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Ice Hockey Part 4: Pre-Game Nutrition for Ice Hockey

Your flow is flowing, your twigs are packed and taped and you’re ready to light the lamp on you first shift. That is, if you are fueled with good pre-game food choices. On the flipside, making less than good pre-game food choices can almost ensure you will spend more than a few games riding the pine.


So let’s start with what you should try to avoid pre-game. Basically anything fatty, greasy, fried or heavy. Which means that while that leftover pizza sounds tempting, or hitting your favorite fast food joint on the way to the ice and grabbing a juicy cheeseburger with a nice big side of fries might sound tasty, this may not be the fuel to call on. Add to that list hot dogs, brats, sausage and generally anything processed and anything spicy. And a big one to avoid… candy and candy bars. While they might be quick and easy, loading up with sugar pre-games is probably going to leave you more hungry than anything and thinking about food and not the biscuit come the first buzzer.


So what does better pre-game nutrition look like?

First, let’s define pre-game. For most skaters, pre-game means 1 to 3 hours before puck drop. Eating more than three hours out could leave you hungry and out of gas during your game, especially if you go into OT. And eating less than an hour before ice time and your full stomach could make you a pylon on the rink.


And don’t necessarily think full meal here. The food you have eaten over the last one to two days has been largely turned into fuel (glycogen) and if you have been making pretty good food choices overall and eating pretty consistently your fuel tanks should be pretty well filled. Your goal here is to “top off” your fuel tanks (muscle glycogen).


An easy way to do this is use the palm of your hand as a guide. In general, you should aim for about two - three parts carbohydrates (lower fiber and more simple than complex) and one part protein. In other words, when you fill your plate you should have roughly two – three palm size portions of carbs and one palm size portion of lean (not high fat or fried) protein. Specific food choices here really depend on what you enjoy. There is no “best” food. What’s best is what you find works for you. And as long as you follow generally timing and portion sizes you can eat what you want. Assuming your choices stay away from the avoid list above.



Your body is about 70% water. And your performance can be influence by your hydration. For example, if you are going into your game thirsty, you might be down by 1-2% of your ideal hydration level and at that point a performance decrease of both strength and endurance can be measured and noticed.

So sufficient hydration should be a goal. At the same time you can over-hydrate. A good rule of thumb for most ice hockey players is to divide your bodyweight in pounds by 2 or kilos by 1.1 to find your total daily water intake. So if you are 200 pounds or 90.9 kilos that equates to about 100 ounces or roughly 3 liters of water per day. In the hour or so pre-game, in general, you should aim consume about 20 to 24 ounces of that water or about 600 to 700 mL of water. At the same time. remember that fluid needs are going to vary individually and can be influenced by factors such as body size, genetics, sweat and environment so adjust as you need for your personal situation.



For healthy adults caffeine can be a tool in your performance toolbox. But like food and water, too much can be a very significant performance detractor. In other words... more is not better. In general, 100 to 200 milligrams of caffeine about an hour before you hit the ice can help to support focus and alertness. A typical 12 ounce or 350 mL brewed coffee will provide around 100 milligrams of caffeine. Going above this amount may cause side effects, so know what caffeine level works best for you. So remember with caffeine – healthy adults only and less is more for performance.


If you follow these guidelines you should have no problem going coast to coast whenever you choose.

And check back for our next article in this series on In-Game Nutrition for Ice Hockey coming soon.