A professional hockey game consists of three 20-minutes periods, with two 15-minutes intermissions and a one-minute intermission counting the overtime. That’s up to 2 hours of demanding and often aggressive physical activity. Naturally, ice hockey players are well conditioned into this type of physical activity, having their bodies forged through training.
However, physical training often isn’t enough for optimum performance. Every elite-level hockey athlete knows that high-performance machines demand high-performance fuel to run at optimum levels, which only stresses the importance of proper nutrition. So, if you want to be the best, you can’t eat like the rest. Read what you should be eating in the article below.
You are what you eat, and because of that, whatever you eat affects your performance. But just because you don’t have an upcoming match, practice, or off-ice training, doesn’t mean you should go for snacks, fries, and soda.
Instead of chowing down what comes first, focus more on proper nutrition, especially on off-days. This will help you recover faster and fuel your body with much-needed energy for the upcoming training session or match. Here’s a rundown of the essential nutrients:
Carbohydrates usually consist of sugars and dietary fibers and are basically your fuel. Foods rich in CHO (carbohydrates) are crucial to young, active, and physically developing hockey players. The best sources of CHO are fruits, vegetables, whole-grain bread, milk, and legumes.
Proteins are the building blocks of your muscle and play an essential role in building and repairing muscle tissue. One of two servings of protein with every meal will allow you to increase the effectiveness of your workouts. Foods rich in proteins are lean meats, fish, poultry, dairy products, and eggs.
We all grew up listening to how fats are bad for our health, but the truth is only trans fats are bad. So, no fried foods. Saturated and unsaturated fats and Omega-3 fatty acids are actually good for you, as they reduce cholesterol and inflammation processes in the body.
High-fat foods that are also healthy are avocados, cheese, dark chocolate, whole eggs, fatty fish, nuts, chia seeds, etc.
Showing up malnourished or well-fed on a game day is like showing up for a math test after a nighttime of studying biology – it’s great that you showed up, but you likely aren’t going to perform very well. So, take the proper steps, and juice your engine with the proper, high-performance fuel it deserves.
Your body’s fuel tank needs to be replenished after a good night’s sleep, and since you’re performing on game-day, it’s a good idea to “pour” some premium fuel. Starting your day with a well-balanced, healthy, and nutritious breakfast is your primary goal on game-day, focusing mainly on carbohydrates and protein-rich foods. Here are some examples of a nutritious game-day breakfast:
- Breakfast 1: one whole-grain bagel, peanut butter, a banana, and 1-2 cups of milk
- Breakfast 2: one cup oatmeal, ½ cups of strawberries or blueberries, and 1-2 cups of milk
- Breakfast 3: 2-egg omelet, two slices of whole-wheat toast, fresh orange, 1-2 cups of milk
Important note: milk can be substituted with fresh fruit juice or water, but make sure you get some protein from other sources.
Pre-Game: What and When to Eat
When it comes to pre-game, a proper diet can be the difference between winning and losing. Most athletes often eat a pre-game meal approximately 3 to 4 hours before the start of the match. As we previously explained, this meal should contain CHOs for fuel and plenty of fluids for hydration.
Proper pre-game meals include:
- Sandwich with chicken and salad
- Bowl of muesli with yogurt and berries
- Pasta with beef mince and tomato sauce
- Chicken stir-fry with rice or noodles
You can have an additional, light, and carbohydrates-rich snack 1-2- hours before the game. These snacks may consist of fruit salads, bananas, or peanut butter on rice cakes.
Eating and Drinking During Competition
You can replenish your energy and rehydrate during intermissions. While water is the priority fluid, you can top it off with a sports or electrolyte drink to add carbohydrates and electrolytes to your energy supply.
Keep things at a minimum when it comes to food, eating only light and easy-to-digest CHO-rich snacks, such as muesli bars, fresh fruit, or flavored milk. You should test nutrition strategies during training or practice.
Eating and Drinking Post-Game-Day
The post-game day is your recovery day, which has its own set of rules. These rules encapsulate replenishment of muscle glycogen, muscle recovery, and rehydration. And regardless of what people say, a recovery meal is best consumed after an exercise or a game.
Glycogen replenishment is done through foods that contain carbohydrates, which will replenish your energy levels. Those snacks should also be protein-rich to allow your body to repair the damaged muscle tissue. Lastly, you want to drink plenty of fluids and electrolytes to replenish the stores you lost through sweating.
Regardless of what people think, proper nutrition is key to optimum performance in all aspects. Plan out your meals and snacks for training, game days, and recoveries to better suit your needs and keep your body in total fitness.
If you’re new to the game of ice hockey and hockey fitness, please seek guidance from an Accredited Sports Dietician for proper nutrition programs and best results.