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Proper Nutrition

by Craig Ballantyne



Carbohydrates are the major energy source of the body and are stored within muscles. The minimum CHO intake of a hockey player during the season should be 60% of the daily total caloric intake (6-11 g/kg or about 500-800 g carbohydrate per day). Since hockey often demands that athletes play back-to-back games it is necessary to be strategic with regards to CHO consumption to ensure replenishment for upcoming competition. Consume a high-CHO meal immediately (within 30-minutes) following exercise (practice, game, or workout) minimize fatigue and to enhance muscle recovery. The optimal glycogen repletion formula is 1.0g CHO/kg within 30 minutes of exercise and 0.7-3.0g CHO/kg every 2 hours following.


Dehydration can impair performance. Players can limit dehydration by drinking fluids up to ~ 1-2 hours before exercise (or as close as tolerable) and by starting to drink cool fluids (~ 10 degrees Celsius) as soon as activity begins. During practice sessions, attempt to drink as much fluid as possible to "train" the body to drink during competition (aim for 100-150ml of cool fluids every 15 minutes). Coaches should monitor the fluid losses of players with pre- and post-exercise weigh-ins. Encourage the consumption of 2 cups of fluid per pound of body weight lost during exercise.

MEALS (sample high-CHO, moderate-protein, and low-fat meals)


Breakfast must NEVER be SKIPPED. This meal should have an extra emphasis on complex carbohydrates to provide energy for the day’s activities following a 7-10 hour fasting sleep. If eating breakfast is not part of the player’s routine, encourage them to gradually increase the amount of food eaten until a full breakfast becomes habit.

Whole-wheat cold cereal + milk (1% or skim) + toast + peanut butter + juice
Oatmeal + milk + fruit + yogurt
Eggs (2 yolk maximum) + whole-wheat toast + juice + yogurt
Pancakes + syrup + lean breakfast meat + juice
Muffins + yogurt + juice + fruit + milk
Bagels + low-fat cheese or lean meat or eggs + fruit + milk + juice
Blender meals (milk, yogurt, fruit, juice, skim milk powder)


2 lean meat sandwiches on whole-wheat + veggies + yogurt + low-fat cookies
2 slices of cheese/vegetable thick-crust pizza + juice + fruit
Whole-wheat lean meat sub + pretzels + milk + fruit
Chicken breast + rice + vegetables + low-fat ice cream
Kraft dinner (without butter) + vegetables + lean meat + juice


Players should plan and arrange dinner around the requirements of training and competition (i.e. a small pre-game meal OR a late post-exercise dinner). Vegetables and CHO side dishes should have a greater priority than in traditional meals.

Whole-wheat pasta + lean meat + vegetables + ice-milk or sherbert
Steak + baked potato + corn + fruit + yogurt
Hamburger + juice + salad + potato
Fish + rice + vegetables + low-fat ice cream
Pork tenderloin + potatoes + vegetable + low-fat pudding
Chicken breast + whole-grain rice + soup + low-fat cookies
Chili + whole-wheat toast + milk + fruit salad


Players should be consuming a high-CHO intake everyday to maintain muscle energy stores (one good meal does not make up for a week of poor eating!). Try to find what works best with each individual athlete and follow a pre-game routine for each competition.

The optimal pre-event snack is 0.5g of CHO per pound body weight consumed ~2 hours prior to exercise and each athlete should remember to consume adequate water to ensure hydration. In general, allow ~3 hours for a high-CHO meal and ~1 hour for a snack to digest. Avoid large, high-fat meals because they require long digestion periods and may impair performance.


Prepare a high-CHO meal before early morning games (see pre-event meals for suggestions). Following the first game, CHO and fluid intake is very important (fruit juice, sports drink, or a non-caffeinated pop). Fruit and yogurt can also be eaten if there is a sufficient break between events.

During periods of hard training (i.e. training camp OR playoffs), maintain a proper nutrition and fluid regimen. For 2-a-day’s, consume 100-200g carbohydrate as soon as possible after sessions and take a fluid break every 20-minutes. Always plan for a post-exercise recovery meal and consume carbohydrates and fluid immediately after games and training.

Sport drinks are absorbed quicker than water to help hydrate the player. The 4-8% sugar solutions support working muscles and carbohydrate replenishment. Players need to avoid beverages containing caffeine and alcohol because of their diuretic (dehydrating) effects. For each drink with alcohol or caffeine, players should consume an extra 2 cups of water.

Article by Craig Ballantyne of SportSpecific.com. Craig has helped 1000's of athletes improve their sports performance. Visit http://www.SportSpecific.com for FREE "how-to" sports training articles, discussion groups, chatrooms, newsletters and more. No time to visit the site? Subscribe to their Free, monthly SportSpecific Training Newsletter: mailto:join-sportspecific@lists.dundee.net


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