Hockey is a stop and go sport,
Whether you’re a youth ice hockey player at the House, Travel, or playing Juniors or College level , one key factor that can significantly impact your performance on the ice is nutrition.
Fueling your body with the right nutrients can enhance your energy levels, improve recovery, and ultimately increase your hockey skating speed. In this blog article you’ll discover the science behind nutrition for hockey players and and learn 5 practical tips to optimize your diet for maximum speed each time you step on the ice.
#1 The Role of Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the primary fuel source for high-intensity, Stop and Go sports like ice hockey, making them essential for hockey players who want to increase their speed and have stamina throughout the entire game.
Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables provide a steady release of energy, supporting both short bursts of speed and sustained effort during longer routines. When choosing your pre-game meal choose complex carbohydrate to ensure your muscles have an adequate supply of glycogen for optimal performance throughout all 3 periods and maybe into overtime.
When choosing your meal or snack, think carbohydrates first.
#2 Timing Matters
The timing of your meals and snacks can significantly impact your skating speed and overall hockey performance.
Eating a balanced meal 4-6 hours before the puck drops provides your body with the necessary nutrients without causing discomfort on the ice. Your stomach needs time to digest the food. Stepping on the ice with food still in your stomach can cause cramps which will not help you outskate the opponent.
For best results you want to Include a mix of carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats. For a quick energy boost before a session, consider a small snack rich in carbohydrates about 30 minutes before hitting the ice.
#3 Don’t Forget to Hydrate
Dehydration can negatively impact your hockey physical and cognitive performance on the ice. Prioritizing hydration is important to help your body maintain it’s proper fluid balance. The human body is about 60% water overall. The brain and muscles contain 75% water, blood and kidneys are 83% water, liver 85%, heart 79% and even your bone contains 22% water. Water is the most indispensable nutrient, it’s essential for life.
To keep your body well hydrated it’s important to drink water throughout the day, and consider sports drinks if you’re engaging in prolonged and intense training sessions, for an hour or more. The electrolytes in sports drinks can help replenish minerals lost through sweating, supporting muscle function and overall performance on the ice. Did you know when you sweat you lose sodium, potassium, Chloride, Magnesium and Calcium. Many sports drinks contain at least sodium and potassium, some contain all 5 electrolytes.
#4 Include Omega 3 Fatty Acid Rich Foods
Omega-3 fatty acids play a role in reducing inflammation and supporting joint health, making them beneficial for hockey players who put their joints through rigorous movements. Include fatty fish (such as salmon and mackerel), flaxseeds, and walnuts in your meal plan to ensure an adequate intake of these essential fatty acids. Most people don’t eat enough omega 3 fatty acids.
Omega 3 fatty acid rich foods help to increase your ability to focus and decrease your reaction time, making you a focused and fast hockey player.
Children between the ages of 4-8 yrs need 900 mg/day, boys 9-13 yrs need 1200 mg/day, girls 9-13 yrs need 1000mg/day, teenage boys 14-18 yrs need 1600 mg/day, teenage girls 14-18 yrs need 1100 mg/day.
#5 Recovery Nutrition
Recovery nutrition after a practice or a game is just as important as pre-game fueling.
Aim to eat a balanced meal or snack containing carbohydrates and protein within the first hour after your game or practice, this will help replenish the glycogen stores in your muscles and supports muscle recovery.
Some ideas for meals or snacks include: a smoothie with fruit and protein powder, or a chicken and quinoa bowl with vegetables, or Greek yogurt with fruit.
To learn more about youth ice hockey nutrition check out the Create a Championship Plate self-study course.
Grab your downloadable copy of the Hockey Nutrition Playbook for Busy Hockey Parents