Skating a few feet at a time may not seem particularly difficult, but in reality, it takes a lot of effort to do.
This is why hockey athletes are some of the fittest people you’ll ever meet.
The sport involves making quick decisions and using power, speed, and agility to win against opponents.
As hockey is so physically demanding, hockey players need to fuel themselves with the right foods. Good nutrition matters a lot as it can affect whether a game is won or lost.
Hockey players need to focus on fuelling themselves with enough energy to fuel a game, along with the right foods to maintain their muscle mass (You might also want to check out some Songs To Get You In The Hockey Zone here).
We’ll cover more about nutrition for hockey players in this article, including what are the best foods to eat before and after a game, and healthy snacks that help keep these athletes energized.
Follow The Right Advice
It can be hard for hockey players to find the right nutrition advice for their game. You need to avoid reading articles and magazines with the wrong guidance for your needs.
For instance, bodybuilder advice focuses on building muscle and stripping away fat.
They often have a phase of eating lots of protein and little carbs, but this won’t work for hockey players.
Hockey players need to prioritize eating carbohydrates, as this will keep them fueled for lengthy games lasting over an hour.
They also don’t need to eat as much as bodybuilders as putting on as much muscle as possible isn’t one of their goals.
Eat Familiar Foods
Eating exciting and different foods can be fun, but if you’re a hockey player, it’s better to keep to a familiar diet plan.
If you’ve eaten something new to your system, there’s no predicting how your body will handle it.
We want to avoid stomach issues and upsets as much as possible, especially before big games where you want to be feeling your best.
Everyone responds differently to various kinds of foods, so stick to foods you know you like and that are kinder to your stomach.
If you love eating new foods, try to save any experimenting for after the season.
What To Eat Before A Game
Carbohydrates are an important macronutrient, as the body prefers them as their main source of fuel. Athletes need to prioritize eating carbohydrates in their daily diets.
If they don’t consume enough carbohydrates, the body will begin breaking down muscle to use protein as fuel.
It’s best to eat meals that are rich in carbohydrates, but they should also contain a form of protein, as well as some healthy fats.
These meals will sufficiently keep hockey players energized during the day, as well as before a game.
Examples of these are oatmeal and a form of fruit for carbohydrates. Add milk for protein, and top with nuts or peanut butter for healthy fats.
Hockey players should eat a similar meal 3-4 hours before playing, then eat a small snack within an hour after a game.
Fruit and sports drinks are ideal for this, as they replenish fluid and carbohydrate levels within the body.
It’s important to avoid eating too much protein before a game. Protein needs more oxygen to digest properly, which can tire you out more quickly.
Eating protein is important, but save eating the bulk of your protein for your other meals, not before heading out onto the ice.
Some athletes love sports drinks, while others hate them as they are high in sugar. Remember that sports drinks aren’t meant to replace meals.
You can find lower sugar options, but hockey athletes will need sports drinks with greater sugar content.
The sugars are important as the body digests them quickly, giving the athlete an immediate source of fuel.
Drinking a sports drink just before you head out onto the ice will prevent you from tiring out during practice and matches.
What To Eat After A Game
Hockey players will need to replenish their carbohydrate levels after a game. They should also eat enough protein to repair their muscles, particularly those who play two games within 24 hours.
Try to eat or drink as soon as you can after leaving the ice, ideally within half an hour. Following this with a meal under two hours afterward can affect the way you play in your next game.
Depending on your preferences, you might find drinks like chocolate milk or sports beverages easier to digest after a game compared to solid food.
These have an advantage as they are simpler to travel with. You can also eat these alongside snacks like peanut butter on toast, sports bars, or just fruit to add in some more protein and carbohydrates.
Make sure that your meal after the game is full of carbohydrates and lean protein. Turkey sandwiches, meat-filled pasta parcels, and homemade curries are all good options.
Even though you’re skating on cold ice, you will still lose a lot of water through sweating while playing hockey.
If you’re skating for under an hour, drinking water will be enough to replenish any fluids that are lost. However, this will change if you’re playing for over an hour.
In this case, sports drinks and gels are better to replenish any electrolytes that were lost, such as potassium and protein.
Make sure that you drink enough water alongside sports gels or beverages, or you might risk gastric issues.
Hockey players that keep hydrated before and after their matches will perform and recover better than those who don’t.
Quick Snacks For Hockey Players
If you practice soon after waking up or have games scheduled for early in the morning, you might struggle to eat a full breakfast beforehand.
Try to eat or drink something, no matter how small. This is preferable to not being sufficiently fueled before your game.
Keep your kitchen stocked with nutritious, quick, and easy foods. Granola and fruit cups are full of carbohydrates, while jerky, peanut butter and sports bars contain any necessary protein.
Bagels, apple sauce, and small cereal packets are good if you’re often in a rush. Just be sure to eat a complete meal later on in the day.
A Word On Stimulants
You may have seen pre-workout supplements designed to be taken before training. These often contain stimulants like caffeine and nitric oxide that claim to help with mental focus.
In most cases, these products aren’t necessary. They may temporarily keep you alert, but the high levels of caffeine can make you feel too wired and on edge to concentrate on a match.
If you currently take a pre-workout that works for you, great. If you don’t, but would like to take a stimulant before heading out, a better option is a simple cup of coffee.
This will give you enough caffeine to feel energized, but not so much that you feel jittery or anxious before a game.
The Bottom Line
Hockey athletes need to avoid nutrition advice given for sports other than hockey. It’s important to keep their diet full of nutritious carbohydrates for energy and lean protein for muscle repair.
Keeping hydrated with enough water is essential, though sports drinks and gels also have their place. These can replenish electrolytes that have been lost during activity.
Pre-workout stimulants can have high caffeine levels that can make you anxious before important games.
If you’d like to use a stimulant, a single cup of coffee is more than enough to keep you alert beforehand.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Nutrients Do Hockey Players Need?
Hockey players need to base their diet plans around carbohydrates and lean protein, with the addition of some healthy fats.
Timing these right is essential for muscle repair and recovery.
Hockey players also need to drink enough water and sports drinks during games, as this will replenish their fluid and electrolyte levels that are lost after activity.
How Much Does A Hockey Player Eat?
Hockey players can burn anywhere from 1,800 to 2,500 calories with each game, so they need to eat enough to avoid tiring out during a whole season of matches and training.
Diet plans vary with each athlete, but hockey players can eat around 5,000 - 6,000 calories each day.
They need to ensure that this fuel comes from good sources of carbohydrates, protein, and fats.
Are Eggs A Good Pre-Game Meal?
Eggs are a good protein source, but it’s best for hockey players to eat a carbohydrate-rich snack or meal before playing.
Pair your eggs with a source of carbohydrates before heading out to the ice.
Boiled eggs and a piece of fruit is a quick and easy option, while scrambled eggs on toast is good if you’d prefer something more filling.
What Should Hockey Players Avoid Eating?
Hockey players need a lot of fuel, but they need to ensure that it comes from nutritious sources.
Avoiding junk food is always a good idea, as well as any other foods that are higher in fat, like oils and fatty cuts of meat.
Hockey athletes should also avoid eating high-fiber foods before and after games, as this can prevent stomach upsets from occurring when they need to be at peak performance.