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Eat Smart, Play Well: The Best Foods For Your Pre, Post-Game Meals

By Aaron Wilbur, The Coaches Site, 10/20/22, 2:15PM EDT


Nutritionist Seanna Thomas shares how to fuel your performance

You are what you eat.
Eat good, feel good.

There are many popular sayings around the rink that relate to how what you fuel your body with ties into your on-ice performance. We know now more than ever about the good foods to target and those to avoid. For busy hockey families, the best meals are the ones that can pack a nutritious punch without taking a long time to make.

It’s easy to buy food on the go in a pinch, and when talking about meals we need to be realistic when it comes to the time crunch that our schedules can necessitate. For those looking to maximize their pre and post game nutritional intake, here are some tips from nutrition consultant Seanna Thomas, who joined Breakaway, the Minor Hockey Podcast.

“There’s different sources of carbohydrates that we can turn to these days. That’s why I always tell players to look to smoothies,” said Thomas. “Having a smoothie that’s full of fresh fruit which is carbohydrates, there’s carbohydrates in milk or milk alternatives. You can throw spinach and oats and all these different ingredients that aren’t going to weigh you down.”

The age-old advice was to carb load – eat a big plate of pasta before the big game. While pasta does serve as energy, it is important to balance the plate with portions of vegetables and protein. Thomas suggests saving that pasta meal for a day like a tournament, where there are multiple games over a short amount of time, and to allow for three to four hours for digestion.

That doesn’t mean it needs to be all nutrition, all the time. It’s figuring out the balance of eating properly to aid your body in performance and recovery.

“Kids are going to be kids. They deserve to have pizza and cake and all the things. But when you’re fueling for performance and you eat the right things for your body at the right time, you’re actually helping your muscles repair. You can prevent injuries, you can provide long lasting, sustainable energy. There’s so many benefits in giving kids and parents the proper knowledge when it comes to fueling for performance.”

It’s the small tweaks that can make a difference. For beginners, the key to overhauling a diet is to take it one step at a time. Thomas has the idea of making those changes when you run out of something. Turn white rice to brown rice or quinoa. Swap out white bread for whole grain. While change can be daunting, once these habits are created it’ll be easier to chip away.

Nutrition is also something that young players can take ownership of on their own. They will learn responsibility and experience the results first hand in how they feel when on the ice after eating well beforehand.

Some quick hits for parents in a time crunch are smoothies and trail mix. Kids can choose what they like to include and both are easily portable for the car ride to and from the rink. Trail mix contains carbs for energy, healthy fats to fight inflammation and protein for muscle repair and recovery.

Pre-game, players should focus on easily digestible carbohydrates like milk and fruit, with a more protein-based recovery such as Greek yogurt or hemp hearts.

“Eat right away. Eat within 30 to 60 minutes of getting off the ice. Your body is primed and ready to accept and utilize all those nutrients you’re giving it.”

At tournaments, a few items that Thomas always keeps on hand are bagels, peanut butter, jam, hard boiled eggs, milk, oatmeal, fruit and yogurt. Most hotels have a fridge in the room that can aid in storage. She also brings a kettle and a blender to help with any food prep. These are all smaller meals that can carry a kid throughout the day until the big team dinner in the evening.

Connect with Seanna!
Instagram: @hockey_snacks
Facebook: Seanna Thomas Nutrition
Facebook Group: Fuel More Wins!

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Aaron is the Founder and CEO of The Coaches Site, the #1 online resource for hockey coaches, and also the host of the Glass & Out podcast. He is married with two boys, believes Major League is the best sports movie of all-time, is scared of heights and is mildly obsessed with the Alabama Crimson Tide football program.

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