Proper Off-Season Nutrition for Hockey Players
For professional players, and really anyone truly dedicated to the sport, preparation for the next hockey season usually comes directly on the heels of the last. The off-season is the time for growth, for reestablishing the endurance and peaking ability diminished in-season. It’s a time for building muscle mass, power, strength, and for body conditioning – all variables that contribute to high performance, and all of which help to minimize both injuries and ‘pine-time’. The risk of loss-of-performance is just too great to spend this period doing anything else.
The question then, is how best to spend the off-season (for NHL players, that’s usually around four months). For sure, don’t forgo this great opportunity to hit the gym. And not just any gym will cut it; find one that really understands the specialized muscle mechanics of hockey. Give the trainers a rundown of your goals and get started ASAP retooling your body. You’ll thank yourself for it once training camp restarts.
In this article, we’re going to focus on nutrition. Underestimating, or worse, overlooking nutrition is truly an amateur move. In-season, thanks to a tough game schedule, family life, work, etc., there just isn’t time to focus on what you’re eating, and even with a dedicated nutritional coach, your trips to the local burger shack inevitably become more frequent than just ‘now and then’. Now that isn’t necessarily a bad thing; what’s important is making sure you’re hitting your daily targets on carbohydrate, protein and fat intake, and that you’re doing it in such a way that is sustainable and positive. For many players, that’s more easily said that done.
First off, understand the importance of good nutrition. It’s about training your body to deliver just the right amount of energy throughout a game, and even into double-overtime if necessary. Hockey is an endurance sport, so your muscles need solid reserve stores to draw from, and the third-period crash most players know
well should be something you only hear about.
Jesse Demers is the strength and conditioning coach for the New York Islanders. When asked about the importance of diet and nutrition for hockey players, he said, “Eating is a full-time job with some of these guys. Half the time it’s just a battle to keep calories in them, and they really need to have a vested interest in themselves to achieve that.”
When it comes to calories, the basic idea is that if you are trying to add weight, you need to maintain a daily intake higher than your daily burn. For weight loss, the opposite – higher burn, lower intake. Unfortunately, it’s not so simple; there are many other factors you need to consider depending on your exercise routine.
For example, you might want to lower your body fat index but increase your muscle mass. In that case, you’d want to maintain a nutritious high intake combined with an intense muscle/cardio workout, going heavy on carbs only before gym time.
In general, to optimize performance throughout training, and to ensure muscles recover quickly between sessions, hockey players need to consume a diet rich in nutrients, lean proteins, and though many may cringe at the idea, plenty of carbohydrates. Timed carbs are a must for high-intensity training. In fact, while at the beginning of your routine you can maintain a 2:1 protein to carbohydrate ratio, as intensity increases, you should up that to 1:1.
Moreover, you’re going to want to consume tons of raw vegetables (especially green or purple), fresh fruits and berries, seeds, and nuts. For sufficient healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, you should also include cheese, yogurt, and/or milk. When cooking, use extra-virgin olive oil, and wherever possible, use avocado, nut butter, oats, and omega-3 eggs. You’ll also need to consume liquids (water or green tea is best); before, during, and after workouts. Increase that schedule as intensity increases.
Finally, remember that the nutritional needs of each player are unique and can vary substantially depending on training load, training goals, body composition, and age. You should consult a certified nutritionist to build a plan based on your exact condition and needs.
About the Author
Matthew Korobanik is a partner of multiple Anytime Fitness franchises. For more information, check out
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