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Hockey athletes: forget about what people are saying about popular fad diets. During hockey season, you shouldn't even consider a low-carb or Paleo style of eating. But this isn't a free pass to the fast food drive-thru window on game day either.
Elite hockey players practice and play five or more times a week, often with additional gym sessions. Such heavy physical demands make consuming carbohydrates a requirement in order to recover and achieve peak performance.
So what should a hockey player's meals look like? They should consist of a balanced blend of protein, carbohydrates and fat throughout the day, with an emphasis on carbs around practices and games. Follow these meal guidelines and see how much more energized you are on the ice.
7 a.m. Practice
Get up early so you can eat a balanced meal at least an hour beforehand. I know this is a tight time frame, so try blending a shake consisting of:
- 1/2 cup oats
- 1 or 2 scoops protein powder, or 2 egg whites
- Nut butter for taste and steady release of energy
I advise against eating fruits pre-workout; they don't provide the same sustained effects as fibrous carbs like oats and quinoa. Exceptions include berries and bananas, but I prefer to save fruits for post-workout. (Want more healthy pre-activity shake ideas? Check out 3 Smoothie Recipes to Meet Your Nutrition Needs.)
If Practice Lasts Well Over an Hour
To prevent catabolism (i.e., destructive metabolism) and to stay fueled for the work at hand, mix some Gatorade in with your water during the latter stages of long practice sessions. (See Drinking for Sport Performance.)
Have a protein shake ready, and refuel with some fast-digesting carbs like fruit. The goal is to get your tired muscles recovering as quickly as possible so they'll be ready for game action. If your carb source is Lucky Charms or Fruity Pebbles, so be it. As long as your food source is low in fat (like most breakfast cereals), the difference is negligible and recovery will happen just the same. (KISS Your Way to a Perfect Post-Workout Meal.)
Between Practices and Games
Pair a protein source with an equal amount of carbs. For portion sizes, a good guideline is the size of your palm for each. Add a little fat (approximately a teaspoon)—e.g., extra virgin coconut oil—to sustain the release of energy until your next meal.