It is every hockey parent’s dream to see their little champ become a professional hockey player. The journey begins at an early age, and the goal for parents is to help their child to develop their skills and technique, and to instil a love for the game. Good nutrition and a proper diet are essential for any sport, and even more so in hockey.
A number of coaches tell us that parents expect them to explain the importance and benefits of healthy diet. What they fail to understand is that good nutrition for the young hockey player starts at home. Your child is not responsible for their eating habits; you are as a parent. Once they grow up, your child will understand the value of a good diet to become an elite player. There are a few things parents must take care of to help their children’s overall development.
Avoid Junk Food
These days, mostly everyone knows that junk food contains empty calories. Good nutrition for the young hockey player means you must stop giving them money for fast-food meals, when you can take a little time to prepare healthy food for them. Your grocery list should contain plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as lean meats and whole-grain foods (organic food is always best, whenever possible.)
Avoid those sugary cereals and high-calorie, high-fat foods like chips, cookies, and candy. Instead, keep your fridge stocked with sliced fruits and vegetables they can eat as a snack. Former NHL player Mike Zigomanis became a vegan and had played at the top level, which is evidence that vegetables can provide all the nutrients you need.
The conventional three meals a day is not what many athletes are doing; overeating puts too much pressure on the stomach. Consequently, food may not be properly digested and the body won’t get the necessary nutrients in sufficient quantity. This can negatively affect both the player’s stamina and concentration levels. Parents should make sure their children do not overeat, especially before a game or practice.
Instead, map out a schedule where your child eats smaller portions throughout the day. This helps with the proper absorption of nutrients. Here are some pre-game nutrition needs that parents of young hockey players must keep in mind.
Pre-Game: What and When to Eat
It is very important for parents to set the right balance of what their child eats before a game or practice, as it’s crucial that their energy is at optimum levels when needed. The time needed for digestion and absorption varies according to the food consumed. Therefore, before a game or practice, you’ll want your child to eat less meat and more vegetables so that what they eat can be easily digested. Also, make sure your young athlete eats a good portion of this food two-and-a-half to three hours before their game or practice. And what to eat post-game or practice can be just as important.
The diet secret of the US Women’s Hockey team has been reaping rewards: They seemed to be much more energetic than their rivals, and finished as second-best in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Needless to say, a proper diet can be the difference between winning and losing.
Ultimately, it is your child’s hard work and dedication that helps them to realize their dream. But the preparation for a long and injury-free career starts at home, with proper nutrition for the young hockey player.
Note: Your child may have specific dietary needs. Always consult a physician before modifying their diet.