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Podcast | Fast & Easy Pregame Meals

By Ontario Minor Hockey Association, 09/17/15, 11:45AM EDT

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Sport Dietitian Heidi Smith discusses the foods to eat before your next game


Hockey is a fast and demanding sport requiring proper fueling to reach peak performance. Repeated bouts of high intensity, anaerobic shifts result in rapid decline of glycogen stores. Glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrate. It takes 24-48 hours to fully replenish our limited stores after intense exercise. Without glycogen for energy, your performance will suffer. A recovery eating plan is essential to speed glycogen recovery before playing again the next day.

Many athletes establish a pre-game routine to prepare the mind and body for top performance.  That routine should include an effective nutrition strategy to prep the muscles for power and endurance.  Pre-game nutrition can have a profound impact on performance and recovery. 

48 hours before the game
The two days before a game are the most critical for stocking the muscles with adequate fuel.  The most important fuel for a hockey player is the carbohydrate, which is stored in the muscle as Glycogen.  Glycogen takes 24 to 48 hours to recover to full stores.  This explains why the 2 days pre-game is so important for consuming carbohydrates.  Glycogen is the fuel burned in anaerobic situations.  In other words, any time you are out of breath on the ice, you are relying on Glycogen as your fuel.  If your stores begin to run out during a game, you’ll “hit the wall” or run out of energy.

Tips for maximizing glycogen stores:
Rest.  A hard workout even two days before a game will deplete your glycogen stores.  Take it easy, stretch and avoid any high intensity work.

Consume High Carbohydrate Foods:  At each meal be sure to include foods such as breads, bagels, rice, pasta, fruit, juice, and vegetables.

Eat Often: every two to four hours – but don’t over-do it!

24 hours before the game
The day before a game often includes travel. Even with the best intentions, many athletes fall short on their nutrition when trying to eat “on the road”. Some of the challenges of eating on the road are: high fat foods, unfamiliar foods, bizarre eating times, jet lag, motion sickness etc.  Here are some guidelines to follow when eating on the road the day before a game:

Carry your own food: so you have the flexibility to eat the right foods at the right time

Avoid unfamiliar foods: You don’t know how they will affect your stomach

Avoid spicy or high fat foods: They can cause stomach irritation and slow digestion

Graze: Frequent small meals and snacks (every 2-4 hours) help to load the muscle with energy

Game day nutrition
Game times will vary but your meals should always stay consistent. The purpose of game day nutrition is to keep blood sugars stable, stay hydrated and avoid any unnecessary stomach upset or depletion of muscle glycogen. In other words, all of your energy for your game should ALREADY be stored in your muscle if you ate properly the 2 days prior. Large meals are unnecessary game day because if you recall from above, the energy won’t even reach your muscle for 24-48 hours. The best plan is to eat frequent small meals that are easy to digest and that provide enough carbohydrate and protein to keep blood sugars steady.

Foods to choose on game day
Easy to digest foods are those that are high in carbohydrates, have moderate fat, and are low in fibre.

A pre-game meal should be eaten 2-4 hours before your game time. If the game starts at 2:30pm you should be eating a meal or snack every 2-4 hours prior. For example:

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Breakaway, the minor hockey podcast puts you in alone with some of the best and brightest minds in the game today. Each week, Dan Pollard sits down with the leaders of hockey to discuss everything from scoring more goals to how to grow the game. Subscribe to the Breakaway, The Minor Hockey Podcast on iTunesStitcherPlayerFMSoundCloud or wherever you consume your podcasts.