Many studies have shown that being committed to proper nutrition is essential to maximizing your athletic performance during a hockey practice/game or in the weight room. Evidence reveals: What You Put Into Your Body Is What You Will Get Out Of It!
Peak athletic performance can only take place when the body is fueled with a sufficient amount of essential nutrients. Consequently, improper nutrition will decrease your athletic performance.
Hockey players need to eat every four hours. Doing this avoids low blood glucose levels which in turn reduces cortisol (the stress hormone from being released) which tears down muscles. Snacking on a couple bites of a protein bar or sipping on watered down Gatorade can keep your blood glucose levels up as well as keeping you alert and physically responsive.
This is very important during a high intensity work out or between periods of your game. You cannot train or compete at high levels with low blood glucose levels as your brain and muscles operate on blood glucose levels.
If you want to be a successful hockey player, you have to eat wisely (no junk food) and work hard in practice and in the weight room.
The Four Food Groups:
As a hockey player you can achieve a balanced diet by eating foods from the four basic food groups:
Meats - This group includes high protein foods: meats, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes (such as dry beans), and nuts. Make sure to choose lean meats, fish, and poultry (without skin) to help keep your fat intake low. Remember to keep portion sizes moderate.
Dairy – This group includes foods/liquids that are rich in protein, calcium, and other nutrients needed for healthy bones and muscles. Choose products labeled “low-fat” or “non-fat” to get the full nutritional value without the extra fat calories found in whole milk products.
Fruits/Vegetables – This group includes all fresh, frozen, canned, and dried fruits and vegetables and juices. This group is filled with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Foods in this group are mostly composed of carbohydrates.
Grains – This group is the main source of complex carbohydrates and fiber. It includes grains such as oats, rice, and wheat, and the breads, cereals, noodles, and pasta made from them.
Carbs, Fats and Proteins:
When making nutritional decisions, it is wise to read as many food labels as possible to know exactly what you are putting into your body, and in what quantities. This is critical for performance as the food you eat eventually gets used as fuel in order for your body to perform.
Carbs – The most important aspect for a hockey player’s diet requires that 2/3 of your diet must come from carbohydrates or you will not have enough energy. Carbs should be your main source of fuel because of its quick conversion to energy. It takes 40-54 hours to turn protein into usable muscle fuels and if you do not have enough carbs in your diet, you will simply run out of gas. Another side effect is feeling fatigued therefore preventing you from competing at a high level. The easiest way for a hockey player to have enough fuel is to simply fill your plate with 2/3 carbohydrates and 1/3 protein and fat.
*Top carbohydrates include: baked potato, rice, bread, rolls, pasta, bagels, etc.
Fats – In general, most athletes feel that any fat should be avoided at all costs. However, everyone needs some fat in their diets, and hockey players are no exception. Many of your hormones that you need to train and recover come from fat sources. Fat should make up about 20-30% of the calories you consume. There is such a thing as “healthy” fats such as omegas and oils (olives, nuts). Most of the fat we consume is naturally found in foods (meats, nuts, and dairy products) or added during the preparation of food (e.g. fried foods). Sources of additional fat include margarine, peanut butter, and salad dressings. Hormones come from fat, therefore: No fat means No hormones to train.
Proteins – Protein is used for the growth and repair of all the cells in your body. It also determines how much muscle mass you can maintain. Over a long hockey season, hockey players often get thinner and may not realize that as you lose mass, you lose power and strength. Good sources of protein are meat, fish, and poultry. Many plant foods, like beans and nuts, are good protein sources too. However, nuts are also high in fat and so should be eaten only in small quantities. Your diet should provide 12-15% of its calories as protein.
Throughout the hockey season, consuming protein is vital to the rebuilding and recovery process. Various protein sources are made up of different amino acids which are the building blocks of our body. As you can see, protein is very important with the recovery of our body, however protein should not be the main focus of a hockey player’s diet. Inadequate consumption of other nutrients (carbs and fats) will lead to the use of protein as fuel instead of repair, leading to a state of overtraining affecting your performance. When choosing a protein, try to stick with higher quality choices that provide more nutritional value. This is especially important for pre-game meals.
• First Choice Proteins- eggs/egg whites, low-fat cottage cheese, fish, protein powders
• Second Choice Proteins- turkey, chicken, duck
• Third Choice Proteins- lean beef, lean pork, lamb
Tip: During the hockey season, try to include a quality source of protein with each meal or snack (every three to five hours). Be consistent with your nutrition. Missing a protein source at one meal is not going to doom your efforts and consuming a quality protein once, is not going to make a significant impact on your development.