Nutrition Tips For Elite Youth Hockey Players

A fantastic & informative nutrition article submitted from my friend Dan over at HockeyTraining.com – EDITOR

Are you a health-conscious parent looking to provide your little athlete only with the best foods and drinks so that they can thrive on the ice, with their health, and in the classroom?

Welcome to the club, you’re one of many!

Towing the line of Youth Nutrition for hockey can be tricky business. You don’t want to be that parent who is overly strict and doesn’t allow their kid to enjoy themselves with their friends sometimes and go out for treats. But, at the same time there is just so much conflicting information out there regarding nutrition and they all seem to contradict each other, how do we know what’s best for our kid and what they should be eating on a regular basis?

Well, let me introduce myself here. My name is Dan Garner and I am a strength coach and nutrition specialist who specializes in the development of hockey performance. It’s my job to go through the scientific literature in these areas to make sure that what we do for our kids isn’t just an idea or belief, but is actually rooted within the data to have a known safety profile and known physiological effect (whether it be positive or negative) within the body.

My job is to take what we know from the research and be able to effectively apply that to my clientele, that’s a balancing act of turning the science into art. One thing I can tell you about the art of coaching is that you are best served introducing one thing at a time.

A complete redo of a youth athlete’s current diet and lifestyle is likely to receive resistance. But, changing one small thing is a winnable battle in the short and long term and will also help to build healthy habits early that will last a lifetime. So where do we start?

Drinking more water on a daily basis, kids on average just don’t drink enough water on a daily basis to optimize their hydration during all their playtime, recess, gym class, and hockey. The best way to have them drink more water is to take away some, or all of the juice. That’s right, fruit juices really don’t offer much in the way of health.

Fruit juices being a healthy addition to the diet is really a combination of sly marketing, an undying myth, and the incorrect association that fruit juice = real fruit.

The standard advice to have a couple servings of fruit per day has been around a long time, and for good reason too. Although evidence on fruit and vegetable intake in regards to the prevention of disease is largely epidemiological, some well-designed controlled trials do exist and an excellent review was conducted by Boeing et al in 2012 demonstrating strong evidence in favor of fruits and vegetables aiding in the prevention of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Chalk one up for the good guys.

Having this type of evidence leads people to understand that fruits are a healthy part of the diet, but the disassociation with the truth comes when you start claiming the same type of protection for fruit juices, the typical go-to for parents to try and give their kid something healthy. A fruit juice is not the same as a fruit.
First, you have to consider that the fruit juices and smoothies you buy at the store are almost completely full of added sugars that weren’t naturally found with the fruit itself. Some have as much, or even more sugar per serving than soda’s, which is completely unnecessary.

To give you some numbers, the Lille University of Health and Law conducted some research in 2012 analyzing 187 different fruit beverages, including juice, smoothies, fruits drinks (water + fruit juice), and fruit-flavored water (water that has fruit flavor, but no actual fruit juice. Another marketing trick). Long story short, 71% of smoothies, juice, and fruit-flavored water contain added sugar. Additionally, the smoothies only contained 44% juice, and the juice only contained 10.5% actual juice. Moreover, the juices do not contain the natural fiber that fruits contain which provide several health benefits. Also, that “100% Vitamin C!” serving is really not doing anything to override the absence of fiber and over abundance of sugar in these drinks. It’s a cost-benefit analysis here, and the cost outweighs the benefit.

In the end, drink your water and eat your fruit. The typical Youth Athlete would be looking anywhere from 4-8 glasses per day depending on activity level, 4 being your absolute minimum goal.

Check out more of my Youth Hockey Training articles over at HockeyTraining.com!

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