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Colin Greening

Left Wing, Toronto Maple Leafs

Tell us a bit about yourself.

So I'm a professional hockey player. I'm currently in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, playing for the Toronto Marlies. This is my seventh year of pro, grew up in St. Johns, Newfoundland, where ... Played all my minor hockey there. And I first moved away when I was 17, actually to Toronto, where I spent two years playing for Upper Canada College, and then I spent a year out in Nanaimo, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island, where I played junior. And then I spent four years at Cornell University, and then I started playing pro. So, it's been a long journey. It's been pretty exciting.

Tell us more about life in professional hockey.

In professional sports and in professional hockey, the schedule is not built for recovery, it's built for entertainment.

And that can be very tough, because when your body wants to recover and when your mind wants to recover, mentally, sometimes you have to fly to another city and have to play a game. And that can be very, very tough, so over the years it can put a toll on your body. Inflammation is the biggest problem that all athletes will delay with. And it's because it may not be one or two games where you have a little bit of built up inflammation but it's when you're playing the fortieth and fiftieth game where your body just hasn't recovered enough from the first or second game.

And that's why it's so important to understand what is right for your own body. I think of it kind of as the wave against the rock. It's something, like you constantly feel the wave against the rock, and it may not look like anything but after a while you see that rock start to erode and breakdown. And so, the onus is on us as athletes to make sure that essentially we make that rock as strong as possible.

In professional sports and in professional hockey, the schedule is not built for recovery, it's built for entertainment.

Tell us about what you do to manage both the mental, physical, stresses and to be as strong as you possibly can be.

Well, from a mental standpoint, I'm pretty lucky. I have a great wife. She's like my personal coach and therapist, but I think the biggest thing is definitely physical as well. And that's something that I really took an interest in, I think it was just natural for me from early in my life, and as I got older and started get a little more injuries and realizing why I was getting in those injuries, it really sparked another interest in understanding why my body did some of the things it did.

For example, about four years ago, I had a leg injury, where essentially my right leg just kind of like, blew up. And there was so much inflammation in there and it really didn't come from a bad hit or something that I could pinpoint and so I thought to myself why is this happening. And then I started talking to a few experts, nutritionists, and dieticians, and reading things. And I said, this probably what I've been putting in my body. I'm not getting the proper amount of rest. I'm not preparing my body as well as I can so that if I still had, if I have a rough game, can I recover in a day's time, or two days' time, or three days' times?

And when you're young, and when I say young, you know when you're around 19, 20, 21, your recoveries so much quicker. So for myself, like right now, where I'm obviously, I've hit in the thirties, it obviously takes a little more time, and that's why it's so important to make sure that you're putting the right things in your body and doing the right things that are unique to yourself because each person is different, and the onus has to go on each and every individual, whether you're an athlete or not. And I think that's so important because you got to find out what's right for your body and how you can recover as quick as possible and that's where really my interest stemmed from.

Tell us more about your interest in nutrition and how you educated yourself.

Well, again, it was natural in me and I think a lot of it came from an inner drive that I think all athletes, or I would say most people have, is to be the best. And I realized that if I wanted to be the best at my sport or be in the top echelon, that I needed to make sure that my body was in peak physical condition.

And so I thought I knew a lot about nutrition, and when I was 18, 19, I read a few books, and talked to a few people and my body was feeling great, and I thought, you know, this is how you probably should be eating. And it wasn't until I was around 24, 25, where I was eating the same things but I wasn't getting the same results. And then, I refer back to that issue where I had the big inflammation problem in my right leg, and I couldn't quite understand, I couldn't pinpoint why I was having these problems. And so like I said, I realized that it was inflammation, and a lot of inflammation comes from not only the physical toll you put on your body through working out, or games, or practices, but it comes from what you put in your body.

So, I searched out a nutritionist that I felt was obviously very, very bright. Her name was Dr. Kylie Delfino and she did some inflammation markers on me. And, she went through a wide variety of foods, and essentially said, these are the things that you're eating but they're causing inflammation in your body. These aren't good for you. And I was completely shocked. And so she said, you have to really change your diet, which I thought was actually very healthy at the time.

So since then, and this was about four or five years ago, since then, that has really sparked my interest, because for so long I thought I was eating so healthy and I thought I knew, I had it all, but then this incident happened and now I realize it's just constantly learning about nutrition, and so I've been very fortunate to speak to a number of doctors and I read a lot of medical journals. I've learned about different diets. I've learned about veganism, vegetarianism, and paleo diets, and all sorts of different diets, and foods from different cultures. I think for me it just constantly learning about it and what works for me, because given the fact that there are some, there are foods that I can't have that essentially cause inflammation in my body, that it's important to keep understanding why that is and keep working on it. So I would say that that's really where it all stemmed from.

And one of the things you stay away from now is dairy?

Yes, that was one of the inflammation markers in my body. And I'm not advocating that nobody, they shouldn't be taking dairy. I'm just saying that this personally, for myself, that it did not work. The Casein protein in milk and in other dairy products, they didn't have a good feel for me.

And I remember she said, well, and now when I say she, you know Kylie Delfino, she said, why don't you just take 30 days and you don't have any dairy products. And the difference I had in terms of how much I recovered, and how I felt, and how I slept, all important, it was huge. And she said, well after you've done, try taking some. Try drinking some milk and see how you feel. And I felt lethargic, and bloated, and tired, and I realized, yeah, like this ... It may not cause an allergic reaction like where my throat swells up or anything like that but it didn't have a good effect on me. And that's really important, I think that all athletes should know.

Has there been a challenge in seeking out protein?

Yeah, there definitely is a challenge just because, and I don't know the stats here, but I would definitely have to say most products, or most protein powders. I shouldn't say even just protein powders but any nutritional supplement that is trying get those extra calories into you are coming from the whey protein. And for me, personally, it just doesn't work.

In fact, I went off whey protein for about a year and a half to two years, and I thought to myself, you know maybe I just have built up a tolerance to it and I just have to get off it for a little bit. So I tried going on it again, for about a week, and it was the same thing. I just felt very tired, I did not feel good afterwards, and it wasn't a good feeling, so realized that that was just not right form for me. And trying to find a non-whey protein has had its challenges. Now there are some out there, which, that I have pursued, but it's the minority right now. And I think it's actually, I think it's really good that there are some options out there and I think people should try them. Because, I think people would be astounded about how great you can feel afterwards. You won't feel lethargic after a practice or a game or tired. And you'll wake up the next day and you won't the feel, perhaps the same soreness that you had from the day prior.

[Dairy] may not cause an allergic reaction like where my throat swells up or anything like that but it didn't have a good effect on me. And that's really important, I think that all athletes should know..