Can you operate a laptop without a charged battery? Drive a car without fuel? Or download apps without the internet? If the answer to these three questions is a definitive ‘No’, then surely the answer to the fourth question will also be a ‘No’, i.e. can an ice hockey player deliver outstanding performance without proper food intake?
Food and nutrition are as important for an athlete as a battery is for a laptop, fuel for a car, and the internet for downloading. Food provides the ingredients necessary for remarkable on-ice performance. Therefore, anyone who is training at an elite level can do so for an extended period of time only when the training and exercises are adequately backed with food rich in macronutrients.
Think of the game as a battle. Just like one cannot step into the battle ground ill-equipped and without sufficient preparation, you also cannot hit the rink unprepared. Preparation here refers to a proper meal that can keep your legs under you when overtime rolls around. Carbohydrates keep you active, proteins do the muscle building, and your stamina comes from burning fats within the body.
In the absence of the above nutrients, you can do anything except play ice hockey at the elite level. This exhausting training and exercise is possible only if you have filled your stomach at least a couple of hours prior to the game. However, this pre-game meal should also stick to the recommended quantity and ingredients of the appropriate meal.
You must not eat a meal when there are less than 2 hours remaining to a game. It is because food requires time to digest. 2-3 hours’ time is enough for food to break down into pieces and leave your stomach so that you don’t feel drowsy or inactive during the game or training. The recommended ratio at this point in time is 70/30, for carbohydrates and proteins respectively.
Moving on, it is wise to drink lots of liquids during the training or game. Drink before you are dehydrated. The biggest sign of dehydration is the feeling of thirst. Therefore, drink water and fruit juice frequently throughout the day. Besides, sports drinks that are high in sugar content are required only when you are performing exceedingly strenuous workouts. However, for an amateur, sports drinks are not that crucial. Beginners and those in the early stages of their training can have sports drinks occasionally but not on a regular basis, because they may not be able to burn all those calories like advanced players do through excessive workouts.
At the end of the game, it’s time to recover. Now that you have burned lots of carbs and fats, refueling becomes necessary. Again, drink a sufficient amount of water to fill up what has been lost during the game or during your training session. You can also have chocolate milk an hour or two after the game which is packed with protein to satisfy your hunger.