It’s almost perfection on a plate. For hockey players, so much of what the body needs is in a single food.
“Salmon is a great choice,” said trainer Ben Prentiss. “It’s high in protein, has DHA – which supports your brain – it serves as an anti-inflammatory, and it’s one of the best things for burning body fat. It’s pretty much the perfect food. ”
Prentiss is a strength and conditioning coach who has trained NHLers such as Martin St-Louis, Max Pacioretty, Matt Moulson and James van Riemsdyk. He’s all business when it comes to workouts for his players in the off-season and no nonsense when it comes to their nutrition programs.
“They eat whatever I tell them to eat,” Prentiss said. “As a strength coach, I’m not worried about making delicious dishes for the guys. I’m more concerned about what it’s doing for them. A perfect dish would be wild salmon with quinoa and kale or salmon with brown rice pasta.”
Salmon is one of two meats (bison being the other) that Prentiss makes his players eat because of its bounty of benefits. The most well-known advantage is its omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. But for those into taking supplements, another big benefit has recently been discovered.
“The big new supplement is astaxanthin – say that 10 times fast,” Prentiss said. “It has properties of healing, it’s anti-inflammatory and has all sorts of special properties. That’s found in salmon, which gives it its pink color. That’s now the new cool supplement that doctors are telling people to take.”
Salmon is also a favorite of Ryan Dennis, a holistic sports nutritionist who has worked with clients of fitness guru Gary Roberts. He’s consulted Steven Stamkos, James Neal and Jeff Skinner on nutrition, and salmon is always high on the list of foods he recommends.
“What makes it great is both its proteins and its fats,” Dennis said. “A lot of people look at the protein content of meat. They’re comparing number to number and it seems simple, but the actual breakdown of what kinds of protein are in foods makes a difference. The great thing about salmon is the protein content is very supportive of the joints. That’s very relevant to the sports field where you’re constantly dealing with joint trauma.”
Most salmon in supermarkets and restaurants is standard conventional farmed fare. Stay away from that, because it’s high in omega-6 fats, which can actually increase inflammation. Both Prentiss and Dennis stress the importance of buying wild-caught salmon and recommend eating it twice a week. Baking it is the simplest way to make it a delicious dish, but if you like salmon that’s about to swim off your plate, even better.
“If you can do it in raw sushi form, I would lean toward that as the premium way to eat it,” Dennis suggested. “That being said, it’s better to eat it cooked than to not eat it at all. If it’s for taste, there’s nothing wrong with baking it.”
Just don’t pan-fry it at high heat, he added, because that can breakdown those vital omega-3 fats. Whether baked or raw, make sure you’re driving it into your belly regularly if you’re a carnivore, especially for those in training.
“If you’re talking pre-exercise or recovery, it’s a really top-notch food. Fish in general digests very well. We always like to talk about the importance of protein, fats and carbohydrates balanced at every meal, and it’s hard to go wrong with something like salmon.”
Ronnie Shuker is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. Follow him on Twitter at @THNRonnieShuker.