Strength and Performance Training

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Eat Better, Perform Better: Gameday Nutrition Guide

Many people like to use the "performance race car" analogy when referring to nutrition for athletes.  For instance, food:fuel as your body:performance race car.  I am sure everyone has heard this; your body is like a performance race car, it needs premium fuel and constant maintenance otherwise it will not perform to optimal potential.  Conceptually, I do agree with the idea of getting people to pay more attention to what they consume and how they take care of their bodies.  The reality is, food is so much more than fuel and your body is more complex than a machine.  

(Check out this article by Precision Nutrition to learn more.  No, Food is not Fuel)

I have heard other analogies; your body is a temple, you are what you eat, and so on...The bottom line is, understand that what you eat has a major effect on how you perform as an athlete.  Proper nutrition is absolutely vital to maximizing performance potential and furthermore, you need to eat specific to the demands of your sport.  Good nutrition bridges the gap between effort and performance.  What does that mean exactly?  Just because you are working really hard does not mean you are performing to your optimal potential.  When you eat the right foods specific to the demands of your sport, it bridges the gap between effort and performance; your body has the nutrients it needs to perform at its best.  

Eating for the Demands of Ice Hockey

How do we elude to the nutritional necessities of a sport?  First, we identify the dominant energy system that is being used in competition.  Think of ice hockey from an energy system perspective, specifically, an alactic-aerobic sport; short high intensity, power output bursts mixed with low energy bouts.  Nutritional macro-nutrient requirements for these demands include:

  • Adequate carbohydrate and phosphocreatine storage
    • A high carb diet is recommended and creatine supplementation can also be integrated into a diet (as early as Bantam/14U) for high power outputs.
  • Adequate lean protein storage for muscle breakdown prevention and muscle recovery
  • Healthy fats for slow release energy and blood sugar regulation


Most important meal of the day as many would say.  We all know the importance of starting the day off right.

  • Protein:  eggs, yogurt, almond butter, breakfast sausage, bacon
  • Carbohydrates (Whole Grains):  oats, whole grain cereal, whole grain waffle, english muffin, whole wheat toast
  • Fruits:  Berries, grapefruit, mango, melons
  • Lots of fluids

Pre Game Nutrition

First, good nutrition starts before game day as it affects your insulin sensitivity and determines how well you recover after the game.  Nutrition not only affects you physically but mentally as well, including: brain coherence, focus, drive, and attention.  Physical and mental recovery is key because of the notion that how much progress you make is contingent on how well you recover from activity.

1-3 Hours Before the Game

  • 1:1 ratio of carbohydrates:protein
  • Low glycemic carbs (sweet potato, brown rice, oats, quinoa)
  • Animal Protein (chicken, fish)

During the Game

  • High glycemic carbohydrates and sugars in liquid form for 
  • Gatorade, sports drink
  • BCAA or protein supplement for muscle breakdown prevention
    • Use the 6-8% solution rule for better absorption and gastric clearance.  Ex. using 500 ml of water for 40 g of powder
  • Between Periods:  banana, orange slices, whole grain crackers

Post Game

  • Glycogenesis - Synthesis of glucose for glycogen storage.  Replenishment of nutrients for muscle recovery.
  • Protein, low glycemic carbohydrates, healthy fats
    • White meat chicken, turkey, wild salmon or fish, lean red meat
    • Brown rice, wild rice, baked potato, sweet potato
    • Fruits and vegetables
    • Lots of fluids

Key Takeaways

  • Maintain good hydration
  • Find a balance between being hungry and too full.  Gastric comfort is key
  • Optimal performance can not be achieved without proper nutrition
  • Eat for the demands of the sport
  • Eat real foods, avoid anything processed