Nutrition and Athletic Performance

Posted on Friday, May 27, 2016 at 12:34 PM

The Link between Proper Diet and Athletic Performance

Earlier this week, Washington Capitals’ draft pick Thomas Di Pauli was visiting his mom Christina’s office at Bridgedale Academy. Christina of course is Bridgedale’s Academic Dean and teaches 7th grade English and Literature. 

Washington Capitals' draft pick Thomas Di PauliThomas, a recent graduate from the University of Notre Dame (where he was a four-year varsity hockey starter and alternate captain as a senior), had just completed a workout in the downstairs weight room and had stopped by to chat with his mom.

As they chatted, Thomas prepared himself a post-workout snack of hard-boiled eggs, ham, cheese, lettuce, blueberries and watermelon, which he promptly devoured.

I mention this because it is a great example of a serious athlete who understands and respects the important link between athletic performance and nutrition. 

Nutrition and Sports Generally

Nearly every professional and college team in every sport now makes proper nutrition an integral part of their training. Most either have a professional nutritionist/dietician on staff or the team’s head trainer consults with one on a regular basis. Both in season and during the off season, the athletes’ diets will be monitored. (Many colleges publish nutrition handbooks, including Bowling Green State University.)

A healthy diet is important for a youth hockey playerThe link between proper nutrition and athletic performance is indisputable.

It can literally be the difference between success and failure, between scoring the goal and not scoring the goal, between making a team and not making it. 

And therefore, today’s serious athletes dedicate themselves a) to understanding proper nutrition and b) to eating as well as they possibly can, with an eye toward maximizing their performance as athletes. 

To give you an idea of how seriously some professional hockey players regard their nutrition, one NHL strength and conditioning coach is quoted as saying “eating (properly) is a full-time job with some of these guys.” 

Nutrition for Youth Hockey Players

The internet is filled with articles discussing how eating the right foods at the right times helps guarantee that a young hockey player is well-prepared for the stresses and the physical and mental challenges of competitive hockey. 

What to eat and when to eat it are important to a youth hockey playerMany of the more scientific studies regard proper nutrition, both as to what is eaten and when, as one of the most important keys to competing well. 

Studies abound that it helps protect the body against fatigue, mental and physical, as well as against injury.

Proper Nutrition for Youth Players is Usually up to the Parents

While adult hockey players can generally be trusted to take responsibility for their own well-being when managing their diets, this is rarely true with youth hockey players.

Youngsters invariably depend on their parents to ensure they are eating the right foods at the right times relative to their athletic training. 

The good news is that there are many nutrition “guides” for hockey families that offer guidance in terms of the types of foods, and the timing of meals, that are best for the athlete to help guarantee optimum performance.

Here are a few articles that you should find valuable:

John Russo’s excellent article at

Kraft Canada’s article Nutrition Guide for Hockey Players, Parents & Coaches:

USA Hockey Magazine article from 2008-09:

For a more in-depth article from Today’s Dietician:


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