Hockey Nutrition for Peak Performance
Editorial by Joseph Scharf and Nils Semjonovs, CABVI
Hockey is a high intensity, anaerobic sport that requires a great deal of energy. As an athlete, you have to ensure your nutrition is strong and consistent, similar to your fitness routine. What you put in your body will fuel your daily workouts, both on and off the ice. You need to consume a well-rounded balance of macronutrients to maintain your health, muscle mass, and cardiovascular system year-round.
The foods you eat can be broken down into three main categories of macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. For hockey players, finding the right balance of these three macronutrients is important for achieving optimal performance in your sport.
Carbohydrates play a crucial role in an athlete’s diet. They are the body’s energy source, providing the glycogen used during an exercise. If you do not eat enough carbs, the body will use fat and muscle for energy, which is not ideal for building and/or maintaining muscle mass and endurance. Hockey players should consume high levels of complex carbohydrates daily, especially before a workout to make sure you have enough glycogen to fuel your exercise. Some examples of healthy carbohydrates are fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and legumes.
Intense training, particularly resistance or strength training, increases an athlete’s protein needs.
It is recommended that most people should consume .36 grams of protein per pound of body mass a day. For example, someone that is 150lbs would consume 54 grams of protein throughout their day. As an athlete, you should consume more protein because of your intense exercise routine. It is important to replenish your protein at every meal, particularly after a workout. Some examples of healthy proteins are lean cuts of meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, dairy, beans, legumes, tofu, and protein shakes.
You also need a sufficient amount of fat in your diet. Healthy fats are a key component of nutrition that contributes to optimal health, vitamin absorption, energy levels, and hormone levels. Some examples of healthy fats are nuts, seeds, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, aged cheese, eggs, fish, meat, and omega-3 fatty acid supplements (fish oil).
When we discuss the importance of balancing macronutrients that are our main resource of energy, also known as calories, we cannot forget about the micronutrients. These nutrients consist of vitamins and minerals and have an important role in our body functions. Multiple vitamins and minerals play an individual role as well. For example, sodium and potassium are minerals, also referred to as electrolytes when used together, are crucial for our nervous system by providing an electrical signal in our nerves to accept/deliver information. Foods that have little micronutrients are known as empty calorie foods and will not provide sufficient nutritional needs for your body. We mention examples of foods that are rich in micronutrients above.
All athletes should eat a balanced diet with a healthy combination of macronutrients and micronutrients. You need to discover the best ratio of nutrients for optimal performance on and off the ice. Each athlete’s macronutrient ratio will be unique to his or her height, weight, age, sex, exercise level, and goals. Maintaining a healthy balance of nutrition, exercise, hydration, and sleep will set you up for success on the ice and throughout all other daily activities.
For more information about nutrition tips and guides, visit the below websites:
- Nutrition for Athletes from the National Agricultural Library
- Additional guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
NOTES: Joseph Scharf received his undergraduate degree from SUNY Cortland in Sports Management and his master’s degree from Hunter College in Vision Rehabilitation Therapy and Orientation & Mobility. He is also a certified nutrition coach through Precision Nutrition, PN1. He has been an employee at CABVI since 2015, where he provides vision rehabilitation therapy and orientation & mobility training to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Along with his daily responsibilities at CABVI, he provides instruction with several of adaptive sports programs such as tandem cycling, nutrition education, youth programs, and USA Blind Hockey Camp.
Nils Semjonovs received his associate degree from SUNY Canton to be a physical therapist assistant, undergraduate degree from Utica College in Health Science, and is currently enrolled in a doctorate program at Utica College in Physical Therapy. He has been a USA Blind Hockey assistant coach since January 2020. He has worked part-time at CABVI since 2018, where he assists with adaptive sports programs, focusing on blind ice hockey. Nils is also an ice hockey skating and skills coach working independently and with organizations for the past ten years.
Published November 2020