If your nutrition is managed accurately, it can have a positive effect on your overall hockey performance. If you want to perform your best on game day you need to be fuelled correctly.
Most hockey players struggle to develop a robust nutrition plan that promotes both performance and recovery. Regardless of your hockey ability, if you are unable to get the basics right (i.e. nutrition), you’ll never hit your full potential in a game.
Poor nutrition can result in increased fatigue and lack of energy availability to complete a match to your 100% best. Therefore, the body requires specific nutrients to provide energy to the muscles, this can vary depending on the type of activity performed.
The common thought surrounding pre-game food for hockey players is “What meal should I eat before the game?”. Although this needs to be addressed, there is a much bigger picture to pre-game fuelling, which I plan to break down in today’s article.
“Pre-match food is not a singular meal; the preparation starts days before and requires the building of nutrition habits”
We need to look at the bigger picture; the days leading up to match, in addition to the food we fuel ourselves with on game day.
Firstly, understanding what nutrients to fuel the body. Carbohydrates are a hockey players best friend in a nutrition plan. The combination of the aerobic and anaerobic energy demands in hockey requires a lot of carbohydrates for fuel.
Carbohydrates provide the body with energy, allowing the mind and muscles to function at full capacity for the total duration of the match.
“Inadequate consumption of carbohydrates in a hockey players nutrition plan, can be detrimental to a player’s ability to perform optimally.”
When Should Match Day Nutrition Prep Start?
As an athlete, your nutrition prep for all types of training and matches should be always switched on! If we need to prepare for a match, then 3 days prior to the fixture is a good time to start focusing on your intake and tapering this towards the match. This gives you adequate time to prepare and fuel up!
Building Up to Match Day
Individual Prep (Match Day -3)
Although 3 days is a while away from the fixture, it’s important we begin our nutritional preparation. On this day, individual preparation begins, foods should be consistent and you should make a conscious effort to choose high quality sources of protein and carbohydrates with plenty of vegetables. It’s important that meals are not skipped during this time to avoid energy imbalances.
Transition (Match Day -2)
This is the day we should begin filling our petrol tank full of fuel! Simply increase the total carbohydrate intake across all meals of the day. In addition to this, there should be a bigger focus on hydration with fluid intake being consistent. This will ensure we are well fuelled and hydrated going into our main prep day.
Load (Match Day -1)
This is the most important day for nutrition, more important than match day! Carbohydrates are essential with every meal and snack, as we are looking to top up our energy stores. It is important we eat foods that are consistent with our usual nutrition. There is no need to change our diet or eat special foods, as this could cause issues with our digestive system, not something we want to happen the day before a match! Make sure you still maintain a focus on fluid intake to avoid dehydration. Before bed, complete the day with a late-night snack consisting of protein and carbohydrates.
The Day of The Match
When the big day comes around, you’ll be thankful you’ve done the work to ensure the body is nutritionally prepared for the match. On match day we have two main focuses:
Type of Food:
- Aim to consume foods that are consistent with your usual diet.
- Low fat and low fibre foods will help to avoid stomach upset.
- Meals should be high carbohydrate, with a moderate amount of protein.
Timing of Food:
- The timing of our food intake will depend on our match day schedule.
- For fixtures that are played early in the day, it may not be practical to consume a large meal that is high in carbohydrates 3 hours before the fixture.
- This is where the prep from the previous days will ensure we are well fuelled for the fixture. I would suggest trying to consume a smaller sized meal or snack before the game to ensure fuel sources are topped up.
- If the fixture is later in the day, we should have the time to fuel up beforehand.
- Around 3 hours before the game we should have our last large meal consisting of high carbohydrates.
- Closer to the match, around 60 - 90 minutess, we should consume a small snack to boost energy stores and reduce hunger.
During a fixture it is not uncommon for a player to top up their energy stores at half-time with a small high carbohydrate (sugar for fast release) snack. It is also important to keep on top of your hydration as this will play a pivotal role in the maintenance of performance.
“It’s important to remember the effect that optimal hydration can have on a hockey player’s performance. Hydration should never be overlooked.”
Most hockey players know that hydration is important for health and performance, but generally don’t pay a great deal of attention to it. As a hockey player, it is important to understand what optimal fluid intake looks like for match days.
Hydration plays a huge role in a hockey player’s overall development, including muscle building, energy balance, fat loss, and so much more!
To further the importance of hydration, the carbohydrate fuelling strategies would not be able to work in a dehydrated body! Carbohydrates need water to be stored in the muscle cell, roughly 1g of carbohydrates needs 3-4g of water to be stored!
Dehydration during a match can cause a whole world of complications, less ability of cardio, reduced muscular endurance, elevated heart rate, an increase in overall fatigue and reduced ability to perform skill-based movements.
To summarise, nutrition and hydration for a match day should never be overlooked with the preparation starting 3 days before. The earlier we prepare the better our performance will be on the day. There is no hidden tricks for match day nutrition, just consistency and habit building!
If you’ve reading enjoyed this article you can reach me at info@DRNnutrition.co.uk
Eat Well, Perform Better!