Fueling for a Hockey Tournament

Athletes who are looking to gain a competitive edge for their next on-the-road tournament should take a closer look at the meals they’re eating. Traveling athletes often lose out on many of the advantages of playing at home, such as sleeping in their own beds and eating meals at home, and traveling for hours in a car or bus and eating fast food can be hard on the body. Making a nutrition plan before hitting the road can help athletes make better choices, resulting in them having energy to play strong all weekend.

Remember, nutrition is one part of training a player can control, so athletes should be trying to step up their nutrition game every day to gain a competitive edge over their opponents.

Several Days before the Tournament

Cutting back on hard exercise and getting plenty of rest in addition to eating high-quality foods and refilling your water bottle several times per day is a great strategy for showing up to a tournament weekend fully fueled, hydrated and ready to play strong.

What your plate should look like during tournament week:

  • ½ carbs (pasta, potatoes/sweet potatoes, bread, whole grains like brown rice or oatmeal, whole grain cereal, corn, peas, beans, tortillas)
  • ¼ protein (turkey, chicken, beef, eggs, Greek yogurt, Tofu, tempeh, nuts, fish, etc.)
  • ¼ vegetables/fresh fruit.

Tournament Weekend Tips for Athletes

Packing a bag of non-perishable travel snack staples is a great way to save money and avoid buying unhealthy foods on the road. Your bag could be filled with the following:

  • A large water bottle is essential
  • Bagels or bread
  • Dry cereal
  • Peanut butter
  • Trail mix/mixed nuts, dried fruit
  • Apples/oranges/bananas
  • Protein foods like jerky, tuna packets, and whey protein
  • Pretzels
  • Granola bars

You can also buy or restock these items at a grocery store once you get to your destination, but it’s always good to have options on hand while you’re on the road. 

Top off your fuel stores by eating a high-quality carb-rich meal the night before your first game.

Remember – carbs are the body’s main source of fuel during high-intensity exercise such as hockey, so this meal should be healthy and balanced by eating several servings of carbs (bread, pasta, beans, potatoes, etc.) with a serving of protein (chicken, red meat, eggs, dairy, etc.).

When eating out on the road, avoid high fat/fried foods. Keeping performance goals in mind can help you and teammates stay on track to order a healthy pre-tournament dinner.

Search the menu for options like these:

  • Pasta with red sauce, chicken breast and a side salad
  • Burrito/burrito bowl with grilled chicken/steak, brown rice, grilled vegetables and avocado
  • Deli turkey sandwich or sub with spinach, tomatoGo light on the mayo
  • Grilled chicken sandwich with an apple and yogurt
  • Rice and grilled salmon or chicken with vegetables

Eat a healthy breakfast

You can usually find healthy carb options at the hotel breakfast such as toast, oatmeal, cereal, whole fruit and juice. Pairing carbs with protein, such as eggs, yogurt, milk, and peanut butter/nuts will help hold you over throughout your first game. Eating this heathy breakfast is vital to topping off energy stores as you prepare for a long day of games.

During the game

Keeping fast digesting carbs on hand will help you maintain energy levels and make sure your fuel stores aren’t depleted too quickly. Depleted carb stores are hard to refuel and can result in low energy in the next game. Make sure you have these on the bench with you.

  • Sports drink
  • Whole fruit
  • Dried fruit
  • Fruit snacks
  • Energy chews
  • Fig bars
  • Granola/energy bars

Consuming these during breaks will help keep your energy levels high.

Post-game (refueling power hour)

Athletes need to eat a recovery snack and meal ASAP after the game ends.

  • Refuel (carbs)
  • Repair (protein)
  • Rehydrate (water/sports drinks)

Eat a snack with carbs and protein immediately post-game, such as chocolate milk. Then, eat a balanced meal you know will sit well with your stomach, such as a sub sandwich. Always be sure to give yourself enough time to digest before your next game.

Repeat this process for each game to ensure you’re ready to play strong for each tournament, all season long!

Do you want more guidance on what to eat to maximize performance this season? Make an appointment with Jason Dorman at the Sanford Sports Science Institute by calling (605) 312-7873 or emailing Jason.Dorman@sanfordhealth.org to learn how to play strong all season long.