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Nutrition and hydration

01/02/2019, 1:30pm CST
By John Russo, Let's Play Hockey Columnist

Nutrition is a make/break item, just as important as good shooting and stickhandling.

Charlie Alward (Dr. Charlie) rolled out the nutrition/hydration concepts to the Upper Midwest High School Elite League boys (six teams) with meetings, handouts and correspondence to parents and players. The following letter went from Dr. Charlie to Elite League parents. I hope you (parents) will read it just as though it was mailed directly to you. It was written for all parents.


Dear Parent(s):

Have you ever had the feeling that your role in the hockey development of your son has significantly lessened over the years compared to those early years when you were involved with driving, skate tightening and a myriad of other duties? I sure did when my son got into high school hockey and other leagues. Yet, having done research on Elite League players and a high school team, I believe that there still is a very important role parents can play at this level. I have found that players lack a good understanding about nutrition, plus they are busy with their life inside and outside of hockey. Proper nutrition is not always high on their list and is often forgotten. This is where I believe parents can step in and provide guidance. The result will be that the player is stronger and has more stamina.

As you know, I previously sent a letter to your son in which there was a copy of the Golden Rules of Nutrition. These rules are short on explanation though pretty clear on directions for proper nutrition. I plan to give the background on these Rules in a discussion with players and parents in July. In the meantime, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me by e-mail at

Good Skating,
Dr. Charlie


Hopefully the letter will pique the interest of parents and players alike. The next letter has a little more direction in it – some things that will help players directly concerning nutrition. Again, nutrition is a make/break item, just as important as good shooting and stickhandling.

The second letter from Dr. Charlie was during the Elite League play.


Dear Parents:

I’ve had the opportunity to talk with several parents, coaches and scouts about nutrition. I came away enlightened and charged to provide more information about it. I learned that I need to give more examples about food choices. I was reminded that kids this age are often particular about certain foods. I was pleased to hear that both high school and college coaches emphasize good nutrition, as do the NHL scouts I talked to. So I think we are on the right track.

I believe every athlete playing in this league has designs on playing hockey beyond high school ... for some, well beyond. Certainly skill development is critical, but appropriate nutrition is extremely important as well. I have this analogy: Not eating right is like building a house, but only using 75 percent of the lumber. The builder can make the house look good from the outside, but is it the best it can be?

Not eating right is like the builder who cheated on the wood. Studies on hockey players have shown that those who eat right do truly skate faster, longer and have more endurance in the third period compared to those players who did not eat appropriately. It seems apparent that the athlete who pays as much attention to his nutrition as he does to his skills is more likely to maximize his goals.

Below are some specific suggestions that pertain to the Elite League schedule of multiple games on the same day. The concepts, however, can be applied to any game or practice situation.

1. Saturday and Sunday morning games.
a. The athlete needs to eat prior to game … his body is depleted from overnight “starvation.”
b. What and how much he eats depends upon how soon it is before the game. Also, it is apparent the athlete must learn what foods he can’t tolerate pre-game.
c. The focus should be primarily on good carbohydrates because they are easiest to digest and they are the fuel for muscles.
d. If he eats 1-2 hours before – goal is 200-400 calories. Example:
   1. Yogurt and banana
   2. Energy bar ratio of carbs to protein…3:1 or 4:1
   3. Granola bar
   4. Dried fruit
   5. Fruit smoothie
e. If he eats 2-4 hours before … 400-800 calories. Example:
   1. Oatmeal with nuts and raisins
   2. Bagel with peanut butter
   3. Dense cereal (Grape Nuts, Wheaties, Raisin Bran) and yogurt
   4. Pancakes with syrup
   5. Noodles, spaghetti … 1-2 cups

2. The hour immediately after the game is important … muscles easily assimilate protein and are efficient at absorbing carbohydrates. The athlete needs to carry this with him for after the game.
a. Sports drink (Muscle Milk) plus a protein bar
b. 2% chocolate milk

3. With two games on Saturday, the athlete then needs to go eat a typical lunch. Then prior to the evening’s game, he should follow the above recommendations for a pre-game meal.

Lastly, what about the athlete that has particular tastes? I am reminded of myself at that age ... my diet was much more limited than what it became in my adult years. I have a few suggestions that might help you expand this athlete’s dietary intake.

1. Take him grocery shopping with you. The fact that he selects certain foods assures you that he will eat them.

2. Give him choices … “Do you want ham or chicken in your sandwich?”

3. Have family meals if at all possible.

4. As parents, we need to model good eating practices.

5. Help him plan those eating episodes that are on the run … prepare tomorrow early AM’s breakfast the night before; provide a carton of Muscle Milk or chocolate milk for after the game.


This provides some pretty good information on proper eating. Notice that most of the pre-game meals are quality carbs, not protein. Protein is very important to growing and growing strong muscles, but quality carbs fuel the imminent game or practice.
I’m going to give you Dr. Charlie’s super duper high quality pancake recipe that I prepare myself for my grandkids. They love them.

Next time, we’ll have a further discussion about food groups (carbs, protein, fat – as well as fluids).


Dr. Charlie’s Pancakes
• Makes 40-50 pancakes, about 1/3 cup mix each.
• Each pancake is 7 grams protein, plus good carbs.

Contents—mix in bowl:
• 5 cups pancake mix
• 4 cups oatmeal (uncooked)
• 2 cups pecans – chopped
• 2 cups walnuts – chopped
• 3 scoops protein powder
• 7-8 large eggs
• Vanilla
• 2 cups corn (canned)
• 2 cups blueberries
• 2 bananas
• Add any other fruits or nuts that you want
• Mix with milk or almond milk
- You can add one or two breakfast sausages (adds considerable protein) with two cakes and freeze in sandwich bags. Microwave until hot.


John Russo’s Coaches Corner columns have been running continually in Let’s Play Hockey since 1986. He hails from Sault Ste Marie and is a former captain for the Wisconsin Badgers, now a long-time resident of Edina, Minn., the creator of the Upper Midwest High School Elite Leagues; a youth and high school coach for over 40 years; and the recipient of the prestigious Dave Peterson Award and Snooks Kelly Award (AHCA) for his contributions to the development of hockey in the United States. His most recent book, described as a “must read” for youth coaches, is available at


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