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PRINCIPE: You are what you eat

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers
The type of food the Oilers eat is watched very carefully, particularly after games when they're on the plane. (photo provided by Oilers TV)

I don't remember when I first heard it or how often I've heard it but the phrase 'you are what you eat' is one that sticks in my mind. When I was younger I always used to think I'm a pizza or a chocolate bar or a hamburger with fries. Shows you how not-so-healthy my diet once was and sometimes still is. It's one of those terms that really makes you think or should make you consider what you are putting in your body. It wasn't that big a deal decades ago in pro sports but now as much as the game has changed so is what athletes are putting into their bodies.

This blog all started after Dallas Eakins lighthearted tweet on Monday. The Edmonton Oilers were having a team dinner and the coach saw this big sundae being delivered to Nail Yakupov. He tweeted out a photo of it and the caption, which I'm paraphrasing, was how Nail must be feeling more comfortable around the coach to eat this dessert. As a result on Tuesday, I decided to talk about a sundae. It was a conversation with Eakins about what he wants his players to eat or not eat. The do's and don'ts of nutrition.

We did a half-hour show on Sportsnet this pre-season that revolved around fitness and nutrition. We interviewed President of Hockey Operations Kevin Lowe. Interesting to hear him talk about the 'old days' when steaks, baked potatoes and perogies could often be a part of a meal a handful of hours before the game. The head coach said it wasn't uncommon for him to also eat steak as his pre-game meal when he played junior hockey. That's just the way they did things but over the decades as much as the training habits have been altered so have the eating habits.

In the case of the Edmonton Oilers, Eakins has a couple members on staff who handle what the players should try to eat and when they should eat it. I thought Dallas put it best when he said you can only manage what you measure. That makes sense when it comes to fuel for the body. To help monitor that players are fed as often as possible by the team, there's breakfast and lunch available on home practice days. You can throw in post-game meals on game nights. That still leaves a lot of away time but the idea is to get the players to embrace what the team is selling. It's not a hard sell.

For breakfast the players are urged to eat, for example, eggs, nuts and avocados. For lunch or mid-day game meals there's the option of chicken along with pasta and rice. Post game, cheese is high on the not-to-eat list. I found that surprising because so many teams have pizza on the bus ride to the plane. It gives them some instant recovery food until they have more thorough meals. Despite my love for cheese (on and off the air), it's not a good fit when you're looking to recapture lost game calories. Also milk chocolate is a no no while dark chocolate is the recommended substitute. Some of this is common sense. I spoke to a staff member about food and they discussed folic acids, vitamin B and fish oil all being good for you. That's past my realm of common sense.

You are what you eat still holds true. As this season continues, the Oilers are intent on eating well and playing well.
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