Nutrition for Hockey Players
Photo by Malidate Van
Nutrition for Hockey Players by Pamela Foster
When training for any sport, nutrition is a major point of focus so that you’re in peak physical condition to make it through the season, and hockey is no different. Between all of the hits that you’ll be taking in practice and games, both accidentally and on purpose, your body will get a major test over the course of nearly the entire year.
With that in mind, you want to make sure that your body is prepared, and it all starts in the kitchen. Here are some pointers on how to prepare yourself nutritionally for hockey.
Between practice and games, hockey players are torching through calories like nobody’s business. On average, a hockey player burns between 5,000 to 6,000 calories per day. It can be hard to keep up when your goal as a hockey player is to maintain weight rather than lose or gain.
Hockey is known for being played in intervals due to short shifts, and few sports burn as many calories per hour. Depending on your current height and weight, you’ll want to stay in that 5,000 to 6,000 calorie window during the season to maintain weight.
Protein is the most important nutrient that you can get in terms of the long run, as it helps to build and heal muscles that you’ll be using nonstop during the season. Hockey players should be eating 0.6 to 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight, or 1.32 to 1.76 grams per pound.
For this reason, you’ll be seeing hockey players eating a lot of lean meat throughout the year, which includes beef, chicken and fish. Other high sources of protein include eggs, peanut butter and pasta.
Hockey players don’t quite have a recommended amount of fats that they should be eating in their nutrition program compared to some sports where it’s important to cut down on fat completely (like swimming).
Because of this, most nutritionists that work in hockey typically recommend that you work on focusing on eating unsaturated (good) fats. Foods like salmon, nuts, avocados and chia seeds are some that make sure that you get the good fats without the heart clogging unsaturated fats.
Then, of course, you have carbohydrates. This one can be a bit tricky because the amount of carbs that you need depends mostly on what month it is on the calendar. During the offseason, you’ll want to focus on cutting as many carbs as you can to focus on protein, but then carbs become wholly important during the season.
This is why you see players looking their most lean and cut during the beginning of the season and puffier by the time the playoffs roll around. During the season, try to get about 50 percent of your calories via carbohydrates an hour before the game so that you can maintain your burst throughout,
If you have been in any sort of hockey equipment, you know how much you sweat. That sweat means that you’re losing a lot of body water during a game, and losing too much is dangerous for your health. Players can lose several pounds of water weight during practices or games, so keep a bottle handy at all times.
This is true in the gym, as well, and you should be drinking a minimum of six ounces of water for every 15 minutes that you’re exercising. Some people are naturally going to sweat more, so those players should be drinking even more water. Sports drinks will help to maintain your nutrition, too, especially the ones that don’t contain unnecessary sugars.
It’s not just about what you have in the kitchen that keeps you in peak form for hockey as you have to be getting the right exercises. When seasons are long and you’re taking big hits, you have to be carrying plenty of muscle to get you through those hits.
This ties into nutrition, too, as you want to be getting all of the important nutrients and supplements in your body to help build muscle.
When building muscle, it’s actually more important to work on power than it is endurance, and that’s straight from USA Hockey’s strength and conditioning program. Here are the workouts that you should be focusing on the most to increase your muscle power in time for the hockey season.
- Push ups
- Bench press
- Step ups
- Wrist rollers
- Shoulder rotations
- Resistance band work