Coach Nielsen's Ice Hockey Drills

Game Day Nutrition Part II


I was always told to "Carb" up the night before and during pre-game meal. Seemed good to me. I could crush all the French Fry’s, Coke, and chocolate bars I wanted in the name of creating an energy burst out on the ice. Not good. Lead me straight to the fat bike for 45 minutes after every practice in Juniors. Carbs can be complicated to figure out with the glycemic index, fiber, and cooking choices available. So what carbs do you want to eat and when? Here’s a little excerpt from the book 7 Pre-Game Habits of Pro Hockey Players.

Behind hydration, complex carbohydrates are next in critical importance for athletic performance. These are found only in products made from plants. If you’ve ever been on a hockey bus throughout Canada or the Midwestern US, then you’ve seen the fields of wheat, barley, beans, and others that go into producing complex carbs. Bread, pasta, cereals, grains, fruits, and vegetables contain complex carbohydrates rich in important micronutrients of vitamins, minerals and trace elements. In terms of athletic performance, carbs provide glucose for energy before and during performance. They also provide glucose for glycogen synthesis or energy storage for any future activity.


  • Athletes should strive to get 55-65% of their calories from carbs (20-25 cal per pound).
  • The best foods to choose are the ones least processed. In other words the fewest steps foods are removed from nature the better. Organic is a far better choice when available and the budget allows. 
  • Remember: Refining and processing grains reduces nutrient values and raises their glycemic index.
  • Look for 3g of fiber per serving or more on the label. If it DOESN’T have it, put it back and find something that does.

Digestion of Foods

Liquids as well as some foods get absorbed right away. Other foods are worked over by your intestinal track for hours before getting digested. If you want to feel light on your feet then eat the foods on the left side of the timeline below. If you want to feel sluggish and lethargic like you do after a Thanksgiving meal then eat the foods on the right side of the below timeline. Study this timeline and begin to develop pre-game meals and snack plans for game day.

Digestion time line:

Shortest                                                          Longest       


Liquid fruits vegetables starches fats


  • The closer you get to game time means you eat items on the timeline’s left side. These foods and liquids require the shortest amount of time needed for absorption through the digestive system and excretion of excess waste.
  • It takes 1-4 hours for peristalsis to push food out of the stomach and into the first part of the small intestine. The foods on the right side of the timeline should be eaten 3-5 hours before the puck drops so enough time can elapse.

Game Day Hot Tip: Get back to grains, vegetables, and some fruit as your main source of energy versus the traditional steak and mounds of chicken pre-game meal. There’s more protein in some of the grains, fruits, and vegetables than you realize.

courtesy of Brett Henning

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