Hockey Nutrition: Follow these fueling rules of the road
If there is such a time as an offseason for hockey players, it’s summer. Even then, I have clients who are skating regularly, especially juniors, collegiate and pro players. For middle school and high school players, it’s common to attend a camp or clinic. Often, these are strategically chosen based on the college location or by the coaches in attendance.
Often when a player attends an overnight camp, lodging is provided in dorms and meals are offered through dining services, but there are instances where a player from out of town will attend a day camp and will stay in a hotel. There are also plenty of times when a player will attend a college showcase, clinic or will travel to a tournament where lodging and meals are up to the player and his or her family.
Players who want to gain a competitive edge while traveling must learn how to fuel their performance on the road. As college players can attest, traveling to away games, tournaments and showcases presents a unique set of challenges, but I’m convinced that if you’re educated and motivated, it can be done.
Let’s start at the beginning with a hotel breakfast. The goal is to start your day with a source of lean protein to support your muscles, carbohydrates from vegetables and fruit for energy and healthy fat for long-lasting fuel. Ideally this could look like a vegetable omelet or scrambled eggs, a banana with peanut butter and a bowl of cut melon with some yogurt and granola. Drink plenty of water because hydration is the most important thing a player can do nutritionally to affect performance and decrease risk of injury. This breakfast is so much better for your energy and mental clarity than the Make-Your-Own-Waffle with syrup, tater tots, sausage and juice.
Before you head to the rink, find the closest grocery store for lunch and snack items. The grocery list might look like this:
- Bananas, oranges, apples, grapes, natural applesauce packets
- Carrots, celery, lettuce, tomato, peppers, any other veggies
- Mustard, salsa, hummus, guacamole
- Natural almond or peanut butter, all fruit seedless jam
- Tuna, low-sodium turkey, chicken or roast beef
- Wraps, pita pockets or tortilla
- Greek yogurt, granola, raisins
- Trail mix, mixed nuts, sunflower seeds
- Water bottles
I recommend players pack a folded, soft-sided cooler so they can stock it and bring what they need each day.
When it comes to eating dinner at a restaurant, players are wise to order water instead of soda, milkshakes and sugary drinks. There also are very few healthy appetizers and desserts, so why not stick to the main course and be able to order a full, healthy entrée or be able to go to a healthier restaurant?
When navigating the menu, beware of the following descriptive words: crispy, creamy, candied, covered, country fried, alfredo, bleu cheese, battered, buttered, bottomless, breaded, stuffed, smothered, double, monster, thick-cut, super, loaded, ultimate, added, glazed, sauce, fried and topping.
Look instead for these words in your selection: fresh, baked, broiled, oven-roasted, seasonal, steamed, grilled, raw, naked, flame-seared, half, seasoned, herbed, side and sampling.
Pack a few items from home that might be your staples when you need something additionally. For example, bars, sunflower seeds, nuts, raisins and trail mix.
When traveling to camps, tournaments and showcases, you’re traveling to play and perform, not to vacation. Give yourself a competitive edge. It’s well worth the effort it takes to eat to compete.
Julie Nicoletti is a nationally recognized sports nutritionist specializing in coaching student and pro athletes to optimize performance and minimize the risk of injury through nutrition. As founder of Kinetic Fuel Performance Based Nutrition, Julie combines her professional training as a registered pharmacist with experience as a certified sports nutritionist to customize plans for athletes and teams, enabling them to see transformative results. Learn more at www.kineticfuel.net.
This article originally appeared in the June edition of the New England Hockey Journal. Click here to access the FREE digital edition.