With playoff season here, parents and players are well established in their routines and hockey schedules at this point of the year. However, no matter how much time before heading to the rink, busy hockey families always need to find time to have the right pre-game meal to be able to fuel performance on the ice.
While understandably in a time crunch at times, the more preparation you can put into meal planning, the better it can serve your schedules and athletes.
“It’s really about balance. It’s not about cutting things out. It’s really about the timing. If you’re in a tournament, it’s about fueling your body like athletes,” said Seanna Thomas on Breakaway, the Minor Hockey Podcast.
Thomas is a Nutrition Consultant and hockey mom who works with young athletes, sports teams, families, and organizations to provides nutrition information.
She suggests it’s about determining what works for your family for the timing of meals and snacks, understanding that everyone’s schedules and bodies are different. Parents can plan ahead based on the typical levels of hunger at that point in the day and how much time you have before going to the rink. They know their kids best.
3-4 Hours Before a Game
Your body has time to digest proteins, fats and fibres before hitting the ice. This is the time for the spaghetti and meatballs, chicken and broccoli and rice or even breakfast for dinner. Eggs don’t need that three to four hours to digest like the other meals but can are a great source of protein.
“Keep the yolk in. Don’t go all egg white. There’s actually a lot of protein in the yolk. All the vitamins and minerals are in there,” said Thomas.
Closer to the Game
This is the time to focus more on the carbohydrates. It takes about one hour for your body to digest it and use it as fuel. Be careful with your timing – a heavy meal closer to puck drop can confuse your body whether to focus on digestion or performance and end up hindering both.
Early Hockey Mornings
We’ve all been at the rink for those 7 am practices. Players (and parents!) can still feel half-asleep at early morning and not everyone may be in the mood to eat. Thomas recommends to still give them something to digest, even as simple as a piece of fruit or simple carbs like a piece of toast cereal or even a handful of dry cereal.
“They’ve got to have something in their bellies. Even if it is just a glass of milk. You can do a pre-game smoothie. A piece of fruit is the ultimate pre-game meal. Especially if you have less than an hour. A banana is my favourite – pre-portioned, prepackaged, it’s ready to go. Your body recognizes it instantly, digests it quickly and can utilize that energy really fast.”
After a Game
This is the key time to focus on nutrition. That’s when you can give everything – protein for muscle recovery and carbs to replace the energy you just used. Your body is expecting nutrition to help itself regroup after being on the ice.
One of Thomas’s top tips in helping to ease the stress of meal planning is to get the kids involved. Bring them into the kitchen and let them help cut up parts of the meal or package the portions. They will learn about the responsibility that goes into their food and can take pride in the fact they helped make their own meals.
“If you can get your kids in and make them responsible for their pre-game snack or their post-game recovery snack… get them to make their trail mix… the ownership it gives them, and how proud they are, is fantastic.”
For teams that bring snacks or lunches on a rotational basis, work together as a parent group with the coaches to make sure everyone is aligned on nutritional focus and allergy considerations.
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