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“What are the best supplements for hockey players?” — it’s an excellent question and one we ponder here at Dioxyme all the time. In fact, it’s actually the reason our company was founded in the first place.
With the tandem of a former professional hockey player and a practicing physician as co-founders, the company originally started out as an endeavor to provide hockey players with safe and proven supplements designed to improve performance.
Fast forward a few years, and Dioxyme is now working with a number of different professional hockey players developing all kinds of new and groundbreaking products. But this article is not about us as a company, it’s about the ingredients that we’ve seen first-hand help hockey players at all levels up their games.
One of the main reasons athletes ultimately take supplements is to improve their performance given the specialized demands of their sport. In the world of ice hockey, players have very specialized demands — they need to have the endurance to skate all out for 45 seconds and then quickly recover in between shifts to go out there and do it again. They also need to have plenty of leg jump, not only at the beginning of the game but also late into the third period.
The issue is those specific qualities tend to wax and wane — one game you may have them all in spades, while the next you may find that your endurance on the ice or ability to recover in between shifts simply isn’t where it needs to be in order to compete at your best. Ultimately, that’s why many hockey players turn to supplements — to try and assure that come game time, they’re always in the right condition to give their best performance.
Health and Wellness Supplements For Hockey Players
When it comes to performing at your best on and off the ice, nothing trumps good nutrition. The fact of the matter is, however, that during a long, intense season, even if you’re eating a well-balanced diet, you still may not be getting all of the nutrients your body needs to optimally function.
That’s where supplementation comes into the picture. Many competitive hockey players — like most top-tier athletes — ultimately look to supplements to compensate for all of the wear and tear that training and competition can have on their bodies’ nutrient supplies.
Things like protein powder, along with supplements like vitamins and minerals can be an easy and effective way of restoring the nutrients your body needs not only to perform at its best come game time but also to recover afterward.
When it comes to the best supplements for hockey players, whey protein powder is right at the top of the list. Protein is a macronutrient that comes from various types of foods like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy.
While it plays an important role in a number of different bodily functions, protein is especially critical to the process of maintaining and rebuilding muscle tissues. All of the muscles throughout your entire body are comprised of proteins, which are constantly going through a state of flux — as old proteins become degraded, your body breaks them down and replaces them with new ones.
Whether it’s practice, a game, or off-ice training, all of the strenuous physical activity that goes into getting into and staying in hockey shape can breakdown a serious amount of muscle proteins, which is why many competitive hockey players ultimately struggle with muscle loss over the course of a season — muscle loss can, unsurprisingly, impact your ability to perform at your best both on the ice and in the gym.
In order to maintain lean mass, however, your body ultimately needs an adequate supply of dietary protein to repair and replace damaged muscle tissues — this general process is known as muscle protein synthesis (MPS). It’s through MPS that your muscles are ultimately able to recover from the wear and tear that comes along with playing competitive hockey.
Although it’s technically true that you can meet your body’s daily protein demands through diet alone, maintaining a high protein intake — which is recommended for most athletes — can oftentimes be difficult when relying solely on whole foods like poultry and fish, especially with a busy and physically demanding schedule.
That’s why many top-tier hockey players ultimately rely on protein powder supplementation to make sure that their bodies are getting an adequate supply of dietary protein.
While there are many different types of protein powder to choose from, whey protein has been shown to stimulate protein synthesis to a greater degree than any other type of protein, which is one of the reasons it’s amongst the most popular dietary supplements on the market.
It’s derived from cow’s milk and most high-quality whey products contain 25+ grams of protein per serving, taste great, and mix easily with milk or water, making it much easier to meet your body’s daily protein needs, even with the busiest of schedules.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are another commonly recommended supplement for hockey players. Also know as micronutrients, they play a critical role in a number of different mental and physical processes. Ultimately, if your body doesn’t have an adequate supply of vitamins and minerals, it’ll be next to impossible to perform at your best both on the ice and in training.
Even if they appear to be in top physical condition, the reality is that many athletes deal with vitamin and mineral deficiencies on a regular basis during the season. In fact, the co-founder and lead physician here at Dioxyme frequently test professional hockey players in his practice and many of them ultimately turn out to have deficiencies.
That’s because all of the intense physical demands of training and competing can deplete your body’s supply of micronutrients very quickly, making it extremely difficult — even for those with a well-balanced diet — to get all of the vitamins and minerals you need through diet alone.
It’s ultimately why supplementing with things like vitamins D, B, and C along with minerals like magnesium, zinc, and iron is a common practice amongst many elite athletes, including hockey players. Obtaining adequate levels of these micronutrients can be made quite a bit easier with a multivitamin supplement that contains these ingredients (and oftentimes even more).
Although, it’s important to point out that the most accurate way to figure out exactly which vitamins and minerals you should be taking is the get your micronutrient levels professionally tested.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a popular dietary supplement that may also offer certain benefits in the hockey world. Omega 3s contain high concentrations of the fatty acids EPA and DHA, which play an important metabolic role in the recovery process, aiding in the repair of damaged muscle tissues.
In addition to helping your muscles recover, research also shows that fatty acids like EPA and DHA may also aid in alleviating joint pain, helping to further ensure that your body is able to adequate recovery in between training sessions, so come game time, you’re in optimal condition to perform at your best.
Branched-Chain Amino Acid supplements (BCAAs) may also help in the recovery process. BCAAs are essential amino acids that can be found in certain types of food– amino acids are what make-up protein, which as we’ve already discussed, is vital to maintaining your lean muscle mass.
As such, some research suggests that BCAAs may help to hasten the recovery process by aiding in the regeneration of muscle tissue. However, other studies suggest that whey protein may be more effective at stimulating MPS in comparison to BCAAs on their own — whey protein naturally contains some BCAAs.
What is more clear, on the other hand, is that BCAA supplementation can help to prevent or, at least, lessen the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which can often occur for multiple days after an intense bout of exercise like an extremely competitive game or an overly-demanding training session.
Sometimes the muscle pain and stiffness that often accompanies DOMS — while not a serious health risk — can ultimately make practicing or competing at your best, much more difficult if not given enough time to recover, which can sometimes take up to 72 hours.
However, numerous studies, involving athletes from various sports backgrounds, have found BCAA supplementation effective for reducing the symptoms of DOMS, on average, allowing athletes who were given a BCAA supplement to perform better in subsequent training sessions in comparison to those who were only given a placebo.
Physical Performance Supplements for Hockey Players
On top of health and wellness supplements, which are designed to supply your body with the nutrients it needs to optimally function, there are also some supplements designed to actually improve ways in which your body works under physically demanding conditions.
While some performance-enhancing substances — like certain stimulants and steroids — are banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), there are other non-banned supplements that are completely safe and legal to take.
And better yet, there are a number of supplements that aren’t on WADA’s banned substances list whose positive effects on athletic performance have been well-demonstrated in top research journals. Although the effects of most substances have yet to be specifically explored on ice hockey players, positive effects on athletic performance have been observed across a multitude of different sports.
Creatine is by far the most well-researched non-banned performance-enhancing supplement and there is, in fact, an ample body of evidence that regular supplementation can improve athletic performance.
Creatine is an amino acid metabolite that your body uses to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is an important chemical fuel source used by your muscles during physically demanding athletic performance,
Hockey is a high-intensity sport; your muscles are frequently working at or near-maximal intensity when you’re on the ice, and as a consequence, they’re burning up lots of fuel — that’s why forwards are often only on the ice for as little as 30 – 45 seconds at a time.
However, creatine has been shown to boost the level of ATP in your muscles, in turn, increasing the amount of available energy your muscles have during high-intensity physical activity. The more available energy your muscles have, the longer they’re going to be able to function at or near-maximal intensity — ultimately having that extra energy can mean the difference between tiring out at the end of a long shift vs. having the energy you need to finish on a big play.
Beta-alanine is another non-banned substances whose positive effects on athletic performance have been well-documented. It’s a non-essential amino acid and precursor to the peptide carnosine.
Carnosine is mainly stored in your muscles, where it has inhibitory effects that help to block the build-up of toxic compounds like lactic acid and hydrogen ions. Lactic acid, in particular, is a chemical by-product that can build up in your muscles during physically demanding activities such as ice skating.
As lactic acid accumulates in your muscles — particularly in your legs in hockey — it prevents more energy-providing chemicals from entering your muscles, reducing your performance capabilities until total exhaustion sets in.
Research shows, however, that regular beta-alanine supplementation helps to decrease the amount of lactic acid in your muscles, helping to increase the amount of time your muscles are able to function under taxing conditions before your performance becomes compromised — in the hockey world, that means having that extra burst of energy in the tank late in the third period when everyone else is gassed.
Β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate, or HMB for short, is a branched-chain amino acid metabolite. Numerous studies have demonstrated that it has a positive effect on protein turnover, helping to prevent the breakdown of muscle proteins (MPB) during physically demanding activities like hockey.
Muscle loss can be a real risk for competitive hockey players. With all of the practices, off-ice training sessions, and games going on, it can be difficult to adequately recover from the wear and tear that your muscles go through.
When a lot of muscle proteins are broke down — such as with an extremely challenging training session or an intense game — your body needs an ample amount of time to repair the damage. The trouble is, most top-level players simply don’t have the time they need to fully recover from all of the physical demands of training and competing every day.
Over the course of a season, all of those times that your body wasn’t fully able to recover can lead to the gradual loss of lean muscle mass, which in addition to impinging on your performance as the season progresses, can also increase your chances of getting injured.
With that being said, a number of human trials involving HMB supplementation have demonstrated that it can help to prevent muscle protein breakdown both during and after physically demanding activities like hockey.
By decreasing the amount of damage that’s actually done to your muscles, HMB supplementation has been shown to improve recovery time in athletes and decrease the risk of muscle loss over the course of a competitive season.
Phosphatidic acid is a naturally occurring cell signaling lipid that plays an important role in promoting cellular growth and coordinating the replenishment of broken-down muscle proteins — it helps your body to ferry new proteins (along with other nutrients) to muscle cells in need of repair.
In the realm of hockey, it can help to improve the ability of your muscle to rebuild and recover in between games and training sessions. Through the activation of mTOR signaling pathways, phosphatidic acid helps to increase muscle protein synthesis (MPS), which again is the process through which your body repairs damaged muscle tissues.
These elevated levels of MPS are ultimately what helps your body to recover from even the most demanding game or training session. In fact, regular in-season supplementation of phosphatidic acid has actually been shown to increase muscle mass and strength in athletes — compared to the average sports competitor who usually struggles to maintain lean mass over the course of a physically grueling season.
Mental Performance Supplements for Hockey
When it comes to being at your best on the ice, improving your physical performance is one thing, but at the most competitive levels, where everyone can really play, being the player that stands out ultimately has more to do with your mental performance.
It’s not just a coincidence that some players just seem to always be in the right place at the right time to make a big play. On the contrary, it takes way more than just dumb luck — it requires the ability to see the play develop before it actually happens, which not only takes extensive knowledge of the game but also an incredible amount of focus to be able to, in a split second, perceive and evaluate all of the little details that ultimately give away how a play is going to develop.
And that’s where supplementation comes into the picture. While getting all of the nutrients your body needs can help keep your mind sharp come game time, there are some nootropic substances that can actually increase your mental capabilities, helping to improve your overall ability to focus and concentrate in the big moment.
Caffeine needs little introduction; it’s the most popular psychoactive substance in the world, found in coffee and tea, along with countless energy drinks and pre-workouts — that’s because there are literally hundreds of studies demonstrating significant effects on cognition.
It works in a few different ways. Firstly, it has inhibitory properties, helping to block adenosine receptors — adenosine is a chemical messenger that signals to your body that you’re tired.
Fatigue is ultimately one of the main culprits when it comes to declines in your mental performance — as you get tired, things like your ability to focus and concentrate become compromised, which can ultimately mean the difference between making to right and wrong decision in crunch time.
Additionally, caffeine also works by modulating certain brain chemicals like acetylcholine and it’s been found to decrease reaction time and improve athletic performance in a number of different well-designed studies.
When it comes to what kind of caffeine product you should take, an extended-release form is most effective for improving your on-ice performance. Downing multiple energy drinks before a big game may have significant and immediate effects but it can ultimately wear off well before the game is over.
With extended-release caffeine, however, you get a steady dose administered over the course of up to 6 hours — plenty of time to keep you in the zone over the course of even the longest game.
Combining Caffeine With L-theanine
L-theanine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in tea leaves. Numerous studies have demonstrated that combining l-theanine with caffeine can amplify caffeine’s effects, helping to further improve mental functions like your ability to concentrate and stay alert.
Choline is another nootropic supplement that may help to improve your on-ice performance. It’s a vitamin-like nutrient that as a supplement, comes in multiple forms including acetylcholine, alpha GPC, and citicoline.
One of choline’s main functions is in the brain, where it’s used to repair and rebuild neurons, helping to optimize the cell signaling process that coordinates all of your body’s actions. Supplementation has been shown to increase the concentration of choline in the brain, helping to improve the performance of mental processes like your reaction time.
It’s also been shown to boost brain concentrations of ATP as well. In addition to acting as a secondary fuel source to your muscles (like we’ve already discussed), ATP is also an important energy-providing brain chemical that ultimately helps to stave off fatigue, assuring that your ability to concentrate and perform at your best mentally isn’t compromised.
L-tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid that plays an important role in the synthesis of several important brain chemicals, including dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine — these neurotransmitters help to maintain equilibrium in your brain.
Physically and mentally demanding activities — like playing hockey — can quickly deplete your brain’s supply of chemicals like dopamine, leading to significant declines in cognitive performance. As your levels become more and more depleted, your ability to concentrate, think, and react will also likely decrease.
However, evidence suggests that l-tyrosine supplementation can help to regulate your levels of dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, helping to assure that your brain’s supplies don’t become depleted under demanding circumstances — like a highly competitive game.
Ultimately, if you’re able to maintain those important brain chemicals late into the game — deep in the third period when everyone else can barely think straight — you’ll have a clear advantage when it comes to reading and reacting to what’s going on on the ice.
Can You Combine Different Supplements?
Most of the supplements we’ve just discussed offer their own unique benefits to your on-ice performance, and unsurprisingly, you may be interested in taking more than just one of them.
In short, there are a number of different ingredients that can have synergistic effects once combine, and many of the substances on this list can be paired safely and effectively with one another — combining certain ingredients can have more powerful effects than taking just one substance all on its own.
That’s why we’ve paired a number of different ingredients — many of which were included on this list — together in our Performance Stack, which was specifically designed to improve your on-ice performance.
After years of working with numerous NHL players, we’ve developed a unique synergy of ingredients that we’ve seen first-hand help to improve leg jump, increase on-ice endurance, and speed up recovery.
The Performance Stack
Nothing but synergistic ingredients with proven efficacy for unparalleled performance on the iceLearn More
When it comes to a highly competitive sport like hockey, everybody wants to perform at their best day in and day out. While a well-balanced diet is a good start, it’s often not enough to assure that you’re going to be firing on all cylinders come game time — that’s where supplementation comes into the picture.
Certain supplements like whey protein, vitamins and minerals, along with Omega-3s and BCAAs can help to assure that your body is getting all of the nutrients that otherwise may be difficult to obtain in adequate quantities from diet alone.
Other supplements like creatine, beta-alanine, and HMB can actually help to improve that way that your body functions, helping to potentially boost the capabilities of your muscles to perform and recover from intense physical exercise like playing hockey.
Finally, hockey players can also benefit from certain supplements that help to improve mental functions like those involving concentration and attention. Substances like caffeine, choline, and l-carnitine can be an effective way of achieving a mental edge on the ice.