Fueling Requirements for Before, During and After Training & Competitions
To meet the high energy and fluid needs required to perform well, hockey players need to include additional fuel and fluids before, during and after training and competitions.
All athletes should start a training session or a hockey game well-hydrated and well-fueled. The body uses the carbohydrate, protein and fat from food as energy during training sessions and/or hockey games. The extra fluid will help minimize total body fluid losses that results from sweating.
In addition to regular meals and snacks, hockey players should have extra fluids and a carbohydrate-rich snack about 45 minutes before a game is scheduled to start. While the snack can also include some protein and fat, it is important to choose something that is easy on your stomach and can digest relatively quickly. That way, you feel fueled and ready to go at the start of the game.
There is no such thing as a “best” food to have before activity. The key is to try different food combinations during training so you know what works well for game day. Examples include a banana with peanut butter or another nut butter; cereal with milk and berries; a bagel with light spread of cream cheese; a granola bar and banana; and oats, nut butter, and raisin energy bites. To help meet hydration needs, carry a water bottle with you at all times and sip water throughout the day.
One of the most important nutrition strategies for hockey players is to sip water throughout training and gulp fluids between shifts and periods during games. Doing so will replenish some of the fluid that was lost through sweat and help minimize total fluid losses. For hockey games lasting 60 minutes or less, water should be an adequate beverage. When the playing time is over an hour, a sports drink that supplies carbohydrate, fluid and electrolytes is a better option.
Aim to drink 4 to 6 ounces of fluid during every period of play, or about every 15 to 20 minutes during training. Heavy sweaters will likely need to increase fluid intake even further to maintain optimal hydration level. If the game includes an intermission between periods, consider eating an easy-to-digest, carbohydrate-rich snack to help replenish muscle fuel stores. Dried fruits, orange slices, sports gels or an energy bar are a few examples.
Hockey players burn through energy quickly during a game, making refueling and rehydrating a high priority. In fact, it is estimated that National Hockey League (NHL) professional hockey players can burn 1500 calories or more during a game. An optimal refuel snack should include fluid to help replace losses, carbohydrate to replace the muscle glycogen stores that were used for fuel during the game, and protein to support muscle mass. One of the best refueling options is chocolate milk because it provides the fluid, carbohydrate and protein all in one convenient beverage. Other options are a smoothie; yogurt topped with fresh berries and granola along with water; ham and cheese sandwich with chips and milk.
Playing hockey involves late night practices and travel to and from games. Planning and preparing meals and snacks is necessary to fuel and hydrate properly. Make sure to have some shelf-stable, easy-to-eat foods and fluids with you at all times. Keep items like trail mix, fruit cups, shelf-stable chocolate milk, bagels, crackers and nut butters in your backpack or sports bag so that you are prepared for times when you can’t make it home or to a store to eat.