What Do You Eat Before a Hockey Game?

grilled chicken sandwich

Your performance in a hockey game may depend as much on what you ate before starting time as on how much you've trained. Eating poorly will impair you mentally and physically. A good balance of complex carbohydrates, protein, heart-healthy fats and fluid, however, will give you the opportunity to play to your potential. Plan on eating your pregame meal approximately two to four hours before play begins. Ask a sports nutritionist for help if you're having trouble developing an eating plan that works for you.

Fill Up on Carbohydrates

A rich carbohydrate source is an essential part of your pregame hockey meal. Carbohydrates provide your muscles with the energy they need for the sport's prolonged anaerobic demands. If your diet doesn't include enough foods to build up your carbohydrate stores several hours before a game, you may become prematurely fatigued. Have a whole-grain English muffin or bagel, whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain bread, cooked grains like brown rice or barley, trail mix or granola with your primary meal. As game time approaches, have fresh fruit or 100 percent orange juice for simple carbohydrates that can be quickly metabolized for energy.

Pick Lean Protein

Skip high-fat protein sources like pepperoni, bacon, ham, ground beef or fried foods like chicken. Instead, have low- or nonfat dairy products like yogurt or cheese, skinless chicken or turkey, cooked beans or legumes, tofu, fish, shellfish or lean cuts of beef or pork when you're fueling up before a hockey game. Getting enough protein will help sustain your energy level, says Sean Donellan, director of sports performance for the professional hockey team the New York Islanders.

Include Healthy Fats

Mono- and polyunsaturated fats should be included in your pregame meal routine. These include vegetable oils like canola or olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds or fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon. Avoid butter, lard and high-fat products like commercial dressings. Top salads with diced avocados, sprinkle steamed vegetables like green beans with toasted almonds or pecans or marinate poultry or seafood in an olive oil vinaigrette before grilling, roasting or broiling. Don't go overboard -- a little fat will help you feel full, but too much can slow your digestion and leave you feeling sluggish on the ice.

Drink Plenty of Fluid

If you don't drink enough fluid before a hockey game, it won't matter what you eat -- you'll be more likely to become dehydrated and your performance will suffer. According to the Colorado State University Extension, an athlete should consume at least 2 to 3 cups of water with his pregame meal, followed by 2 to 2 1/2 cups of water 2 hours before the game's start and another 2 cups half an hour before play. The water should be chilled, if at all possible, since colder fluids are absorbed faster than warm ones.

Sample Meals

Donellan suggests a variety of meals to eat before a hockey game: grilled chicken breast, whole-wheat pasta and steamed broccoli topped with marinara sauce; salmon with brown rice and vegetables; a whole-wheat wrap containing grilled vegetables and lean meat dressed with a vinaigrette. If your schedule only allows you to eat about an hour before the game, be sure to still work carbohydrates, protein and fat into the meal, just make it smaller. Granola, fruit and nuts mixed into yogurt or half an English muffin topped with tomato sauce and cheese are good choices.