Nutrition for Hockey

You cannot maximise your performance without training hard. That is the first essential habit. 

The second essential habit is looking at food as a way to fuel your training. Proper nutrition is a habit that takes time to develop. Do not think of nutrition as just “eating”, think of nutrition the same way you think of a workout. Many mornings you may get up and not feel like doing your workout, but you would not skip the workout. Same goes for nutrition, many athletes tell me “I don’t feel hungry in the morning, so I don’t eat breakfast.” That is the say as skipping a workout in my opinion. When you eat you are ingesting the ingredients necessary to build and repair muscle, to replenish your energy stores and to maintain your immune system. You will be investing a lot of time and energy into your workouts, give a little extra effort to your nutrition plan to get the true rewards. 

Nutrition is often made more complex than it has to be, for healthy athletes proper nutrition is very simple. There is no magic shake or powder or capsule that will give you 21” biceps. You simply need to provide the proper building blocks. When you are training hard, your body wants to add muscle mass, but if you are not consistently ingesting the building blocks then you will fail to see the results. 

1. Eat smaller amounts more often: 

  1. You must eat every three hours this helps control blood sugar levels and keeps your body from going into starvation mode where lean muscle tissue becomes a source of energy; we really do not want this to happen. Even if you are trying to lose weight, you will still eat every three hours.

  1. Those who are trying to gain weight will eat six meals per day; those trying to lose weight will eat five meals. 

  1. When eating these smaller meals you must pay attention to portion sizes. Basically your protein portion will be about the size of your palm or a deck of cards. Your carbohydrate portion will be approximately the size of your fist. You can eat as many vegetables as you wish as long as they are not drenched in sauces or butter. 

  1. 2 - 3 of these meals will be “snacks” and may include meal replacement bars or shakes. 

2. Time your meals: 

  1. Everyone is busy, so you must plan ahead. Begin on Sunday by grilling some chicken, fi sh or lean red meat; this will help get you through the first part of the week. Then make a double batch of pasta or brown rice when cooking dinner and use this for lunch the next day. 

  1. By being prepared for your meals you will not be caught without some thing appropriate to eat. When you fail to plan your meals then you end up grabbing whatever is available i.e. junk. 

  1. You must be prepared to eat immediately before and/or following your workouts, this is a critical time to fuel your body. Due to their convenience, this is a time when meal replacement/protein shakes or bars may be the most useful. 

  1. Carbohydrates are the most important source of fuel for the body, but you do not want to overfill your tank (again adolescent athletes may need more carbohydrate s to keep up with their energy expenditure) . Eat the majority of your carbohydrates in the morning and afternoon as these are the times when you are most active. Later in the evening look toward more protein. 

3. Good Carbs vs ‘Bad’ Carbs

  1. When choosing carbs, we want to target the less refined sources. The glycemic index of a carbohydrate tells us how quickly it will raise our blood sugar. Glucose gets a score of 100; skim milk gets a score of 32. For the most part we want lower glycemic index sources as this helps control the insulin response or that sugar high followed by a crash. One exception is immediately following your workout you should choose a higher glycemic ind ex carbohydrate which will signal your cells to accept the building blocks that are being put into your system through your post workout meal.

  1. Watch out for some “Low Fat” or “Fat Free” products. When the manufacturers take out the fat they have to add something to make the food palatable, this often comes in the form of high - fructose corn syrup. This is found in countless products including pop, ketchup, granola bars etc. If high - fructose corn syrup is listed as the first or second ingredient on the nutrition label of a product (these are listed in the order of most to least volume on the label) then look for a different brand.

If you want some more advice about how to improve your on-ice performance or athleticism please reach out to me as I will gladly offer help - @coachcheema 


Flexibility refers to the ability to move body parts around a joint, through it’s full range of motion (RO.M.). Many exercise programs do not provide adequate flexibility, and run the risk of future injury. Flexibility can be improved through a systematic daily stretching routine, which should be done BEFORE and AFTER any workout or exercise bout. Flexibility exercises are designed to stretch certain muscles and reduce the likelihood of injury to the myo-tendon unit. Stretching before activity is essential for immediate gains in flexibility and safety, but the best time to stretch for long-term gains in flexibility is after games, practices and training sessions. Following activity, a muscle’s temperature is at its highest, allowing for easier stretching. Stretching after activity also reduces delayed muscle soreness and helps your muscles recover from exercise. 

A common myth holds that strength and lean muscle mass gains decrease flexibility. However, if a muscle is stretched on a regular basis gains in both areas can be achieved. A case in point is Shawn Antoski. At 246 pounds, he had the largest muscle mass on the Vancouver Canucks and was the second strongest player on the team. He was also the fastest and by far the most flexible-even more flexible than the goaltenders. Hockey Specific Flexibility Areas of the body of special concern to hockey players, when it comes to flexibility, are the hamstring and the lower back region. Skating is a bent leg activity and few players actually fully extend their rear leg when pushing off each stride and as a result the hamstrings are rarely stretched to their full length. If muscles are not used to their maximum length, they will shorten which over time will lead to back injuries or groin pulls. Increased flexibility at the hips, groin, hamstrings and thighs will not only prevent injury but will also improve skating speed and agility. 

Special preventive attention is needed in the lower back region because hockey players skate with a slight back flexion, which places demands on lower back strength and flexibility. Without specific preparation, the lower back will not withstand the continual isometric contraction of the back extensors in the skating position or the stressful twisting actions that occur during a game, such as a forceful truck rotation when shooting. Fighting through checks and warding off opponents also places a lot of stress on the lower back region. Remember these Stretching Points:

 1. Always warm-up a muscle for 5 to 10 minutes before stretching. Stretching a cold muscle can cause minor muscular damage and decrease flexibility. The warm-up increases the deep core muscle temperature, improving the muscle’s elasticity and lubricating the joint. DO NOT STRETCH COLD MUSCLES

 2. Isolate the muscle to be stretched with very strict technique. Do not “cheat” and alter the exercise slightly just to stretch farther.

 3. Move slowly and smoothly through the stretch. Fast movements will cause the muscle to contract (to protect itself). Receptors within your muscles where they attach to bones can sense the rate of lengthening. If the receptors sense a rapid lengthening, they will tell the muscle to contract, to protect itself from lengthening too fast.

 4. DO NOT OVER STRETCH – Most athletes try to stretch as far as possible, straining to move farther into the stretch. This may seem logical, but the receptors in your muscle and at the muscle tendon attachment also sense how far the muscle is being stretched. Straining a joint beyond its range of movement only causes the muscle to contract to protect itself from being stretched to far. Stretching across a contracted or tight muscle ultimately leads to the formation of inelastic scare tissue. You need to stretch a relaxed muscle, not a contracted muscle. Hold the stretch in a comfortable position. You should feel only a slight tension in the muscle, which should subside as you hold the position. If it does not subside, back off to a more relaxed position.

 5. Hold the stretch in a static position without bouncing or moving. Remember – stretching a muscle too quickly, bouncing or holding a stretch as far as you can go causes an involuntary muscle action, which tightens the very muscles you are trying to relax and stretch. 

6. Hold each stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds and optimally up to one minute. The longer you hold an easy stretch the more likely the muscle will relax and loosen. 

7. Inhale before you move into a stretch, exhale as you move into and through the stretch and then continue to breath normally and freely as you hold the stretch. If a stretched position inhibits your natural breathing pattern, you are not relaxed and are likely straining. Ease up until you can breathe naturally. Take full relaxed breaths, and NEVER HOLD YOUR BREATH. 

8. Progress to development stretching. The initial “easy stretch” is designed to help relax the muscle. If your muscle was comfortable during this stretch, you can move another half inch for a longer stretch. Move farther into the stretch until you again feel a slight tension. The tension should subside. If not, back off to a more comfortable position. Similar to the initial stretch, as you increase the range of motion (progressing deeper into the stretch), exhale slowly.

 9. Come out of each stretch as slowly and smoothly as you went into it.

 10. Stretch consistently. Regular daily stretching is needed for improvement.


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It’s important to note these fundamentals at an early age with everyone knowing where to be on the ice. You can be a great skilled player in practice but at the end of the day we are still playing this game and it hasn’t changed a whole lot from the basics.

I stress to the wingers that if the point man (offensive defensemen) heads to JFK and goes to England, they are going to England. This is so that at an early age (Mite, Squirt, Peewee) they understand the importance of defensive responsibility and also to teach them about 1-1 battles all over the ice.

After a few weeks of this we will look at transitions from how this turns to a break out opportunity when we regain possession. However, before overloading them with information it’s imperative that the students fully grasp this.