Ice Hockey Part 3 - In-Season Nutrition for Ice Hockey
With the season in full swing, early morning and late night practices, multiple games per week, travel… you are going to be expending a significant amount of calories each day. And among your performance goals, maintaining your weight and strength, staying fueled and hydrated and focusing on recovery should be among them to help keep you on the ice all season.
Body Weight Maintenance
While it is completely normal and expected to have fluctuations in your bodyweight throughout the season, working to minimize these fluctuations can help to maintain your energy levels, your speed and explosiveness and your strength on the ice. An important friend you can keep around you is your scale. Whenever possible try to weigh yourself each day at a consistent time. A daily fluctuation of around 2% of you bodyweight is normal. What you want to look for are general trends. If you are staying basically consistent with your weight, allowing for normal fluctuations, your calorie intake is probably in a pretty good place. However, if you notice that your weight is trending downwards from week to week you may be undereating calories and you may want to increase your daily calories to move back into a more stable weight. In general, roughly 1 pound or roughly ½ kilo of weight is equally to roughly 3,500 calories. So if you take 3,500 calories and divide that by 7 days in a week that equates to roughly 500 calories per day. In other words, if you want to increase your bodyweight by about 1 pound or ½ kilo per week you want to increase your daily calories by about 500 more than you have been eating. If you want to gain a little faster, 2 pounds per week or about 1 kilo, increase your calories each day by about 1, 000 calories above what you are eating now. And how you do that is really up to you and your schedule and your appetite. You can add a meal or two each day. You can add a few snacks each day. You can continue to eat how you have been with meals and snacks and simply increase your portion sizes. There is no right or wrong way. However you can add those calories that works for you is the way you should go for you.
The human body is designed to use carbohydrates as fuel. And just like a vehicle needs sufficient fuel in its fuel tank to complete its journey, you need sufficient fuel in your fuel tank to perform on the ice and across your day. The type of fuel that you want to keep topped off is glycogen – carbohydrates that are stored mainly in your muscle. So how do you do this? Simply make sure that you are eating carbohydrates with each meal and snack you consume. And what types of carbohydrates. Remember there are two main types – simple and complex. Both are important. Just like different tools in your performance toolbox. In general, simple carbohydrates or simple sugars are considered quick energy and should be consumed closer to your practices and games to top off your glycogen stores. Simple carbs are typically found in fruits, fruit juices and manmade products like candy and sweets. Simple carbohydrates in food are also typically found in white bread, white rice or white potatoes. Complex carbohydrates are typically found in starchy vegetables and grains and whole grain breads and brown rice. Complex carbohydrates are generally considered more sustained energy and should be consumed with meals and snacks that are at least a few hours away from a practice or game.
Perhaps one of the least focused on but arguably one of the most important tools in your performance toolbox is hydration. While individual needs are going to vary depending on your personal sweat rate, your bodyweight, the duration and intensity of your play and your environment such as playing indoor versus outdoor, one of the easiest things you can do is be proactive and be consistent with your hydration, Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. If you are going into a game or practice thirsty, you may already be showing signs of mild dehydration and it’s almost impossible to hydrate quick enough by drinking to restore lost performance going into a game or practice. If you need, use your wearable tech or an app on your phone to remind you to drink. And drink to your goals. There’s no need to overhydrate and no real performance benefit gained by drinking too much water or fluids each day.
And last but by no means least in terms of importance is your recovery. In general there are two main areas of your day that you can positively influence your recovery with nutrition. After training or after games and at night. In general, recovery is an ongoing process that lasts not only across your 24 day but can take up to a few days to complete if you are training at a very intense level. Your goal from a nutrition standpoint should simply be to consume enough calories from your protein, carbohydrate and fat containing foods to supply the building blocks your body need to repair rebuild and refuel for your next practice or game. In general, recovery begins when you finish your practice or games. In the first couple of hours –as soon as convenient – consume a healthy portion of carbohtdrate and protein-containing foods. In terms of what to eat, there really is no best or ideal food or meal. What is best for you is what enjoy and what will help you be consistent with your after practice or after game nutrition. The other important time to help support recovery is bedtime. Remember, you are not building muscle on the ice, you are breaking down muscle on the ice. Recovery takes place largely when you sleep. So first, make sure you are getting enough good sleep each night – 7 to 9 hours – to support your recovery. And then consume some protein and carbohydrate-containing foods before you sleep. Again, the specific foods and amounts are going to be determind by your calories needs and what you enjoy and what you will be consistent with.
So to wrap up, focusing on these four tools in your performance toolbox: Maintaining bodyweight, sufficient carbohydrates, hydration and recovery, and staying consistent with what you find works for you – will go a long way to keeping you consistent on the ice throughout your season.