Game Day Nutrition for Hockey Players

STACK expert Sean Cromarty breaks down a game-day nutrition plan for hockey players to fuel you for stronger performance.

Hockey Nutrition

During hockey season you probably feel like you live on the ice. However, you spend more time recovering and refueling than you do at the rink and the weight room combined. You have a structured plan for game day physicality. A proper approach to game day nutrition will only enhance what you do on the ice.

Here's everything you need to know as a hockey athlete:

Eating Guidelines

For athletes, food is not just for sustenance. It also provides fuel for energy. Break up meals into smaller portions, eating every two to three hours throughout the day. The National Academy of Sports Medicine's guidelines1 state that every athlete needs to stick to a balanced diet of 50- to 70-percent carbohydrate, 10 to 30-percent protein and 15 to 30-percent fat. (See Balancing Your Training Diet.)

Macronutrient Breakdowns Explained

  1. Protein: Composed of various amino acids, protein provides the building blocks of muscle tissue for the main function of building and repairing body tissues and structures. To help repair damage done with training, athletes need to take between 1.2 and 1.8g/kg daily. (Ask the Experts: How Much Protein Do I Need?) Exercise increases the breakdown of amino acids; therefore protein requirements increase as energy intake decreases. To combat this, protein pre-loading can help athletes feel full and energized throughout the day. This is especially important two to three hours before a game.
  2. Fats: Fats are the most densely packed nutrient for energy stores. They also preserve body heat and provide the body with cushion/protection for vital organs. The body uses fats on a 50/50 basis during exercise. The longer you continue steady exercise, the higher the percentage of fat used. Fat is an important macronutrient for energy and cellular function. Between 10 and 30 percent of your diet should come from fat. Over 30 percent will lead to a slower metabolism. (Read What Makes Food Unhealthy?)
  3. Carbohydrates: Since intense training and hockey are both anaerobic activities (meaning they take place in short, intense bursts), carbohydrates are important for energy. Intense training creates a demand in the body for glycogen. The window for carbohydrate replenishment opens within 20 minutes after you finish training. Glycogen replenishment is especially important when you follow up a session of weight training with skating. If you try to work while you are carbohydrate deprived, you will find yourself lacking in energy.


Water is critical for athletes because it keeps the muscles full. Just a two percent drop in water weight significantly reduces muscle strength, performance and endurance. Not drinking enough water while taking part in activities that result in excessive fluid loss has a significant effect on muscle size. Furthermore, without sufficient intake of water you become dehydrated. Your body begins to retain water to protect itself, and much of this water is stored subcutaneously, which can hamper performance dramatically by making you feel sluggish and tired.

Individual Calorie Counter: So how many calories from each macronutrient do you need to perform at your best? Use the following equations to determine:

  1. Carbohydrates: (2.3g x body weight) x 4 = calories of carbohydrate to consume
  2. Protein: (1.4g x body weight) x 4 = calories of protein to consume
  3. Total Caloric Intake = carbohydrates + protein

Example: A 180 -pound athlete's diet looks like this (414g carbohydrates) + (252g protein) x 4 = 2,664 calories/day

Game Day Nutrition Timetable for Hockey Players

For meal ideas see: Pre-Game Meal Recommendations.

4:00 p.m. Game

6:00 am: Hydrate (carbohydrate + water)
7:00 am: Meal One (High carbohydrate, protein)
8:00 am: Hydrate (water)
9:00 am: Snack
10:00 am: Hydrate (water)
11:00 am: Snack
12:00 pm: Meal Two
1:00 pm: Hydrate (water)
2:00 pm: Snack
3:00 pm: Hydrate (water + electrolytes)
Post-Game: Hydrate (water + electrolytes) within 30 minutes of completion of game, Meal Three (meal replacement drink)
7:30 pm: Meal Four (High carbohydrate, protein)

8:30 p.m. Game

7:00 am: Meal One (High carbohydrate, protein)
8:00 am: Hydrate (water)
9:00 am: Snack
10:00 am: Hydrate (water)
11:00 am: Hydrate (water)
12:00 pm: Snack
1:00 pm: Hydrate (water + electrolytes)
2:00 pm: Hydrate (water)
3:00 pm: Meal Two (High protein, simple carbohydrate)
4:00 pm: Hydrate (water + electrolytes)
5:00 pm: Snack
6:00 pm: Hydrate (water)
7:00 pm: Hydrate (water + electrolytes)
Post-Game: Hydrate (water + electrolytes)/ within 30 minutes of completion of game, Meal Three (meal replacement drink)
12:00 am: Meal Four (High carbohydrate, protein)


1 NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training (Chapter 15)

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock