January 27, 2014

Hockey Nutrition: Carve a nutrition game plan

By Julie Nicoletti

The new year is a perfect time to look ahead.

Every year between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, I spend time thinking back and looking forward. It’s a deliberate exercise in self-evaluation that helps shape my goals for the coming year. Since I’ve been doing this for quite a few years now, it’s fun for me to go back in time and to see how things have changed. If you’re not in the habit of doing this or something similar, maybe this is the year to start.

Consider where you are in your hockey career and then clearly define where and how you’d like to be playing next season and the following few years. What will you do to put yourself in the best position to win?

Not to worry, this is not an article about life before cell phones and the Internet, nor is it about goal-setting. It’s instead an opportunity to revel at how far we’ve come, how much we’ve changed and how sports nutrition might look in the future.

Think back to your grandparents and great-grandparents and how they used to cook almost everything from scratch. My grandfather had a huge garden in his backyard. In addition to lettuce, zucchini, basil and mint, he grew the best tomatoes, usually using the dried seeds from the juiciest, most flavorful tomatoes from the previous year’s crop. Even after giving away full baskets to neighbors and relatives, there would be so many extra that my grandmother would make sauce — gravy as she would call it — and would jar it for the winter. Heaven forbid if sauce in a jar came out of anything but one of her mason jars! No such thing as Prego or Ragu.

Although I’d love to have a garden as big as my grandfather’s, I don’t, and although I do make homemade sauce, I use canned crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Things have changed.

We’ve come a long way. We’ve traveled through the low-fat frenzy, when it was OK to eat a whole box of SnackWell’s cookies because they were fat free, and then through the Atkins age, when eating a pound of bacon was acceptable because it was low carb. Now it seems that consumers are demanding more of the foods that our ancestors ate: lean sources of protein such as fish, meat and poultry, vegetables, seasonal fruits, nuts, seeds and oils.

Interestingly, I see the future of nutrition calling upon the past. Due to serious health risks that directly are linked to our current food supply and dietary habits, we are on the cusp of an exploding health revolution.

In a perfect world, instead of more genetically modified organisms, scientifically engineered foods and newly invented ingredients, nutrition of the future will consist of more natural foods with fewer chemicals and additives. Nutrition of the future will showcase more foods we can recognize, and athletes will fuel their bodies with what nature intended instead of fast food and processed drinks.

The most nutritious foods are beautifully packaged in skins, shells and peels rather than in shiny bags and crinkly wrappers.

Food and nutrition are not one in the same. Food is anything that satisfies hunger, yet nutrition is what fuels a player’s body and keeps him or her healthy and on the ice.

In the future, my hope is that hockey players nourish their bodies to maximize athletic and academic performance, to improve strength, speed and stamina, to optimize body composition and to improve concentration and mood while decreasing the risk of injury and illness. Doing so surely is one of the most significant ways that you can put yourself in a position to accomplish your goals.

Julie Nicoletti is a nationally recognized sports nutritionist who specializes in coaching student and professional athletes to optimize performance and minimize the risk of injury through nutrition. As the founder of Kinetic Fuel Performance Based Nutrition, Julie combines her professional training as a registered pharmacist with her experience as a certified sports nutritionist to customize plans for athletes and teams enabling them to see transformative results.  Learn more at www.kineticfuel.net.

Twitter: @kineticfuel1

Email: feedback@hockeyjournal.com