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. Luckily, making a nutrition plan before hitting the road can help athletes make better choices, which will result in them having energy to play strong all weekend, even in the last few minutes of the last game.

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

Focus on increasing carbohydrates on your plate, where about ½ of the plate is carbohydrate foods (pasta, potatoes/sweet potatoes, bread, whole grains like brown rice or oatmeal, whole grain cereal, corn, peas, beans, tortillas), ¼ of the plate is protein (turkey, chicken, beef, eggs, Greek yogurt, Tofu, tempeh, nuts, fish, etc.), and ¼ of the plate is vegetables and fresh fruit.

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.

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 convenience foods on the road. 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 your’re on the road. 

  • 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

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

Remember – carbohydrates 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 carbohydrates (bread, pasta, beans, potatoes, etc.) with a serving of protein (chicken, red meat, eggs, dairy, etc.).

Try to avoid high fat/fried (crispy/crunchy/fried/breaded meat options) foods – although temptations can arise when eating out on the road, keeping performance goals in mind can help you and teammates stay on track to order a healthy pre-tournament dinner.

  • Pasta with red sauce and chicken breast and a side salad
  • Burrito or burrito bowl with grilled chicken/steak, brown rice, grilled vegetables and avocado (Athletes can even order this when eating out!)
  • Deli turkey sandwich or sub with spinach, tomato – Go light on the mayo
  • Grilled chicken sandwich with an apple and yogurt
  • Rice and grilled salmon or chicken with vegetables

A healthy breakfast is vital to topping off energy stores to prepare you for a long day of games.

  • You can usually find healthy carbohydrate options at the hotel breakfast such as toast, oatmeal, cereal, whole fruit and juice. Pairing carbohydrates with protein, such as eggs, yogurt, milk, and peanut butter/nuts will help hold you over throughout your first game.

During the game, keep fast-digesting carbohydrates on hand to maintain energy levels. 

  • Drinking a sports drink and snacking on whole fruit, dried fruit, fruit snacks or energy chews, fig bars, and granola/energy bars during breaks helps keep energy levels high.
  • This gametime fuel helps make sure your fuel stores aren’t depleted too quickly, as depleted carbohydrate stores are hard to refuel and can result in low energy in the next game.

Immediately after each game is the refueling power hour, where athletes can make a big difference in their energy levels for their next game by eating a recovery snack and meal ASAP after the game ends.

  • Refuel fuel stores quickly with carbohydrates
  • Repair hard-working muscles with some protein
  • Rehydrate after losing water through sweat by drinking water/sports drinks

Eat a snack with carbohydrates and a bit of protein immediately post-workout, such as chocolate milk, and eat a regular balanced meal you know will sit well with your stomach that contains carbohydrate + protein, such as a sub sandwich meal as soon as possible after your game to give yourself enough time to digest before the 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 the Sports Dietitian at the Sanford Sports Science Institute by calling 605-312-7878 or e-mailing Elizabeth.Kuckuk@SanfordHealth.org to learn how to play strong all season long.