I used to eat a McChicken Meal everyday for lunch when I was in grade 7 & 8.
Not something I’m particularly proud of, but it’s the truth.
Ever since I stopped that habit cold turkey over 15 years ago, I’ve been a bit of a
“nutrition geek”. When I was in high school, I would go to the library and read books
on health and fitness all the time – and sports nutrition was one of my favorite topics.
And it still is today.
However, the difference between the nutrition information that was widely available
20 years ago in the library, and what is available today on the internet, is ‘night & day’.
It is really easy to get bogged down in the details. Seriously, between all the fad diet ads
that creep into our Facebook sidebars, and all the celebrity weight loss secrets we’re
subjected to when we watch TV or search for nutrition information on-line, it’s pretty
hard to figure out what is good information and what could hurt us.
Don’t get me wrong – there is a lot of great information out there and if you are
willing to make the time and effort, you can take your performance on the rink
(and in life in general) through the roof with the right focus on nutrition.
But today I want to keep it simple and give you the 2 best nutrition tips I know:
#1. Eat for what you’re doing next.
This makes so much sense, doesn’t it? You should always eat the right kind of fuel
for what you will be doing next. So if you get home late from a hockey game, do you
really need to eat a huge serving of pasta? Or half a pizza? Of course not. Because
all that you’re doing next is sleeping. You might have a healthy smoothie with some
extra protein to help your muscles recover from the game or a peanut butter and
banana sandwich on a healthy bread. But you definitely don’t need any fast food or
huge meals before going to bed.
The same principle applies with the pre-game meal. You definitely don’t want to
be eating a fat-filled or sugar-laden meal before hitting the ice. You need energy
that’s going to last throughout the game so you need complex carbohydrates,
some protein to help keep you full and keep your muscles strong and a little
bit of healthy fat too. If you want elite level performance out on the ice, you need
to put elite level fuel into your body.
This also explains why we always hear that breakfast is the most important meal of
the day. Although most of us don’t have hockey games or training early in the morning,
we need healthy fuel to kick-start the day and top up our energy for all the running
around we do in our lives. So we have to eat a healthy breakfast to get us going.
A stop at the drive-thru for some pre-packaged breakfast doesn’t cut it – especially if
it involves a donut, muffin or hash-browns. You need to take in healthy proteins,
carbohydrates and a little bit of fat to get your day started right. It could be as simple
as having a few scrambled eggs with a piece of fruit and an english muffin. You’re
eating for what you’re doing next – which is a facing a long day filled with school,
work, hockey and everything else life throws at you.
#2. Eat as many ’1 ingredient’ foods as you can.
This is another golden piece of nutrition advice I just heard recently. It’s pretty simple –
try to make as many of the foods you eat 1 ingredient foods. An apple has 1 ingredient.
Same for chicken, eggs, avocados, oatmeal (as long as it’s not from a little package with some
strange flavor blast in it), blueberries, water, cucumbers, etc etc etc. The shorter the ingredient
list for a food, the easier it is for your body to get the energy out of that
food so that you can use it out on the ice. How simple is that?
You can of course combine 1 ingredient foods in order to make a meal,
but you don’t want to have pre-packaged overly processed foods as the main
source of fuel in your body. For example, a typical granola bar you find
at your grocery store is going to have over 10 ingredients – and some have
closer to 20-30 ingredients. That’s a lot of ingredients for your body to
break down and try to convert to energy. I know that not all granola bars
are created equal (some are definitely healthier than others) but it’s not
the ideal source of fuel for your body.
I hope those simple tips make sense. Like I said above, this is best nutrition advice
I know and it is definitely something you should pass on to friends, teammates,
players and fellow parents & coaches who might benefit from the information.
And if you’d like to get started with a simple nutrition program to help you take your
athletic performance to the next level, just click on the link below:
Your friend and coach,
Kim McCullough, MSc, YCS
Director, Total Female Hockey
Girls Hockey Director, PEAC School For Elite Athletes