By Susan Weiner, Nutrition and Fitness Expert
Are you satisfied with your current energy level when you play hockey? Do you struggle with stamina and speed at the end of a training session or game? Want to gain a competitive edge? A good nutritional program is essential for improved athletic performance. It’s time to improve your eating plan and consider nutrition for high-performance hockey!
A healthy diet and adequate hydration are necessary if you want to improve as a hockey player. If you don’t have enough energy stored in your muscles, you will run out of steam as your game progresses. Here are a few tips on how to improve your game using nutrition for high-performance hockey:
Drink Plenty of Fluids
You need an adequate amount of fluids (mostly water) to avoid dehydration. As you know, hockey equipment is quite heavy, which causes additional sweating. Do you sweat a lot when you skate? Most people do. You can’t rely on thirst alone to determine how much fluid you require.
Weigh yourself before and after a game or practice to determine your fluid loss. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after a practice or game. You may benefit from the extra carbohydrate in a sports drink or a cup of diluted fruit juice during or after a particularly intense situation. Always remember to drink plenty of fluids between shifts.
Eat Well Before You Skate
Never try a new food before a game! Game day isn’t the time to try interesting and new meal plans. Eat a well-balanced meal a few hours before a practice or game. Include lean protein (such as fish, chicken, turkey or legumes) along with a healthy portion of whole grains (such as quinoa or whole-wheat pasta) for some long-lasting fuel. Avoid sweets, as those types of carbs will spike your blood sugar too quickly. The more “complex carbohydrates” will be digested over a longer period of time and give you long-lasting energy. Try a homemade smoothie (with some Greek yogurt, a banana or some berries and natural peanut butter) about an hour before game time. That delicious drink will pack enough carbohydrate, protein and healthy fat to get you through a tough workout!
Maintain a Good Balance
You need to have enough carbohydrate in your muscle reserves for energy. Have you ever felt as though you “hit a wall” during a game? You might have run low on stored carbohydrate (or glycogen) in your muscles. Make sure you include carbohydrates such as whole grains, steel-cut oatmeal and fruit in your meal plan. Lean protein-rich foods (like fish, chicken, turkey and nuts) are very important for your health and is an essential component of nutrition for high-performance hockey and overall athletic performance. Protein also helps with muscle repair. Healthy fats (found in nuts, nut butters and avocado) will help keep you satisfied and your hunger level in check. Although there are no “magical” foods to improve athletic performance, a well-balanced diet will make you feel better and improve your overall health.
Have a Post-Game Plan
Do you experience intense hunger pangs after a game or vigorous practice? Make sure you have a healthy snack or meal available when you come off the ice and out of the locker room. Try not to reach for a candy bar or junk food. Keep some unsalted nuts and dried fruit available for a snack. Always have a well-balanced meal planned for after you are showered, dressed and ready to tackle the rest of your day!
Need more help planning your meals and improving your nutrition game plan? Consider meeting with a qualified sports nutritionist. Together you can devise a nutritional program that meets your needs and improves your athletic performance.
Susan Weiner is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and certified diabetes educator. Her new book, The Complete Diabetes Organizer, is available on Amazon. For more information visit www.susanweinernutrition.com.