It’s a common refrain in NHL training camps: “I’m in the best shape of my life.” Though Adam Gaudette didn’t invoke the cliché, it might actually be true for him as he enters the 2020-21 season.
Most of Gaudette’s off-season training was fairly normal, even under the unusual circumstances: he worked on getting stronger, faster, and improving his faceoffs, aiming to solidify his role as a third-line centre. There was one significant change, however, to his off-season preparations.
“A change in diet,” said Gaudette on Wednesday. “I had a big switch around with my diet this summer trying to get back on the right track and putting some weight on and I think that's helped: more energy, feeling better on and off the ice.”
It wasn’t just change for the sake of change. Gaudette worked with a nutritionist to identify the issue behind his inability to add weight to his 6’1” frame.
“This off-season has been weird,” he said. “I discovered I had some sort of stomach problem that prevents me from eating full meals and I would get sick in the mornings randomly. This has been going on for years and it's always been a struggle for me to put weight on.”
Gaudette has always been one of the smaller players on the Canucks roster in terms of weight. He’s currently listed at 170 lbs on the Canucks website, same as Quinn Hughes who is around three inches shorter. Those two are the lightest players on the roster.
That hasn’t prevented him from playing a gritty game, but going into board battles sometimes weighing 30 lbs less than an opponent can’t be easy.
“My nutritionist caught it,” said Gaudette. “We’re attacking it, we’re working with the doctors here in Vancouver, and I’ve got a great team around me supporting me right now. It’s gonna take a pretty long time to get back on track and get to where I want to be, but we caught this thing now and I’m thrilled about that.”
Gaudette said that since the issue was identified he can eat more, feels hungrier throughout the day, has more energy, and can even sleep better.
“I just feel so much better and it’s such a heavy weight off my shoulders,” he said.
While Gaudette admitted that he actually weighs less this season than he did heading into last season, he feels stronger and has been able to back that up in the gym. But what exactly was the issue?
“The best way to describe it is like a yeast infection in my stomach,” said Gaudette. “It's just the overgrowth of Candida in my stomach that makes me feel nauseous, sick, not hungry. I've been like this since high school and I just thought I was always a kid who never really liked to eat, would never get hungry, but it turns out I had something wrong with me and you know it's just such a relief that we figured it out and you know my whole world's changed for the better.”
Candida is a type of yeast that lives in the human body, generally without causing any problems. When it multiplies and grows, however, it can cause infections, known as candidiasis.
Most parents will be familiar with one type of candidiasis: thrush. That’s when the candida yeast spreads in the mouth and throat, causing soreness in the mouth and throat, pain when swallowing, and white or yellow patches inside the mouth.
Candida overgrowth in the stomach has been associated with serious issues such as Crohn’s disease, which is an inflammatory bowel disease. An article from the Mayo Clinic, however, cautions against connecting symptoms similar to Gaudette’s with candida overgrowth.
“There isn’t much evidence to support the diagnosis of yeast syndrome,” says Brent A. Bauer, M.D. in the article, “and there are no clinical trials that document the efficacy of a candida cleanse diet for treating any recognized medical condition.”
According to the article, accurately diagnosing candida overgrowth in the stomach requires a biopsy, which a nutritionist would be unlikely to do. Treatment usually involves prescription anti-fungal medications.
At the same time, dietary changes on their own can address some of the same symptoms.
“If you stop eating sugar and white flour, you’ll generally wind up cutting out most processed foods, which tend to be higher in calories and lower in nutritive value,” says Dr. Bauer. “Within a few weeks of replacing processed foods with fresh ones and white flour with whole grains, you may start to feel better in general. That, rather than stopping the growth of yeast in the gastrointestinal tract, is probably the main benefit of a candida cleanse diet.”
Whatever the reason for the efficacy of Gaudette’s change in diet, it’s a positive sign that he’s found the right diet to feel healthier and stronger, both for him as a person but also for the Canucks. So far in training camp he’s skated on a line with Antoine Roussel and Zack MacEwen, which could be the Canucks’ third line to start the season.
In order to become a reliable NHL centre, particularly for a head coach like Travis Green, he’ll need to take a step forward in his defensive play and faceoffs.
“I've gone over video and watched clips throughout the off-season, working on different parts of my game and just kind of getting my mind right for the season,” said Gaudette. “I've definitely been working on faceoffs.”
“I know faceoffs are a big part of my game, especially if [Brandon Sutter] isn't on my line to help out,” he added. “I'm going to be the guy who has to bear down and win those battles in the dot. That's something that I know I really needed to work on and that's going to help with O-zone draws, D-zone draws, and being relied on in certain situations. I think this year I'm ready for that role.”