Skip to main content
| , ,

Sport Nutrition for Hockey Players

What is the best diet for hockey?  Simple question…simple answer. A balanced diet of protein, carbs, and fats AND lots of water.  This simple answer can consume your efforts for years to come.  

But let’s delve deeper.  

Let’s look at what kind of energy you use when you are playing.  Most of the game is spent sprinting, battling for loose pucks, changing direction, low level movements, and sitting on the bench or in the locker room.  

Hockey is a game that requires speed, skill, and power.  It is unique in that regard because it is a high skill and speed sport, much like soccer.  It is also a physical and powerful sport like rugby or American football. This means that all of your energy systems need to be running at their best and your metabolism needs to be flexible enough that you can utilize all systems at the same time.  

Shooting, hitting, changing direction and short sprints.  These are all very high force movements that typically elicit fast twitch muscle fibers.  These muscle fibers are fueled by carbohydrates and creatine.  You need to use and make energy really fast to support these types of activities.  There are 2 types of fast twitch muscle fibers: type 2a and type 2b.

Medium to low speed movements, tracking the play, special teams.  These movements are still up there on the intensity scale, but they do not require the insane speed of energy turnover required for the more high force activity.  In fact, there will likely be some utilization of fat for energy at these speeds and of the fast twitch fibers there will be more of an impact coming from the type 2a fibers that have the ability to utilize alternate sources of fuel.

Sitting on the bench, in the locker room between periods, coasting behind the play or moments between faceoffs.  We would call this phase of the game recovery.  We would ideally relay on a type of muscle fiber that is built to use fat than carbohydrates.  Here is the most important job they do. They are able to process the “waste product” lactate. When we sprint we use primarily carbohydrates for energy.  The use of carbohydrates produces lactate. If our body can’t clear the lactate from the system it gets put into the blood in the form of “lactic acid”. It is a little more complicated, but if your muscles are really good at processing lactate you will be able to sprint faster for longer.  The only way that is possible is to have super efficient type 1 muscle fibers. These fibers can use the lactate for energy. Certain body parts, like the heart and brain, love to use lactate for energy.

Now you have a more complicated explanation for why simply focusing on eating a balanced diet from whole food sources of protein, carbohydrates and fats is enough to sustain most athletes for an entire career.

Here is the thing, no two athletes are the same.  In addition to all being unique, there are different demands from positions, game to game demands, and at what point in the season you are in.

The amount of protein and fat that most hockey players require is relatively standard.  Protein requirements have been studied at length and for most players 1g of protein per pound of body weight is a great place to start.  For fats it is a bit more complex but generally between 50 and 80g/ day of healthy fats from multiple sources   is a good place to start.  Where does that leave us?  

The most valuable nutritional level you have to pull to support performance is carbohydrate intake.  Ensuring that you have enough carbs in the system as you prepare to perform and then replenishing the system after performance are key elements to being able to be your best consistently.  There are several low carb fad diets outour there but few actually support elite athletic performance.  Starting competition with depleted energy reduced performance and creates an energy deficit.  If this deficit is not rectified there will be widespread impact on others systems of the body.  

Supplements to support hockey.  

Due to the amount of high intensity work, we need to make sure we are keeping our type 2 fibers in tip- top shape.  Creatine and Beta Alanine are 2 great supplements to help restore energy balance in the sprint phase of the game.  

How?  Creatine will help replenish the initial creatine phosphate energy system that provides energy to sprint, shoot, change direction and handle physical contact.  The Beta Alanine will help the carbohydrate dominant phase of energy production that produces lactate. Beta alanine helps make sure lactate does not build up in the muscle and become transported into the blood as “lactic acid,” which reduces performance.  Certain supplements that work to dilate blood vessels like beet root powder, or citrulline can also help to make sure there is no excess lactate accumulation in the fast twitch muscles.  

Programming your nutrition.

If you are working hard at practice eat more so that you don’t show up to the game with an energy deficit.  After you play, eat like a king and get plenty of carbohydrates. 

A good ratio to follow is 4 grams of carbohydrate for every 1 gram of protein that you eat.  Don’t be afraid of fat and drink lots of water. Feel free to enjoy a sugary sport drink during practice or games.  Constantly ask yourself: How do I look, feel, and perform?  

If you like the answer notice and name.  Notice you feel good, name the way you have been eating or recovering from practice or games.  Keep working on finding your grind and be able to think on your feet.

Skip to content