Between long practices, exhaustive back-to-back games and weekend tournaments, playing hockey is a huge challenge. You’ve got to keep up with your competition, leaving little time to worry about nutrition. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about it. (See Nutrition Guidelines For Peak Performance in Hockey.)
Failing to maintain a healthy diet means you’ll burn out quickly and miss your chance to shine at the end of the third period. Want an easy solution? Follow this simple cheat sheet with my top 10 hockey nutrition principles.
Day-to-day nutrition matters most
Fueling around games is important. But it’s worthless if you don’t practice the same consistency with your daily diet.
Nutrient deficiencies can occur when you consume less of something that you really need. Hockey places a continuous workload on your body. To stay performance-ready requires consuming a wide variety of macronutrients along with vitamins and minerals to fuel recovery.
Always eat breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you’re not used to eating in the morning, start small and work up to a balanced meal.
Hydrate early and often
Focus on fluids from the moment you wake up. Drink at least eight ounces of water an hour before activity and another six ounces 15 minutes beforehand.
During practice or games, drink four to eight ounces of water or a sports drink every 15 to 20 minutes. Then make sure to adequately rehydrate afterward. (For a more detailed schedule, see Avoid Dehydration During Your Next Hockey Game.)
Start events with glycogen-filled muscles
Having a carbohydrate-rich snack (along with adequate fluids) will increase your energy-enhancing glycogen stores. (See Game Day Nutrition for Hockey Players.)
Fuel during events
Consuming a sports drink during a workout or game will replace some of the electrolytes lost in sweat. But don’t drink too much too fast. Fluid fuel is most effective when consumed in 15 to 20 minute intervals.
Hockey practice can be grueling and games are long. Plan to have a balanced mini-meal 45 minutes after training. Make sure it consists of a protein source paired with a carbohydrate. Fluids are important during this period too. Examples include:
- Chocolate milk
- Turkey sandwich
- Yogurt with fruit
- Smoothie made with a small amount of protein
Evidence is conflicting about the benefit of caffeine to boost energy during a workout. It’s best to stay on the safe side and limit your intake.
Make sure the foods you need are available when you need them. This takes planning during off days.
Practice your plan
Know what foods work with your body. Don’t try anything new when you have an important competition coming up.
Pack portable snacks
Portable foods come in handy when you’re on the go. Fill a travel bag with snacks and beverages that support your performance eating plan. Include items like trail mix, fresh fruit, bagels, nut butter and jelly sandwiches. Stock up on bottled water and sports drinks.