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Eating to Compete

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins - NHL players are fine-tuned — on and off the ice.

Their intense level of discipline, day in and day out, breeds consistency and, ultimately, success.

Whether they implement new methods of strength training, conditioning or stretching in the weight room, or perfect their skating, stick handling and shooting with new drills, the goal is always the same: to find a way to improve.

There’s another aspect that can sometimes go overlooked, though, and could be one of the greatest areas for improvement. What they put into their bodies is just as important, if not more, than the physical exertion they put on their bodies.

Count the Bruins as not letting the former necessarily outweigh the latter.

When the organization announced a series of personnel transactions on Sept. 12, including the transition of Jay Pandolfo to Director of Player Development, it also hired Julie Nicoletti as a Sports Nutritionist.

Nicoletti, founder of Kinetic Fuel®, is a nationally recognized Certified Sports Nutritionist and Registered Pharmacist (B.S.,R.Ph.) who specializes in coaching athletes to achieve their highest potential both on and off the ice.

She provides one-on-one, personalized nutritional education and counseling to athletes. She enables them to optimize peak athletic performance, while minimizing the risk of injury.

Nicoletti will serve as a consultant to the organization throughout the 2015-16 season.

“The Bruins are excited to be teaming up with Julie Nicoletti and Kinetic Fuel to provide the optimal performance based sports nutrition to all of our players,” said General Manager Don Sweeney. “Proper nutrition and education are essential and uniquely linked to each individual player.”

“Kinetic Fuel will be supplying the Boston Bruins with the most up-to-date knowledge that is necessary to gain an edge and increase player performance.”

“I truly believe that nutrition offers them a competitive edge,” said Nicoletti. “It also helps with mental clarity, their ability to stay dialed into what’s happening on the ice and to stay focused. It helps with their risk of injury.”

The Bruins are set to report for training camp on Sept. 17. The first order of business is off-ice testing. In addition to performing tests like timed runs and pull-ups, all of the players will have physicals and will have their body fat composition measured.

“Even if a player is able to maintain body fat composition below 10 percent, let’s say, and they eat anything they want, they could feel so much better and think so much more clearly if they’re properly fueled and hydrated,” said Nicoletti. “It reduces the risk of injury and illness.”

The Bruins fuel their bodies in the offseason with the training is increased, but their in-season nutrition is significantly affected by the amount of calories burned on game days especially, and because of the travel that comes with an 82-game season.

“What [travel] does to your body, with changing time zones and sleep and all of that, if your’e eating well and you’re fully hydrated, then it minimizes all of those negative effects,” she said.

As a consultant with the team, Nicoletti will be focusing on personalization — Zdeno Chara may not have the same food preferences as, say, David Pastrnak. Aside from age, height, physical makeup and the differing stages of their careers, they don’t have the same pregame routines or the same tastes.

“My role with the Bruins will be to help the players navigate their food choices, their intake, in order to maximize their performance,” said Nicoletti. “So whether that intake is a team provided meal or helping them navigate restaurant menus or teaching them the basics of cooking — helping them figure out what to eat when in order to play their best.”

“Everything that I will do with the players will be individualized and customized. What I do with the team, that will effect everybody, but I’ll make sure there are enough choices for the guys who struggle to hold onto their weight during the season, versus the guys who struggle to keep their body fat low, for example.”

Back in July, Pandolfo had Nicoletti come and speak to the Bruins prospects at Development Camp. The attentive group of mostly 18-22 year olds soaked in all of the information. They may play on different teams - in juniors, overseas or in college - and have varying levels of ability, but they can all make choices off the ice to give themselves the best opportunity to play their best.

Nicoletti established Kinetic Fuel in 2008, after spending the beginning of her career as a registered pharmacist. She worked last season with Providence defenseman Tommy Cross, who received her name from a former teammate at Boston College. He changed his nutrition and felt the positive impact it had.

She has also worked with Jimmy Hayes’ younger brother, Kevin, who plays for the New York Rangers, and serves as the sports nutritionist for Boston’s professional lacrosse team, the Boston Cannons, as well as other elite travel sports teams, specialized camps and NCAA programs.

“To be able to work with the Bruins is a privilege and an opportunity that I’m really excited about,” said Nicoletti.

As the players head into the 2015-16 campaign, it marks a new season of discipline — not just on the ice, but in all areas of being Boston Bruin.

“I’m always impressed with player discipline — hockey players in particular are very disciplined when they want to be. They put their heads down,” said Nicoletti.

“Hockey’s intense and the caloric burn is high. My goal is for them to have as much energy in the last minutes of the last period as they do in the first minutes of the first, you know? So whatever we can do to support that, and bring the Cup back home, is my goal.”

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