VIERUMÄKI, Finland – The 2014 IIHF Women’s High Performance Camp is not just about playing but mostly about learning for the players and staff. Fitness, off-ice training, skating, anti-doping, team building and dynamics but also nutrition are among the class-room topics in Vierumäki.
“Nutrition for hockey players is bringing in the concept of sports nutrition which are good for any athletes. It has to do about the type of food their eating and how long to digest this food,” said dietitian Pearle Nerenberg.
“You want to teach kids about what’s in in each type of food and whether it’s going to give them energy for hockey and how long they have to wait once they eat the food before they play hockey and have the energy out of the food.”
In the classroom she shows the girls the “hockey plate”. That’s about a third of the plate with starch-oriented food such as pasta, potatoes, rice or bread, about a quarter protein-oriented food such das meet and the rest of roughly 40 per cent vegetables with all its vitamins. And she recommends to spread the meals throughout the day.
Whether the player is female or male doesn’t make a difference for her when it comes to the ratio.
“Males and females react to food pretty much the same way but the questions that I get are a little bit different from males to females although it’s slowly changing,” she said.
“It used to be a lot of girls asking about weight loss and boys asking about weight gain and I was really happy that the first question I got from a player at the camp was about weight gain – the good type of weight gain, muscle mass gain.”
Are there any gos or no gos for a hockey player?
“You have to look at the full diet for a hockey player. Good nutrition is never about one food and certainly not about supplementation. In hockey you often hear about carbohydrate food to gain energy, often it’s pasta but it could also be rice or bread or fruits,” Nerenberg said.
She also doesn’t totally exclude a steak or junk food.
“It depends when you have them. If you want to have a big steak and you’re about to play hockey in a couple of hours, that would be a no go. But you could have that for a treat at another point in the week such as a rest day. There’s nothing completely out of the table. It’s about balance in their diet so they don’t go crazy about being a perfect eater because it’s an impossible goal to achieve.”
And what if you get hungry just before a practice or game?
“If somebody needs a snack in the last minute there’s a list of quick-digestion, carbohydrate food one can eat close to playing hockey such as fruits,” she said. “We have apples, bananas and pretzels on the table in the players’ lounge.”
In her presentation she explained to the players about the different type of food and digestions. Fruits, juice or pretzels can take up to one hour to digest; yogurt, cereals, cheese and sport bars about two hours; pasta, rice, fish and cheese about three hours. If you eat heavier food like steaks, ice cream or fries or big portions of other food it may take four hours.
Where’s food there are also drinks – another area for learning for the girls.
“Hydration is huge in hockey because they sweat so much, especially goalies. I’ve seen as much as two litres of sweat loss,” said Nerenberg. “Hydration has to come back in so that the performance doesn’t get affected. It can be in the form of water or a sport drink.”
There are many branded sport drinks such as Isostar the players may have seen or bought. In the classroom they got to know how they can do a simple version themselves. Take a juice such as orange juice for the sugar and taste, dilute it with water to have the body absorb the sugar better and add sodium in the form of a small pinch of salt.
Nutrition is some of the theoretical lessons the future of women’s hockey – and our readers – will take home. Read tomorrow about fitness and training the referees.