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Healthy Eating for Your Hockey Player
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Healthy Eating for Your Hockey Player

Along with training and practice, good nutrition is one of the cornerstones of performance success. An active child or teen who’s involved in competitive hockey may need 500 to 1500 more calories than a growing child who is not as active.It’s not just about getting enough calories, but also the right types of calories.

Healthy eating is the best way to fuel activity, brainpower and growth. Here are some tips to help your players:

Start with the four food groups. Eating a balanced diet according to Canada’s Food Guidewill help your hockey player get all the nutrients he or she needs. Include the following daily:

  • Carbohydrates, the energy foods. Carbs from vegetables, fruits,whole grains and milk and alternatives provide energy to help kids stay mentally alert and fuel muscles for quick bursts of activity. Some carbohydrate is stored in the muscles as glycogen and used when the body needs it. Glycogen stores need to be filled before, during and after intense exercise to keep energy levels up and maintain performance.
  • Protein. This provides the building blocks for muscles and helps repair them after an intense workout. Protein is found in the Meat and Alternatives category of the Food Guide. Lean cuts of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and nut butters, cheese and legumes (e.g. beans, lentils) are all great sources of protein.
  • Fat. Canada’s Food Guide recommends 30 – 45 mL (2-3 Tbsp) of healthy unsaturated fats every day, which includes oil used in cooking, salad dressings, margarine and mayonnaise. Use vegetable oils such as canola, olive and soybean and choose soft margarines low in saturated and trans fats. Try to limit intake of butter, hard margarine, lard, shortening and cream, as these are high in saturated and/or trans fats.
  • Vitamins and Minerals. Eating lots of vegetables, fruits, milk and alternatives will ensure your athlete gets all the vitamins and minerals needed for optimal growth and performance.

Be a smart snacker. Two or three healthy snacks can help a hockey player maintain energy throughout the day and meet nutrient needs. Whole grain crackers with nut butter, natural cheese, veggie sticks, yogurt or fruit are all great choices.

Hydrate the right way.

  • Water. Ona day-to-day basis and during exercise lasting less than an hour, water is the best way to stay hydrated. Have at least 6 cups (1.5 L) of water daily, with an additional cup for each half-hour of intense activity.
  • Sports drinks. Hockey players can lose from 0.4 to 2.0 L of sweat during a game or practice. Sports drinks replace the electrolytes lost to sweat and provide energy from carbohydrates. This type of drink is not necessary on a daily basis, but is appropriate during intense workouts or games which last over an hour.
  • Recovery. Skimmilk and chocolate milk are two of the best options to help muscles recover and restore energy reserves after activity.
  • Energy drinks. These are NOTthe same as sports drinks. Energy drinks are often carbonated and loaded with caffeine, herbs, amino acids and sugar. Not only are they inappropriate for rehydration, they are also potentially dangerous. The long term effects have not been studied and experts are adamant that energy drinks should not be consumed by children.


Important vitamins for the growing athlete

  • Calcium & Vitamin D

    • Fifty percent of bone mass is established during adolescence. Calcium and vitamin D act as a tag team to build strong bones.
    • Players can get their fill of calcium by having milk or fortified soy beverage, natural cheeses, canned salmon or sardines with bones or fortified orange juice.
    • In Canada we can’t rely on the sun for all the vitamin D we need. Lucky for us, many of the calcium-rich foods are also fortified with vitamin D. Milk, fortified soy and rice milks, fortified orange juice, egg yolks and salmon all provide the sunshine vitamin.
  • Iron

    • Iron is the building block of hemoglobin, the oxygen carrier in red blood cells. The body uses oxygen to produce energy, which helps us grow.
    • As children grow and get stronger, they need iron to help develop and build muscle.
    • Teen girls lose some iron through menstruation andneed to replenish iron stores in the body by eating iron-rich foods.
    • Beef, chicken, turkey and pork have iron that is easily absorbed by the body.
    • Iron is also in oatmeal, legumes, nuts and eggs but it’s not as easily absorbed from these foods. To help absorption, eat these with foods high in vitamin C such as oranges, tomatoes and other veggies.
  • Zinc

    • Zinc plays a role in bone growth, sexual maturation, wound healing and also boosts the immune system.
    • Zinc can be found in lean red meats, nuts, beans, cheese and wheat germ.

Eating myths, facts and smart moves
Nutrition myths and misinformation abound. These insights can help dispel common myths:

  • MYTH: Bulk up with protein. To build muscles you need to work them and nutrient-dense carbohydrates are your best fuel to do that. Loading up on protein bars, powders or drinks won’t build your muscles. Eating a healthy diet willsupply all the protein needed.
  • MYTH: Load up on carbs. Carbohydrate loading (where athletes store extra carbohydrates in their bodies) isn’t recommended for growing kids and teenagers. It’s better to eat a lower-fat, high-carbohydrate meal a few hours before intense exercise. However, athletes who have hard daily workouts need extra fuel and will need to eat a few extra carbs every day.
  • MYTH: Fad diets work. Unproven, supposedly effortless ways to build strength or reach your target weight aren’t effective and may be harmful. Steer clear of trendy diets, even if celebrities, friends or coaches suggest them.
Help your hockey player stay energized in school and on the ice by offering a variety of foods from the four food groups throughout the day. Keeping a fridge stocked with sliced veggies, fruit, yogurt, cheese, and milk makes nutritious snacking easy. Check out the article Nutrition Guide for Hockey Players, Parents & Coaches for great tips on game-day eating and recovery.
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