Your 5 Step Plan: Staying Healthy for Hockey | Part Two: Focus on Nutrition

Here’s part two in our series about how to keep in tip-top shape on and off the ice: nutrition! Scroll to the end for a yummy post-workout smoothie recipe. Of course you should always stay in regular contact with your physician and keep the guidance and suggestions of your physician in mind as you make decisions about your nutrition.

Here’s the secret about eating like an elite athlete: there’s no secret! There isn’t one protein powder, or one “superfood,” or a single tea or supplement that will transform you into Iron Man or Wonder Woman overnight.

Instead, the key for the typical elite athletes is to eat what the American Academy of Family Physicians calls a “nutrient-rich” diet. In this type of diet, you could say that every food you eat is its own superfood: all are packed with the macronutrients–the fat, carbohydrates, and protein–that fuel your body. They’re also loaded with micronutrients: these are the vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function at its very best.

Foods like dark leafy greens, avocados, whole-wheat pasta, berries, eggs, fresh fish, and cottage cheese are fantastic for athletes who need to refuel after leaving it all on the ice. These kinds of nutrient-rich foods—check out the link above for a fuller list—are often found on the outer perimeter of the grocery store. Next time you and your family go shopping, see how many new items you can find to try from this “outer circle”!

The Importance of Hydration
If good nutrition is important, drinking enough water is even more important! Everything an athlete does depends on their fluid intake, and this article on youth athletes suggests that a good rule of thumb for athletes “is to divide their body weight in half and drink at least an ounce per pound of body weight throughout a typical day.” If you weigh 140 pounds, for example, shoot for somewhere around 70 ounces of water during an average day.

During practice and games, be sure to drink enough! You’ll need to replenish fluid lost to sweating, and drinks that incorporate electrolytes can be great choices for athletes working hard.

What About Supplements?
Lots of athletes have questions about what supplements they should be taking, and they’ve likely heard a lot of promises from different supplement companies promising huge gains with their product. Training experts in the hockey world warn against buying into some of these claims; often, companies will pay for their own studies and then publish slanted results.

Instead of buying into these huge promises, training experts suggest that players should focus on the basics. Work on incorporating essential foods, like those that this dietician recommends. Once you’re eating balanced and wholesome foods, you can talk to a coach, nutritionist, or sports dietician about incorporating tools like protein powder.

What About Treats?
Some athletes think that, because they want to excel, they can’t ever celebrate a special occasion or a cultural holiday. Other athletes think that, because they’re working hard on the ice, the quality of the food they eat off the ice doesn’t matter. The real answer is somewhere in the middle.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying a variety of foods—this may mean a salad with grilled chicken for lunch one day and a slice of cake for your mom’s birthday the next: health is all about balance. At the same time, remember that you’re on the road now to training your body to do really amazing things. You’ll work hard, and you’ll want to fuel your body in a way that’s respectful, that honors the hard work it does for you!

The right answer for you is really personal. There are great resources out there for you if you want to talk through your approach to eating well for hockey: talk to your coach for resources. Remember: food is meant to be delicious. It brings people together, and it should be fun! These tips should help orient you to what is really important as you set out to build yourself into a well-rounded athlete.

Recipe: A Post-Practice Smoothie

Try this after a workout!

¾ cup almond milk
1 small banana
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
½ cup frozen blueberries
½ cup spinach
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Blend (with adult supervision) until smooth. Enjoy!