By: Sylvie Tetrault
This article is informational in nature and shares our experiences. It is in no way a tool to diagnose health problems, and as always, you should consult with your doctor.
Today’s article will focus on tournaments and how hockey players eat both at the rink and in the hotel. Plus, we’ll touch on travel options and how we order at a restaurant.
A few weeks ago, we shared an article on what to eat on game day and, more specifically, what we suggest for a pre-game meal. If you want to read it, you can click this link -> UNSURE WHAT TO EAT BEFORE A HOCKEY GAME?
The weekends around the gym are pretty quiet this time of year as hockey teams head off to early-bird tournaments and start-of-season showcases.
This style of competition – multiple games in a short time frame – changes how you would normally eat on game days. Pre-game meal timing is often something you can’t control, and post-game nutrition becomes even more important!
If you aren’t prepared, end up at the arena canteen eating fried foods, french fries, popcorn, and pop. When we’re searching for optimal performance, a pregame helping of just carbs probably isn’t what your body needs. You need the right foods in the right quantities before a hockey game.
When you’re on the road competing, that means you need to be prepared!
Prioritizing preparation is one of our foundational nutrition habits. We are all busy, but we make time for what we care about, and we care a lot about food.
- Gary Roberts Pro Tip
One of the best ways to find success when you’re traveling to compete is by planning ahead and bringing a tournament cooler. We aren’t talking about the typical tournament cooler you see at the back of the parking lot with a group of Dads around it, but one full of high-quality food that you can eat throughout the day that will provide you with enough energy to compete in the big game on Sunday.
Before we dive into our tips for eating on the road, we wanted to do a quick recap on macronutrients and where they fit in pre-game meals.
Key Macronutrients for Hockey Players: Boost Your Performance and Recovery
Every athlete, including hockey players, requires essential macronutrients in their diet — a crucial aspect for optimal performance and recovery post-game. These macronutrients comprise proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, each playing a unique role in enhancing a player’s performance on the ice.
For hockey athletes aiming to improve their game, the proper balance between these macronutrients is crucial to sustained energy and proper recovery. What you eat before a hockey game versus a hard training session versus a recovery workout will all be slightly different, and it’s your responsibility to play detective and determine what makes you feel the best.
Gone are the days of just carbs for a pre-game meal. Protein is a vital macronutrient for athletes, especially those in physically demanding sports like hockey. Protein consists of amino acids, the building blocks for tissues, muscles, and enzymes. Consuming adequate protein helps repair and build muscle after tough workouts, supports immune function, and can also serve as an energy source when carbohydrate availability is low.
Carbohydrates are the main fuel source for hockey players and help to prevent fatigue. They get stored as muscle glycogen in muscles and the liver, and help regulate energy levels during high-intensity activities like a hockey game or hard hockey practice. Carbohydrates also maintain blood glucose levels and replenish glycogen stores post-exercise. Consuming carbs before a game can help maximize performance, while post-game carbs help kick-start recovery and muscle repair.
Considerations for Game Day Carbohydrates:
- Limit fiber leading up to the game if you have a sensitive gut on game day
- Prioritize starchy energy-producing carbohydrates (oats, sweet potato, potato, fruit, rice, etc.)
- Cook your (green) vegetables – they are easier to digest than raw vegetables.
Fats are a concentrated source of energy, providing more than twice the energy per gram of protein and carbohydrates. While they’re not the primary energy source during high-intensity activities like hockey, they do fuel low-intensity activities and can be a source of energy during long-duration exercise. In addition, fats are needed for the absorption of certain vitamins and the production of hormones. Make sure you consume lots of healthy fats – like omega-3 fatty acids – but be careful close to game time as a high-fat meal can cause digestive issues, similar to spicy foods – which can really ruin a hockey game.
Now that we’ve got the science out of the way let’s dive into the specifics!
Eating at A Restaurant for Your Pre-Game Meal
Eating at restaurants is unavoidable when you’re traveling to compete in a tournament. When we discussed macronutrients earlier, we mentioned how important it is to prioritize preparation. Part of that preparation includes having a game plan for eating at restaurants. If you’re a hockey player who works with us, we are so committed to preparation that we actually help to scout restaurants in the area a few days prior and find the best option at each place! Of course, it’s not always possible to know exactly where you’re going to eat ahead of time, but a few simple guidelines can help you make better choices at the table.
Here are some tips for ordering at a restaurant:
- Avoid fried foods: Look for grilled or roasted options instead.
- Choose protein and carbs: Aim for a balanced meal with protein and carbohydrates to fuel your game.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions: Swap out fries for a side salad or steamed green vegetables.
- Be aware of portion sizes: Restaurants often serve larger portions than necessary, so listen to your body and stop eating when you feel full, especially if it’s a pre-game meal. You don’t want to be stuffed still come game time.
- Look out for Oils: Restaurants use notoriously bad oils, so try to get your food grilled or roasted if possible, as it often limits the use of oil and opt for EVOO and balsamic rather than the typical salad dressing.
If you’re unsure what to order at the restaurant, we’ve put a few meal ideas below. You can change your order based on your individual preferences but
Starter options: Mixed green salad (with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and vinegar) + lettuce wraps or chicken skewers.
Main (Protein): Grilled chicken breast or wild salmon. (Beef can
Sides (Carbohydrates): Roasted potatoes/ sweet potato or brown rice. Steamed or roasted asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans. (Get your veg in, but beware of too much fiber if you’re at the restaurant to eat before a game.)
Tournament Cooler Options: What To Eat Between Games
Everyone knows the experience of being stuck at a tournament with limited time to eat between games. At younger ages, you could only have 20 or 30 minutes until the next game if things aren’t running smoothly, which isn’t nearly enough time to go out and grab a pregame meal. Plus, eating too much before the game can lead to discomfort and cramping.
That’s where our GR Tournament Cooler comes in handy!
Here are some food options for you to pack in your cooler and keep on hand during the tournament instead of making that coffee shop stop for plain English muffins and donuts.
- High Quality or Homemade Energy Bars: These bars are perfect for sustained energy throughout the day. Use a combination of oats, nut butters, honey, and dried fruits to make a delicious snack that will give you energy for all three periods.
- Pre-cut veggies and hummus: This is an easy and healthy option for snacking between games. The vegetables provide vitamins and minerals, while the hummus gives you a boost of protein.
- Turkey or chicken wraps: Pack some whole wheat or gluten-free wraps with sliced turkey or chicken and some vegetables for a quick and easy meal between games. If you don’t like turkey or chicken, try a different sliced meat option, but try to find clean options.
- Whole Grain Toast / Whole Grain Bagel: This is a favorite food with our younger players. Whole Grain Toast with nut butter/peanut butter, banana slices, and a drizzle of honey. It provides you with enough energy without slowing you down.
- Greek Yogurt with Granola: Greek yogurt with homemade granola is an excellent source of protein and carbohydrates, making it a great option to fuel your body between games. Add some honey or fresh fruit for extra flavor.
- Protein shake: A protein shake is an excellent way to refuel after a game or practice. Make sure to pack your favorite protein powder, a shaker bottle, and some water in your cooler. If you don’t have a favorite protein powder, check out our blend – Gary Roberts Pure Protein.
- Fruit: Fruits like bananas, apples, and oranges are easy to pack and provide a quick burst of natural energy.
We know that we’re starting to sound like a broken record, but proper hydration is a key factor in optimal hockey performance. Dehydration is a leading cause of poor performance and is often overlooked when discussing game-day nutrition.
Our simplest tip is to always carry a water bottle with you. Having it on hand will remind you to sip on it all day.
You can also add an electrolyte drink to your water to help replace what you’ve lost from sweating.
To Wrap It All Up
As a hockey player, you have to prioritize your food! That means both pre-game nutrition and post-recovery foods. Doing a little extra to prepare can put you miles ahead of your competition.
Make sure to include enough food in your cooler for the entire day, as well as any necessary snacks for after the tournament; you don’t want to have to stop for fast food on the way home.
Stay fueled and nourished throughout the day and we guarantee it will help you perform at your best on the ice. Remember, preparation is key! So make sure to plan ahead!