Do Hockey Players Need a Protein Shake?

I had a question last week from a 15-year old hockey player asking me about whether or not he should take protein powder.  It was a reasonable question and one I get a lot, but what struck me was that he asked if it would decrease his soreness after games, practices, workouts, etc.

Questions like this and when I hear parents talk about ‘that protein powder crap’ with such distain you would think they were talking about steroids or crack.

What strikes me is that lots of athletes take ‘protein powder’ or consider whether or not they should take it, but many of you don’t know what it does.  So let’s look first of all at what it is…

Basically what you call protein powder, should really be a protein and carbohydrate supplement – your goal is to get about 20 grams of protein and 40 grams of carbohydrate either during or immediately after your vigorous training.

WARNING: some of these shakes do not sit that great in your stomach during exercise which is why it may be best to use them immediately after exercise – speaking from personal experience L

Be very careful when you head into your local sport nutrition store that you do not walk out with a shake that is high protein, but next to no carbs, that is not what the hockey player needs (there are times when those have value, but not as your first line of attack).

Also be sure that there is not a bunch of other stuff in there – basically if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  I would even avoid the ones that contain creatine (I do think creatine is safe and effective, but again, not what I would start with)

The brand that I personally use is called Vega One – I like it because there are no artificial flavours or sweeteners, it is gluten free, dairy free and it contains a ‘greens’ supplement.

Could You Just Eat Some Scrambled Eggs?

Absolutely – the only thing a protein/carb shake does for you is give you nutritional building blocks in a very convenient form.  It is tough to put scrambled eggs and toast in your hockey bag – that thing stinks enough already 🙂

So there is nothing magic about a protein shake, ideally you will get your nutrition from whole food sources, but for the times when you can’t or for those of you who have trouble getting enough calories in to maintain or build mass, these can be a convenient way to meet the demands.

What Does The Shake Actually Do?

Again, nothing magical – the carbohydrates basically replenish your energy stores and trigger an insulin response, which tells your cells to take up the nutrients.  The protein helps you repair and rebuild your muscle and if you are doing the correct training with proper intensity, this can lead to adding muscle mass.

I hope that helps you be a more informed consumer when it comes to choosing a nutritional supplement.  Here is a video that I have posted before, but it shows how I make my breakfast shake every morning…