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7 Health Tips from Orpik

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik is one of the team’s leaders both on and off the ice. But he’s the undeniable leader of the team in terms of health and fitness.

Orpik, 33, is highly educated on proper nutrition and training and he hopes that his teammates, especially the younger players, will learn from his example.

“It’s a little extreme for some people,” Orpik said. “But there’s some people who I know like Tanner (Glass) and Joey Vitale, who are really interested in it. You just try to share some of the knowledge that you learn and I think it’s almost your duty to do it because somebody else did it for you.

“There’s some guys, like Olli (Maatta), if I can get through to him early, maybe it helps him out.”

But Orpik said there isn’t a one-size fits-all solution for dieting and training.

“I think everybody is completely different and what works for me might not work for somebody else,” Orpik said. “So when people ask me that, I always tell them that and say this is what works for me. So if you want to try it, great, but your body might react differently or something.”

That being said, Orpik shared a few tips with us about his diet and training. Any aspiring hockey players reading this take note!

When shopping for food, Orpik suggests envisioning a grocery store. “If you want to eat healthy, stay on the perimeter because the middle is all processed foods and artificial foods. If you stay on the outside, it’s all real food, whole foods, besides the frozen stuff.”

Orpik said people may think they’re eating healthy because of what is posted on food labels, but labels are never to be trusted. For example, he eats sprouted bread because whole wheat bread is 90 percent genetically modified. “It’s not even whole wheat, but they call it whole wheat.

“There are so many things out there that say low-fat and people have this misconception that fats are bad for you. And while there are bad fats, there’s also very good fats. Most things that say zero fat or fat-free add sugar and artificial flavors into it to take the place of it to preserve it.”

When it comes to meals, most of us are probably guilty of just eating a small cereal bar or a piece of fruit for breakfast – or skipping it all together. That’s a big no-no for Orpik.

“Breakfast used to be my smallest meal, now it’s my biggest. You have your whole day in front of you to burn those calories, that should be your biggest meal. Not stuffing your face at dinner and then going to sleep for 10 hours and it just sits in you and you feel awful in the morning.”

It’s easy to eat healthy when you’re at home. But when you’re traveling – which Orpik does a lot – it’s not always easy to find healthy options. His first strategy is to pack his own food.

“Guys laugh at me ‘cause we’ll go on a two-game road trip and I’ve got a huge suitcase. Half of it is food.”

The second option is to do some good, old-fashioned research.

“Tanner (Glass) and I, we’ll go on Google and look up organic restaurants or farm-to-table restaurants in different cities we’re going to. It keeps it fun, too. You’re always trying new stuff.”

Orpik can’t remember the last time he ate at a fast food restaurant. Not only does that kind of food no longer appeal to him, but he doesn’t understand the thought behind eating it.

“If you work that hard why would you want to have a cheat meal? For me it just doesn’t make sense. If you have that cheat meal it sets you back.”

For Orpik, you make your strength and weight gains during the offseason. During the season you’re trying to maintain what you’ve built from the summer.

“With so many practices and games, you really don’t have enough energy and time to recover to really try to make strength gains. A lot of times you’re banged up during the year. If your shoulder’s not working right you probably can’t do upper-body stuff. If your ankle or groin is bugging you, you can’t do lower-body stuff. I think diet (and working out) all plays together.”

When Orpik was younger he tended to work out all the time regardless of the circumstances. But as he’s gotten older, he’s more selective with how he handles his body.

“I want to (workout) and be able to get something out of it. If I’m exhausted and I just go in there to do it just to do it, I’m just making myself more tired and not getting anything out of it, and probably putting myself at more risk of getting hurt. You have to be smarter about it, picking your spots as you go.”

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