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The Truth About Post-Game Recovery

12/01/2014, 5:00am PST
By Kelvin Cech

Part 9: how early is too early to start preparing for the next game?


Throughout the Minor Hockey Player’s Guide to In-Season Health and Nutrition, we’ve talked a lot about the need for preparation. 

We’ve talked about sleep and diet habits in the week leading up to a game.

We’ve talked about the importance of pre-game meals.

We’ve talked about the secrets of preparation when you don’t have time to prepare

What’s sometimes lost in the effort to keep an athlete’s body fuelled is the steps to take after a game or practice.

Because the truth is that post-game recovery is just as important as pre-game preparation. 

Nectar of the Gods = Foods of Replenishment

Repairing the body is pretty simple (unless you’re psychiatrist or a heart surgeon); fuel input equals energy output. So, preparing properly for a game means you’re going to use up all that fuel on your performance. If you don’t replenish that fuel quickly then your body will look for other sources of fuel, like the muscles.

Up to 24 hours after an activity, your body is still busy re-building muscle fibre and restoring carbohydrates. 

Fuelling up on high-carb foods such as smoothies and protein shakes will aid in the recovery process and prevent a loss of muscle mass. This is also a crucial time to rebuild weakened muscles and joints in order to avoid future injury.

Tip: eat a mini meal of 200 to 300 calories immediately followed by a 200 to 300 calorie shake

The Vicious Cycle of Dehydration

Kids don’t instinctively drink enough to replenish their fluid stores.

Poor hydration leads to fatigue which leads to poor performance, overheating and injury. If your eating habits before games and practices are sound but you’re still feeling exhausted, chances are you’re not drinking enough fluids immediately following activity. 

Athletes should be drinking plain ol’ water before, during and after a game or practice to keep their bodies firing at optimum levels

Hint: no, telling the coach to remind them to drink water doesn’t work. This needs to be a habit that’s instilled at home from an early age. When an athlete is thirsty, it’s already too late.

  • for activities under 60 minutes, water is sufficient

  • for longer activities, sport beverages that provide 6%-8% carbohydrates (sugars) can help replenish electrolyte stores

Hydration Tips

  • cool water absorbs body heat and empties the stomach at a faster rate which allows fluid to be absorbed into the body faster.

  • Before Activity: Athletes should drink 2 to 3 cups, 400-600 ml of fluid to be fully hydrated.

  • During Activity: Athletes should drink 1 cup, 150-350ml of fluid every 15-20 minutes

  • After Activity: Athletes should drink plenty fluids to replace water lost from sweating during exercise

Your Routine is Your Master

Athletes are creatures of habit. Hockey players in particular develop specific routines for getting their gear on, warming up before activity and preparing for an upcoming next game or practice. Developing a routine after activity can be tricky at first, but proper post-game replenishment is vital in lessening the detrimental effects of training.

Poor choices will return sluggish performances during the next activity, which is a cycle that’s difficult to break free of.

Start the re-build of your body immediately following activity. You’re going to need it again soon. 

photo credit: RLHyde via photopin cc

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