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BioSteel is quickly becoming NHL players’ drink of choice during games

Aug 23, 2011, 9:26 PM EDT

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Antti Niemi AP

There was a time when hockey players – even professional ones – weren’t exactly the types of athletes with statuesque bodies. The modern NHL’s top players provide a stark comparison to those comparatively flabby older days though, thanks to the increased efficiency of workout routines, availability of personal trainers and rule changes that reward speed and skill. With the overall fitness level at a much higher mark, there’s one area in which some players can gain a small – but perhaps significant – edge: superior nutrition.

We’ve already discussed the considerable demand for former NHL player Gary Roberts’ suggestions for what players should eat (along with how they should train), but one area that hasn’t gotten as much attention – at least in media reports – is what they decide to drink.

There’s a fairly large industry hoping to quench the thirsts of professional athletes and Average Joes alike, with Gatorade in position as the biggest name on the block. Unfortunately, the long-time king of quench’s drinks have some considerable drawbacks, including the well-documented problems it can cause for your teeth.

The Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle couldn’t help but wonder what drink often ends up in the green Gatorade bottles players use during games. He found that it’s often not Gatorade or even water, but increasingly a product called BioSteel that was developed by a former Toronto Maple Leafs trainer named Matt Nichol.

More and more, players are filling those sponsored bottles with a new drink called BioSteel, which was developed by trainer Matt Nichol, championed by Montreal Canadiens star Mike Cammalleri and is now being used by nearly half of the league.

Nichol touts his “high-performance sports drink” as being superior to others on the market, and he has some numbers to back it up, with 18 NHL teams placing orders last season.

And this week at BioSteel’s annual camp in Toronto, 20 NHLers and 16 top prospects are all training under Nichol and using his supplements, in part to get ready for the season and also to help spread the word about the work he’s doing.

(snip)

What started as a “little pink drink” – a mix of amino acids and electrolytes that Nichol cooked up when he was the Toronto Maple Leafs strength and conditioning coach – finally began to catch on in a big way after Cammalleri first tried it three years ago.

The drink seems like it’s gathering steam around the league and is even gaining attention from other sports including the NBA, according to Mirtle’s reports. Steven Stamkos is one of the product’s biggest proponents, although it must be noted that he’s a paid endorser (which means you can only trust such testimonials so much). Then again, I’d rather see my top paid player pump a sports drink rather than, say, a candy bar

You can check out the product at its Web site and read more about Nichol in Mirtle’s report. In case you’re wondering if the Gatorade people are angry that players are pouring another product in their green bottles, Nichol’s had this amusing comment.

Getting their name on all those water bottles, however, probably isn’t in the cards just yet.

“Gatorade’s got a league-wide deal and a lot more money that me,” Nichol said. “They’re pretty smart. But I think you could probably drink a vodka soda out of the Gatorade bottle as long as it’s in the right bottle.”

Maybe our more electrolyte and amino acid-attuned readers can provide a little more insight into which sports drinks are the best for professional athletes and armchair ice hockey players alike, but hopefully most players opt against “vodka and soda” and other questionable choices, such as Zdeno Chara‘s not-so-hydrating favorite: Coca-Cola.

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