By Julie Nicoletti
One of the best ways to become a better hockey player is to attend a hockey camp where experienced coaches help players identify their individual strengths and areas of improvement. Players then have dedicated time to work on specific skills, fundamentals of the game and engage in hours of practice and playing time. This all requires physical and mental energy, which comes from food and hydration.
If you are a player whose goals for camp include improving your skills, becoming a better all-around player or getting noticed by the coaches, nutrition can help you. If you are a parent sending your child to camp, be attentive to what’s in your son or daughter’s cooler for the day. Nutrition matters.
Proper nutrition improves a player’s energy levels, speed, strength and stamina while decreasing the risk of injury, illness and fatigue. Mental clarity and the ability to make split-second decisions on the ice also are positively impacted by proper nutrition and hydration. Hockey camps are held in ice rinks where the air is cold and dehydrating as well as outside in the summertime, where youth campers also play dodgeball or have relay races as a break from skating. Hydration becomes a critical factor not only for performance, but also for health. Dehydration can cause dizziness, cramping, fatigue, headache, nausea and muscle cramps.
In counseling both male and female hockey players, we often find that players aren’t eating enough calories to fuel their performance and maintain their functional muscle mass. Players can burn up to 200 calories when skating hard. It is imperative that players are fueled, hydrated and ready before the puck drops.
To maximize the camp experience, here are some general guidelines for hockey campers of all ages. Please understand that individual players may benefit from a customized plan.
Feed what they need
1. The food and drink you consume will affect how you feel and how you play, so start off with a healthy breakfast.
2. Fueling, hydrating and recovering are just as important as skating, shooting and checking. Drink at every break in play.
3. Being prepared for camp includes packing a cooler in addition to packing a soccer bag. Fill the cooler with enough of the right food, drinks and snacks.
Breakfast, hockey style
* Recognize the ingredients in the food you eat. Hint: What is a Pop-Tart really made of? Or a bagel, for that matter?
* Breakfast should contain 10-20 grams of protein, colorful carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables and healthy fat if possible (nuts, peanut butter or almond butter, coconut oil, olive oil)
* Invent something new. Try a smoothie or Greek yogurt parfait, or an omelet, frittata or quiche, or protein pancakes.
Players should hydrate at every break in play, alternating between plain cold water and Gatorade, but drinking twice as much water as Gatorade. Drink as much as tolerated. Use time on the bench or between sessions/games to hydrate and refuel with a snack. Muscle dehydration of 3 percent can cause about 10 percent loss of contractile strength and 8 percent loss of speed. Avoid soda, lemonade, ice tea and sugary drinks.
Banana, watermelon, pineapple, apple, grapes, raisins, banana chips, orange or just about any fruit, water.
Oats or low fat granola (Bare Naked Fit) mixed into Greek yogurt, water.
Homemade trail mix: Raisins, craisins, banana chips, nuts, water.
Energy bar, water.
Banana and peanut butter on a wrap, water.
Wrap or sandwich thins with chicken breast, turkey, tuna, low-sodium ham with mustard, lettuce, tomato, plus a piece of fruit and a Greek yogurt, water.
Pasta (Barilla Plus) salad without mayo (use pesto, herbs, spices or low-fat Italian instead) with pieces of chicken and vegetables tossed in, water.
Peanut butter and banana or apple on a wrap or sandwich thin, yogurt, water.
Following these guidelines will ensure that you are fueled and hydrated to maximize your playing performance at camp. Eat well. Play like a champion.
Julie Nicoletti is a certified sports nutritionist, registered pharmacist and the co-founder of Kinetic Fuel, a performance-based nutrition company in Massachusetts. At Kinetic Fuel, Nicoletti and Jules Hindman have worked with hundreds of high school, collegiate and professional athletes and teams to optimize performance through nutrition. Learn more at kineticfuel.net.