When it comes to supplements and in particular protein powders, the amount of product on the market can be overwhelming.
It’s hard to know what to choose and if what you’re choosing is right for you or a quality protein powder. The fact of the matter is, unless you’ve done your research, you can easily get lost in a sea of fancy labels and flavours.
In this article, our goal is to help hockey players understand the role protein powders can play in their diet so that they’re fueling their performance and recovery.
Why Should Hockey Players Use Protein Powders?
First things first, you need to understand why you’re choosing to supplement with protein powder. There are multiple reasons to use protein powder, with the most common being an inability to obtain enough protein through diet alone. As an elite athlete and an individual with more lean muscle mass than the general population, it’s important you eat enough protein on a daily basis.
Your body uses protein to repair and build tissues and is an important building block of bones and muscles. Additionally, you use protein to help optimize carbohydrate storage in the form of glycogen. Since protein isn’t easily stored in the body, if you’re not eating enough your body cannot properly repair your muscles after exercise. This inability to repair damaged tissue will hinder your recovery and hold you back from optimal performance.
Now that you understand the importance of incorporating protein into your diet, the big question is, how much is enough? Elite hockey players should be eating 0.8-1 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. That being said, if you weigh 150lbs you should be eating 120-150 grams of protein per day. As well, your body can only digest and absorb 4 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per meal. Based on the above, a 150lb individual should have no more than 37.5 grams of protein per sitting.
Protein powders are a great supplement because they’re rapidly metabolized which causes a greater spike of amino acids in the bloodstream stimulating protein synthesis (muscle growth and repair). Protein powders are most effective as an intra- or post- workout supplement, but are easy to consume and travel with making them a simple and effective meal supplement.
Exploring Different Types of Protein Powders
Protein powders typically come in three forms; hydrolysates, concentrates, and isolates. Hydrolysates are most easily digested and purest form of protein (comprised of broken down amino acids), concentrates are typically 60-80% protein with the remainder being carbs and fats, and isolates have a similar production process as concentrates however have an addition filtration step making them almost purely protein. So what type of protein powder is best? Simply put, when choosing a protein powder you want to look for an isolate or hydrolysate.
Now let’s go one step further and discuss what source of protein is best. The most common protein powder is whey protein. Have you ever opened a yogurt container and there was clear liquid at the top of the yogurt? Well that my friends is whey protein. Whey protein is the liquid that remains during cheese production after the milk has been curdled or strained. A benefit of whey protein is its high levels of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). The BCAA Leucine promotes muscle growth and repair, making whey protein the most ideal protein source for muscle building.
For those of you that are vegan, you can go with a plant based protein powder, for example; soy, hemp, pea and many others. Plant based protein powders are a great alternative, however, they’re typically not as easily digested and absorbed as whey. That being said, taking one and a half times the recommended dose (serving size) may be necessary.
In review, hockey players need to ensure they’re getting enough protein throughout the day for optimal muscle growth and repair. If you struggle to get enough protein through diet alone, supplementing with a protein powder is a wise choice, and using a whey isolate or whey hydrolysate is recommended.
Victoria Rose is an Exercise Physiologist specializing in Sports Nutrition.
As a former elite level athlete, who earned her Kinesiology degree at the University of Guelph & Post-Grad Specialization in Health & Performance at Niagara College, she now works with athletes to optimize their nutrition for peak performance and health.
Along with writing nutrition articles for hockey players at Relentless Hockey, she also puts out valuable fitness & nutrition content on her Instagram @VictoriaRoseFitness and loves to answer questions there!