July 31, 2014

Hockey Nutrition: Eating healthy vs. eating to compete

By Julie Nicoletti

Eating healthy is an excellent place to start. For hockey players, though, that’s just what it is: an excellent place to start.

Eating healthy has to do with making nutritious choices, and I commend everyone who is willing to go through that decision-making process while shopping, preparing, ordering and eating. It’s a huge win, and for some, eating healthy is enough. That’s exactly what they need to do to support their bodily functions and ward off illness and disease. They don’t need to be perfect 100 percent of the time. They just need to be in the arena the majority of the time to feel good and to, well, be healthy.

For hockey players, there’s so much more. Eating healthy is still the first step, but eating to compete comes next. Because hockey is such a physically and mentally demanding sport, players benefit from learning what to eat and drink, in what quantities and at which times in order to maximize performance and reduce their risk of injury. That’s where sports nutrition comes into play. That’s part of what I teach when I speak with teams or work with players individually.

Follow these steps to start eating to compete.

  1. Eat healthfully. Choose foods made with quality ingredients that will deliver the most nutrition.

  2. Hydrate adequately. Drink more water and less of everything else.

  3. Think ahead. What time is your game or practice? How far away is it? Will you be playing through a meal? Will you be playing more than one game that day?

  4. Begin with the end in mind. Eat far enough ahead to be able to digest your food and utilize its fuel. Pack a cooler for hydration, a snack closer to game time and your recovery drink or meal.

If you’re not sure what to eat or drink before practice or a game, or if you aren’t sure how much, what time or what to pack in your cooler, then it’s time to learn. Players aren’t expected to know this and neither are coaches, but both could benefit tremendously.

It really is easy once a plan is put in place for you, and I love helping athletes learn how to eat to compete.

While I was working as a pharmacist, I would often field medical questions from family, friends and neighbors about their latest ailments or something drug-related in the news. It didn’t matter if I was at a family dinner, social function or just in the neighborhood — they would catch my ear. And even if it was far beyond my scope of practice or realm of knowledge, they wanted to tell me all about their health. I never minded. If it was important to them, I was happy to help if I could or at least willing to listen.

Fast forward to the past six years with Kinetic Fuel. Because everybody eats every day, you can only imagine the conversations I have. There’s always something to talk about. People tell me what they ate for their most recent meal and ask my opinion of the latest diet fads or ask me what they should eat.

This time of year, hockey players in their offseason ask about what they should bring with them while attending tournaments or camps and what they should eat to optimize their body composition in preparation for next season. I don’t mind at all. I love being a sports nutritionist and am happy to help.

Julie Nicoletti is a nationally recognized sports nutritionist specializing in 
coaching student and pro athletes to optimize performance and minimize the risk of injury through nutrition. As founder of Kinetic Fuel Performance Based Nutrition, Julie combines her professional training as a registered pharmacist with 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.

This article originally appeared in the July edition of the New England Hockey Journal. Click here to read the digital edition for free.

Twitter: @kineticfuel1

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