Youth Hockey Nutrition
Over my two decades working in pro hockey, I've seen how players at the professional level take care of themselves.
Gone are the days of snarfing down an entire pizza while guzzling down a case of beer following the game. Instead, they drink fancy shakes and eat bananas to "replenish".
Each morning, when they arrive for practice hours early, there's often a complimentary omelette bar with a vast assortment of low fat but high protein fillings to choose from.
That omelette bar is often still open following practice on non-game days for seconds, thirds, and yes, even fourths...
These guys eat well. And they eat a lot.
The teams ensure that they're well fed with the food that will help them perform at the highest level -- it totally makes sense.
(What doesn't make sense is that if you even see one of the players refrigerators, it usually has nothing but a bottle of kethcup and a Brita water filter in it. Oh, wait, that's cause the team feeds them most of the time...)
Further, if you've even been privvy to see the off-season guide players are provided with when their season ends, well, these guys take their diets and how they take care of their bodies very, very seriously even during the off-season.
It's filled with week-by-week workout routines as well as menus for what they should be eating with each meal all the way up until they return for training camp.
The don't take the summers off -- it's year round hockey on and off the ice.
That's how they got there and that's how they stay there.
But sizing it all down to the youth level, as parents, are we providing the appropriately nutritious meals to our players that we should be?
From my personal experience, based on what my kids eat during the hockey season -- ABSOLUTELY NOT!
Let's keep it real here.
You can ask any family of a teammate my kids have played with and every single one of them will know that we eat Burger King...a lot.
As in, three or more times per week. At this point, it's safe to call it a weekly tradition.
The crap we eat is off the charts.
See, weekday ice time for kids under 10 years old is almost universally between 5:00 and 7:00pm.
Where I come from, that's dinner time.
Now, it's not realistic for most families to have a full blown chicken or pasta dinner at 3:00pm on a Tuesday in time for our little players to digest it enough to be skating by 5:00.
In fact, my kids aren't even off of the school bus by 3:00pm.
Instead, we scoop them up and immediately rush them to the rink with little more than some fruit snacks or cereal bars to tide them over.
By the time they're off the ice and showers are finished, it's already 8:00pm.
On this side of the pond, we tend not to dine that late...especially on a school night. It's just not that practical.
So the drive-thru on the way home from practice, more often than not, becomes the reality. I'm not proud of that.
It's like this weird paradox where we're giving our children the opportunity to become great athletes -- even the youth teams stress good nutrition and eating habits -- but then real life gets in the way and we undo it all by feeding them nothing but fast food.