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A chicken and brocoli dinner.

What’s The Secret to Pre-Game Meals?

11/17/2014, 5:00am PST
By Kelvin Cech

Learn how to properly fuel up on game day.


I once had a teammate* who used to eat 2 cans of alphagetti before every game.

“An old trainer of mine said the pasta is Swedish,” he boasted, as though he had stumbled upon the greatest secret ever kept.

The truth of the matter was that this player once slept through a pre-game team meal, so he downed the sauced-drenched letters a couple hours before the game.

He scored a hat trick that night, by far his most potent offensive outburst of the season. And thus, a ritual was born.**

This is part 7 of the In-Season Guide to Hockey Nutrition & Wellness. Read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 6.

Mind The Digestive Process

One of the keys to pre-game meals is to pay attention to the body’s digestion habits. Digestion is slowed by a heightened emotional state, so eating heavy meals too close to a game, especially if it’s an important one, can cause a sluggish start. Heavy foods like steak can slow a player’s body and mind down, so it’s important to stick to a routine that works.

Here’s a few options for a light, digestible meal that’s high in carbohydrates and calories.

  • brown rice 
  • quinoa 
  • sweet potato  
  • fibrous fruit or vegetables 
  • lean protein chicken or salmon
  • fish

Daily Routine

One pre-game meal isn’t enough. As we’ve learned, a hockey player’s body requires sufficient energy stores to keep running at optimum levels late in a game or practice. I was told by a respected coach a few weeks ago that hockey players should only really be asked to practice at a fast pace for 35 - 40 minutes.

I don’t buy it. 

I think hockey players just don’t do a good enough job keeping themselves fuelled throughout the day. Eating healthy choices throughout the day will give an athlete the fuel he or she needs to perform for at least an hour.

Game Day Do’s:

  • re-fuel every 3 hours throughout the day to build up energy stores
  • eat high-carb meals because they are digested faster than fats or oils
  • fats and useless nutrients will sit in a young athlete’s belly and cause issues

Game Day Do Not’s:

  • eat hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries, chips, donuts and cheese shortly before activity
  • consume sugary foods such as pop and chocolate bars before games because the energy will wear off quickly and the crash is harsh


“Just pound a can of alphagetti an hour before warmup and you’re good to go.”

What a fool, that teammate of mine. Good thing I don’t have to listen to him anymore. 

Anyways, a serious hockey player at any age needs to eat a substantial meal 2-3 hours before a game. The best foods that are those that are easily tolerated by the digestive system and familiar.

Bananas, oatmeal muffins, whole grain crackers and pita bread are all foods that easy on the stomach and provide a slow-burning energy throughout the day and into the game. 

The Ultimate Pre-Game Diet Routine

Game day is a sacred ritual. Hockey players wake up with the game on their mind, they think about the game instead of concentrating in school and they race home to prepare.

Supplementing that routine with a full day of energy building will have gigantic effects on a player’s performance. 

Here’s an easy-to-follow game day diet.


  • cereal with banana, whole wheat toast, orange juice
  • poached eggs, toast and juice
  • breakfast cereal, low fat yogurt, toast with jam and juice
  • whole grain cereal


  • roast beef sandwich on whole-grain bun with tomato and lettuce 
  • applesauce, milk


  • spaghetti with tomato sauce, garden salad, low fat yogurt
  • chicken stir-fry with vegetables, fruit cup, low-fat milk


  • fresh fruit such as apples, pears or bananas, dried fruit or a fruit cup
  • grilled chicken, carrots, baked potato, fruit salad
  • healthier choices of granola bars

*Yes, the teammate is me.

*No, there was no ritual born, as I did this once and got incredible gut-rot on the bench before literally falling asleep on the bench in the 3rd period. And no, it was not because I played a lot.

photo credit: ...-Wink-... via photopin cc

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