you feel better to perform your best!
Why is Fish Oil important for hockey players? Keeping your brain in top health, your inflammation low, and improving heart health will all keep you going bar down game in and game out!
Best Type Of Fish Oil - Sealed Bottles w/ EPA and DHA Info
Fish oil is tough because it is very hard to tell if you have a quality source. Capsulated, non refrigerated fish oils tend to be lower quality than bottled, refrigerated versions. Also, make sure you fish oil has its EPA / DHA amounts clearly printed on the bottle, and make sure that they comprise the majority of the omega 3’s in the serving
Check here for a great article on it’s many touted benefits with links to supporting studies!
Magnesium is another essential element all humans require that athletes require even moreso. Studies suggest over 80% of people may be deficient in magnesium.
Magnesium is important for regulating heart rhythm, allowing muscles to contract and relax, reducing blood pressure, and is also crucial for producing ATP (remember – creatine helps with ATP production, but magnesium is CRUCIAL for it!). Be careful when supplementing magnesium, taking 500 mg/day is a safe starting point but taking too much too soon could cause you an upset stomach!
Many high quality studies have been done around Magnesium and sports performance, with the majority finding a correlation to increased exercise capacity when supplementing with a form of Magnesium!
Why is Magnesium important for hockey players? Other than being responsible for over 325 enzymatic processes in the body, it is crucial for ATP production which is paramount during bouts of intense exercise!
Best Type Magnesium - Magnesium Citrate
There are lots of different forms of Magnesium available, many touting different benefits. Magnesium Citrate, Glycinate, and Oxide are some of the most popular. In terms of bang for the buck, Magnesium Citrate is quite well studied, isn’t too expensive, and in my experience can be supplemented with no stomach issues.
Bonus - Under The Radar Supplement To Try
I know what you are thinking – Baking Soda?!?! It might sound preposterous, but baking soda has actually been studied many times and has some serious benefits for athletes! Baking soda, or Sodium Bicarbonate, has been shown to be an alkalizing agent that can counteract the acidic environment that builds up in the body during high intensity exercise.
How much should you take? the majority of studies use 200 to 500 mg per kilogram of bodyweight. So a 150 pound athlete would take 13-34 g of baking soda. Four teaspoons or 1.25 tablespoons will give you 24 grams.
Bodybuilding.com has a great article touting its benefits if you want a bit of a deeper dive!
Best Type Baking Soda - Arm and Hammer
That’s right – the same stuff you use for baking, cleaning, or de-odorizing is exactly what you can use for your supplementation. Best of all? It’d dirt cheap!
Supplements To Avoid
1. Multi Vitamins
Multi-Vitamins sound like a great idea – Get 100% of more of almost all of your daily minerals and vitamins in one easy pill! Well the marketing has certainly worked, Americans spend over 12 billion (with a B!!) dollars on multivitamins each year.
Well the science backing this insane amount of money spent just isn’t there. Studies have shown that multi vitamins have no association with a decrease in heart disease or cancer across 450,000 people. Studies have also shown that multi vitamins did not slow down memory loss or mental decline in a study of 6,000 men over 12 years. Finally, a study over 1,700 heart attack survivors who took high dose multi vitamins vs a placebo showed that later occurrences of heart attack or heart surgery were similar between the two groups. So what are we saying? Skip the multi vitamin!
2. BCAA Supplements
BCAA’s are another super high grossing supplement that have little benefit. BCAA stands for Branch Chain Amino Acids, and contains three of them, Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. Looking at those amino acids alone, they play a huge part in protein synthesis, especially Leucine. However, if you are getting adequate protein intake via food or protein shakes, your body breaks this protein down into amino acids and your requirements for muscle growth and repair will be satisfied. BCAA’s truthfully, are nothing more than an expensive way to make your water taste good. Strength Wiki has a good article breaking down some studies on BCAA’s if you’re looking to take a deeper dive. Essential Amino Acids (EAA) are an amino acid supplement that can have some benefit to muscle growth, but for the sake of your wallet, i’d stick to protein shakes to hit protein goals. Skip the BCAA’s and get your protein intake up!
3. Mass Gainers
If you look at Mass Gainers on a purely macro nutrient level they seem to pack everything one could need when they are having a hard time gaining weight. Loads of protein, carbohydrates, and a bit of fat in a delicious and easy to drink shake. An easy way to pound back 800 calories right? Well… sort of. If you dive into the details on the back of a mass gainer’s ingredient list, you will usually find a big mix of garbage ingredients. Sugars, various forms of dextrose, and other cheap carbs are usually top of the ingredient list. On top of this, mass gainers will usually employ the cheapest, dirtiest forms of protein to get their protein quantity up.
In short, if you are looking to get fat and wreak havoc on your insulin system, and pay a pretty penny for it, mass gainers are a fantastic solution! If that’s not what you are looking for, there are plenty of easy ways to get a healthier mass gainer shake from natural ingredients. Googling ‘healthy mass gainer shake’ should give you more ideas than you could ever act upon to get some healthier alternatives to store bought mass gainer shakes.
Well there you have it – a comprehensive list of supplements that should be able to help you elevate your health – and therefore your game – to the next level! We hope this was helpful and if you have anything to say, fire us an email or sound off in the comments below!