Your hockey player demands a lot from their body. The one to two minutes of sprint-like exercise during a game followed by a four minute rest then back out stresses the heart, lungs and large muscle groups. Improving the hockey player's fitness is done through various practices, games and aerobic activity. However, nutrition is also a big component. It can often determine if the hockey player's body can respond in the way they want it to which ultimately decides the level of success on the ice.
The girls have just played their first tournament and here's something to keep in mind for future practices and games. After their first tournament game they came off the ice hot and sweaty, had a drink then went for lunch. They headed to a restaurant, sat at a table and ordered what they wanted or headed to the food counter at the rink. Many had a burger, fries and a soda, pizza or other high fat choice. They then were expected with all that grease/fat, caffeine and sugar to jump back on the ice, feel good and perform well. Unfortunately, many didn’t have the fuel that would allow their bodies to perform at their best. It's like putting inferior gas in your car's gas tank. There’s no doubt that the "younger" the car, the easier it can handle it but the poor fuel will affect performance and in the case of a hockey player, it affects them physically and mentally.
What your hockey player needs is a combination of quick foods that can be digested easily and give them immediate energy as well as a small amount of protein that can be digested slowly for sustained energy and replace some of the protein that their muscles have lost during the game(s).
Protein foods like hot dogs, chicken fingers, burgers or pizza with lots of cheese and greasy toppings like bacon, sausage, and pepperoni are high fat choices and will only slow them down and more than likely make them feel ill, especially if they crank up the speed going for the puck. Protein foods lighter in fat such as nuts, beans, turkey, chicken, eggs are great choices.
Complex carbohydrates like whole wheat bagels/bread, rice, pasta, baked potatoes and oatmeal will release their energy slowly without slowing them down. Fruits and vegetables also provide energy and will help to replace the key vitamins that they've used up to make energy. It is difficult to get your hockey player to eat well each day and that's why a vitamin supplement helps to bridge nutritional gaps caused by vitamins and minerals they don't get through their food and lose through exercise. Unfortunately, it's the processing, storing and cooking that can reduce the nutrient content of food as well as pesticides, poor soil conditions and chemical fertilizers.
Also your hockey player needs proper hydration after the practice or game. Water, chocolate milk or a small amount of apple/orange juice are good choices to help in their recovery. They don't need PowerAde or Gatorade or other sports drinks. These high caloric/sodium drinks were intended for athletes who have done continuance exercise for over an hour. The key is continuance. For example, a runner who's run for one hour. Hockey does not fall under this category and only hockey players who have burned a lot of calories through intense practice or play need to replenish using these types of sports drinks. Also forgo the sugar and caffeine that comes with soda. This does nothing for them and can actually be detrimental to their next game.
The sugar in soda gets into their bloodstream so quickly that it goes almost immediately to storage if not used. You might have heard of the "Sugar High". It comes within 15-30 minutes of having concentrated sugars like soda. And what about the "Sugar Low"? The low energy, sluggish feeling comes just when they don't need it, 30-50 minutes after that sugary beverage, usually in the 3rd period of the game when they really need to push it because of normal fatigue. The sugar ingested earlier is being pushed into storage, which then lowers their sugar level in the bloodstream. Their body then has to work extra hard to bring it back out of storage to be used as energy. Exercise physiologists have determined that drinking a carbohydrate-protein combo like chocolate milk soon after exercise (the sooner the better and before 30 minutes post-exercise) helps speed muscle recovery because it quickly replenishes spent energy stores.
So, the moral of the story is:
- Be prepared. The internet can provide information about restaurants and fast food places close to arenas. Tim Horton's, Subway, Mr Submarine, Wendy's (Bake Potatoes), and Extreme Pita are great choices. On the other hand, pack a bag with the appropriate energy foods and drinks and avoid the cost and potential bad choices.
- Avoid the "Energy" and soda drinks. They are full of sugar and caffeine and will cause your hockey player to crash and burn by the end of the 2nd period.
- Drink plenty of water before, during and after a practice or game.
- Have chocolate milk on hand for after a practice or game or change in the pocket to get a carton from one of the many vending machines in the arenas.
- Feed your hockey player before and between practices or games with low fat sources of protein and complex carbohydrates. For example a turkey sandwich on whole wheat with lettuce and tomato or a bowl of vegetable soup with crackers. If you have to go to a fast food place, AVOID the fries and resist the temptation for that burger. A bagel with a salad and apples will do more for their next practice or game than the load of grease you’ll get with most of the other food. If you order a chicken sandwich, make it a grilled chicken sandwich and leave off the high fat mayonnaise-based dressing.
- Snack on peanut-free granola bars, protein bars, nuts, pretzels, fruits and veggies.
Eat Well to Play Well