Supplements 101: Dunking the Myths
If you’ve ever walked down the aisles in a health food store dazed and confused about what to buy, you’re not alone. Nutritional supplements are confusing and polarizing opinions from health authorities aren’t always helpful. So, let’s clear the ice while we explore some popular misconceptions about the use of supplements and get real about how they might benefit all the young hockey players out there.
MYTH 1: SUPPLEMENTS ARE A WASTE OF MONEY
The truth is, they are, if you don’t know what to look for. The key to getting your money’s worth is to get help from a trusted source. This involves getting to know your local health food stores, buying from Canadian-grown companies and inquiring about general manufacturing processes. When it comes to buying supplements for your children it also helps to ask if they have a product on hand to try in-store so you don’t get stuck with a product your child never takes. The bottom line: supplements offer tremendous value when you select and use them appropriately.
MYTH 2: SUPPLEMENTS HAVE NO PROVEN BENEFITS
This is a sticky subject because there is a wide range of supplements available for a wide range of conditions. While some may have little benefit when it comes to improving specific health outcomes, a lot of them also do. As someone who tracks the research quite closely, I can tell you there is an expanding body of studies on supplements; however, not all of it is worth writing home about. Let me provide you with an example: Weight loss supplements are a huge market right now, but the magnitude of benefit they provide is miniscule and certainly doesn’t undue the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle and a bad diet. On the other hand, a nutrient like curcumin (from the popular Indian spice turmeric) has literally hundreds of studies on its benefits including improvements from joint pain to dementia and even depression. So, it really depends on what nutrient you are looking at and what outcomes you are expecting. At the end of the day, we are each unique and may respond to nutrients differently, so the key is to either go in knowing what you’re looking for or get some professional advice.
MYTH 3: “I CAN GET EVERYTHING I NEED FROM MY FOOD”
No doubt, the game really starts in the kitchen! Supplements are exactly that – meant to supplement an already healthy diet. With respect to hockey players, the goal of supplementation is to improve one or several parameters of an athlete’s game including: preparation, sustaining a high performance, and facilitating quicker recovery. It’s very difficult to get these specific benefits just by eating food; the nutrients found in supplements are often specifically extracted and concentrated, as well as optimized to improve the bodies’ ability to absorb them when they’re needed most. You can find professional brand supplements such as Genestra, Thorne, Cyto-Matrix and many others at all Nature’s Source locations.
“Ok, so I’m at the health food store. Now, what should I look for?”
When it comes to purchasing supplements for your young and adolescent athletes the approach should minimal and simplistic. My Top 5 Supplement recommendations are safe and effective in children and young adults; however, it’s always best to consult a qualified healthcare practitioner when starting a child on any supplement.
Top 5 Supplements
- Branch chain amino acids or BCAA’s - These are protein building blocks that improve recovery from high intensity exercise, reduce muscle soreness, improve muscular strength and boost immunity. They work by improving a process known as protein synthesis — a process your body uses to repair and build muscle tissue. The great thing about BCAAs is that they often come in delicious flavored powders that can be added to water bottles. Most also contain a full spectrum of electrolytes – to replace critical salts lost through sweating. These are great to consume on the bench during the game.
- Matcha green tea is a high-quality form of green tea that is high in antioxidants. You can use it to replace high-sugar energy drinks. Matcha is rich in catechins, nutrients which boost immunity and help keep your kids healthy throughout the season. It also contains naturally derived caffeine, which boosts attention, and a naturally occurring amino acid L-theanine, which helps to not only offset some of the negative effects of caffeine (like the jitters), but helps your teens and children to focus and concentrate on the ice as well as in the classroom. Look for do Matcha brand for the highest quality matcha available.
- Beetroot juice is loaded with naturally occurring antioxidants and nitrates and the research is quite impressive regarding its benefits for athletes. The nitrates help to improve nitric oxide production, which ultimately helps improve the delivery of blood to muscles during exercise, but it also seems to improve muscle soreness and recovery after exercise! Consuming beetroot juice a couple hours before the game is preferred.
- Vitamin D - Boosting immunity during cold and flu season is paramount because no one performs well when their sick, but the benefits of Vitamin D don’t stop there. In fact, adequate intake and production of vitamin D is crucial for normal hormone development, muscle recovery and proper bone formation. Also, Canadian athletes tend to be deficient in vitamin D; therefore, supplementation is strongly encouraged. D-mulsion drops from Genestra contain a convenient and tasty one drop dosing.
- L-glutamine decreases the immune suppressant effects of exercise. Playing at a high level of hockey – or playing a lot of it – takes its toll on the body. L-glutamine helps with increasing exercise demands and supports muscle and immune recovery. I also like glutamine for its effects on gut health as it maintains the integrity of the gut lining and keeps our bowels running smoothly. AOR L-Glutamine Powder would be a preferred choice.