Fad diets come and go. What stays true year in and year out is accurate and reliable science. As a sports dietitian I am trained to interpret research for both it’s accuracy and reliability and then turn that into actual ideas of what an athlete can eat to get a better performance. That is why I am urging everyone to spread the answer to the following question:
Why are hockey players asking me if they should eat a low carb diet? It must have something to do with Basketball. Recently the media was buzzing with talk of star basketball player LeBron James because he visibly lost weight and somewhere the media picked up that he is following a low carb diet. All we hear is that LeBron lost weight (I am not sure why this is seen as positive!), and he is reported to be on a low carb diet. No one is reporting why a professional athlete, presumably in peak shape, is trying to lose weight. I don’t really understand what his version of a low carb diet is because there are no quotes from LeBron describing his diet this summer. Low carb for you may be high carb for me. So how does this athlete’s story apply to hockey players?
The positive first. This athlete's story gets young athletes talking about what is on their plate. Eating well is one of the 3 pillars of a top hockey performance. Adequate rest and good off-ice training make up the other 2 pillars. Professional athletes sometimes only discover the 3 pillars after they have made it to the professional level. It makes me wonder how much better they could have been. These days competition to become a professional athlete is more fierce than ever so every little edge will make a difference. An aspiring teen hockey player would be wise to pay attention to their diet at an early age to stand out from the competition.
But, are low carb diets something a hockey player should look at? The answer is an unequivocal NO. This is a message coming from the individuals who have spent the better part of their lives evaluating the science behind what makes athletes perform better. These scientists get together and design what is called a consensus statement in answer to a question (the question here is about carbs). Scientific studies are used to mold their answer to the question. And, they don't use just any scientific studies. The studies need to be un-biased, certainly not endorsed by a famous face and they must use the most accurate techniques known to answer the question being asked. These consensus statements are as close as we can get to a road-map for a performance diet. (reference: IOC Consensus Statement of 2010)
Eating for a performance is so much more than just eating or not eating carbs. Check the HNN Resources to find out more about performance diets for hockey players. Get informed and update your knowledge often. I encourage you to find a sports dietitian to get reliable information from and keep in touch with that sports dietitian over your career so you know how to integrate new recommendations as they emerge.