Hockey Foods For Optimal Performance

Hockey Foods For Optimal Performance

Stanley Cup winner turned strength and conditioning coach Gary Roberts once said:

"You don't stay strong, stay fit, recover, stay healthy without eating properly.

The players who learn that at a younger age, have a better opportunity to be healthier and become a better athlete."

As inconceivable as it may sound, in 2022, there are still tons of hockey players (even in the NHL) who eat garbage.

With nutritionists and strength coaches at their beck and call 24/7/365, there's no excuse for an athlete to show up at camp rocking a skinny-fat dad bod – complete with the droopy pecs and squishy love handles. 

Yet, it's the sad reality.

So, in this article, I'll shine a light on which hockey foods you should eat and which to avoid if you want to build a lean, muscular body.

But first, let's start by answering two common nutrition questions...

How Many Calories Should A Hockey Player Eat?

Impossible to answer without knowing your age, body composition goal (gain muscle or lose fat), and how much physical activity you do.

Many of the undersized athletes I work with must cram down 4,000 calories per day to gain mass in the off-season. Some go beyond 5,000 calories.

But these are young athletes in their late teens or early-20s who train twice a day (gym + ice) to rev up their already lightning-fast metabolism.

Eating so much food as a men's rec league player with a 9-5 office job will only make you fat.

Unless you're restricting calories to shed body fat, a normal-sized adult hobby player will maintain their weight at around 2,500 calories.

If fat loss is your goal, this video shows you how to succeed:

What Should Hockey Players Avoid Eating?

There's a HUGE misconception that you need to pound down a ton of sugary carbs to fuel hockey performance.

I know pro players who chow cereal and bread for breakfast, eat chicken pasta for lunch and dinner, snack on muesli bars, and enjoy candy, chocolate, pastries on their cheat day.

No surprise, these guys are all fat or skinny-fat.

You have to earn your starches.

The leaner you are, and the more genetically predisposed you are to handling carbs, the more starches you can eat.

Except for small amounts of rice/couscous/yams/potatoes strategically placed in your pre- and post-game meal, skinny-fat dudes at 15% body fat have got NO business munching on cereal, bread, or sweets.

Which brings us to...

How To Whip Up A Healthy Hockey Breakfast

Based on the hundreds of diet consultation I've done with athletes over the years, a typical hockey breakfast includes:

1) Cereal or muesli with milk

2) Bread with cheese, ham, three slices of cucumber and tomato, orange juice

What's the problem – isn't that a healthy breakfast?

Hell nah!

It's the opposite of a nutritious meal:

Low in protein and healthy fat, but high in refined sugar.

So how do you turn this clusterfuck of a breakfast into a wholesome morning meal?

By building it around quality protein and fat sources while getting your carbs from vegetables, fruits, or berries. 

Eating processed carbs early in the day kills your productivity.

They cause the dreaded mid-morning "crash" – that tired feeling where you want to lie down and nap, but you have a meeting to attend, a report to finish. 

Unless you have an early game, avoid starchy carbs in the morning.

For specific healthy breakfast ideas, check out this video:

What Should A Hockey Player Eat For Lunch?

Same as at breakfast, stick to nutritious hockey foods and avoid all the processed, refined, unnatural junk.

Start by picking a quality protein source first. This can include:  

* Beef

* Chicken

* Lamb

* Turkey 

* Fish

* Eggs

Next, whip up a big salad – tomatoes, spinach, kale, olives, and other vegetables you dig.

Now your plate contains everything you need for a healthy lunch that carries you into the afternoon.

In a mass gaining phase, throw in some jasmine rice or couscous to go together with the beef/chicken/fish (or whatever protein source you choose).

If that alone doesn't curb your hunger, add a bowl of Greek yoghurt with fruits and/or nuts to your main meal for extra calories.

3 Excellent Hockey Food Ideas For Dinner

Since dinner often follows hockey practice or a gym workout, this is the right time to eat the majority of your starches for the day – if you are lean enough to handle them – to fill up your body's glycogen stores.

Great options include:

1) Steak with jasmine rice and salad

2) Chicken breast with potatoes and salad

3) Omelette with couscous and salad

I'm sure you can recognize the pattern:

Protein + vegetables with some fats and carbs.

For a low-carb meal during a fat loss phase, remove the starches. Stick to proteins, fats, and vegetables.

Game Day Food

Athletes often ask:

"What hockey foods should I eat on game day?"

Aside from minor tweaks (starchy carbs before/after game, extra smoothies/snacks to bump up your calorie intake for the day, drinking more water), you'll stick to the same meals as on practice or off days.

This video walks you through a full meal plan for maximal game day performance: 

What Is The Best Food To Eat Before A Hockey Game?

We have all heard of Sidney Crosby's pre-game PBJ sandwich he wolfs down two hours before puck drop. 

It gives him enough energy to perform at a high level over the next three periods.

Does this mean slathering two slices of bread with peanut butter and strawberry jam gives you the best odds of scoring a hat-trick when you lace up tonight?

Not necessarily.

Any meal that contains a decent amount of protein and carbs, and doesn't make you feel "heavy" will work.

A light sandwich, smoothie, Skyr and banana... all good picks for your pre-game meal.


While everyone thinks you build muscle and lose fat in the gym, the kitchen is where you truly sculpt an athletic physique that looks and performs the part.

The sooner you get a handle on proper sports nutrition – including which hockey foods to build your diet around, and which harmful ingredients to cut out for good – the faster your gains will come in the gym.

To transform into the strongest and fastest hockey player you can be, follow the workouts at:

Yunus Barisik

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Yunus Barisik

Yunus Barisik, CSCS, specializes in making hockey players strong, fast and explosive. He has trained 500+ hockey players at the junior, college and pro levels, including NHL Draft picks and World Champions. An accomplished author, Yunus has had articles published on top fitness and performance sites, including T Nation, STACK and Muscle & Strength. He also wrote Next Level Hockey Training, a comprehensive resource for ice hockey players on building athletic strength, size and power, while staying injury-free.

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