The Truth About Carbs

I stopped counting the number of hockey players who tell me (with great pride) that they really avoid carbs and focus on getting protein. When I was the strength coach at the University of Western Ontario, I thought it was more an issue for the female athletes, but it seems like there are a lot of dudes who think carbs are ‘bad’ too.

So let’s straighten this out right now. Carbs are your number one source of energy when you are doing your off-ice hockey training, practicing or playing games. They are important and should not be excluded!

It is sort of like people who think money is bad. Some people do bad things with money and some people do great things with money – – I can only imagine how much money the Ivey family donated to have their name in big letters on the state of the art Eye Clinic where my Yia Yia had a cornea transplant the restored vision she had lost as a child. I don’t really care how much it was, I am just glad they did it.

Carbs are sort of the same.

Some people make poor choices with their carbs and it can lead to obesity and even Type 2 Diabetes.

As an athlete, you need to be like the Ivey family – invest your carbs where they can do good.

Two Types of Carbs

This is a super basic explanation of carbs, but essentially there are lower glycemic carbs (like beans, nuts, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, grapes, yogurt, all bran, long grain rice, oatmeal, 100% whole grain breads, pastas and non-starchy vegetables) and higher glycemic carbs (like white bread, cornflakes, instant oatmeal, white rice, rice cakes, pineapple, melons, table sugar and potatoes).

You will notice that the lower glycemic carbs have more fibre – that is part of what makes them lower glycemic. Think of them as “slower” carbs and the high glycemic index carbs as “faster” carbs.

Carbs And Insulin

When we consume carbs, our body releases varying amounts of insulin – more for a higher glycemic index carb and less for a lower glycemic index carb. The insulin stimulates the cells to take up nutrients, it opens up the cells.

So this allows your cells to take up carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

When you do your off-ice hockey training, have a vigorous practice or play a game, you have depleted your body’s sugar stores (sugar is stored in the body as glycogen) and likely done some micro-trauma to your muscles (built from protein).

We want to replenish that sugar and repair the muscle as quickly as possible, this is why I suggest you consume 20g of Protein and 40g of Carbs as soon as you can after a workout, practice or game. And your source of carbohydrate should be a higher glycemic option, so we get a bigger insulin response and those building blocks are taken up by the cells to help you recover from your training.

What about when you are not training or playing?

Carbs are still important, so please don’t avoid them. If you are looking to add mass, you may want to stick with some higher glycemic choices throughout the day (in addition to lower glycemic options) because they will often be more calorically dense and you need calories if you are trying to add mass.

If you are trying to maintain or lose a few pounds, then stick to mostly lower glycemic carbs when throughout the rest of your day.

How Do You Feel?

Our bodies use different macro nutrients in different ways. We all know the guy or girl who can eat ANYTHING and not gain weight and we all have the friend who eats a cookie and gains 3lbs. You need to see what works best for you. What makes you feel better on the ice?

Use these suggestions as a starting point and adjust from there.