Hockey is an amazing sport which contributes to all aspects of fitness from strength to endurance and every where in between. Whether you are a long time player who has packed a few pounds on, or a new player looking to get better and drop some weight at the same time, this is the ultimate article for you!
An obvious disclaimer before we get going is that we at Going Bar Down are not doctors or dietitians. We are however Hockey Players that have lived and done what we are suggesting below and have had great results. If you are not in peak health and anything below might pose a risk, make sure you consult a physician first!
For the majority of this article I am going to assume the reader has finished playing competitive hockey and is playing recreational / beer league. If you are playing competitive and are on the ice 4-6 days a week and still need to lose weight, this can likely be managed by simply dropping your calories a little bit, or not eating closer to bed, and obviously watching nutrition in the off season. However i would caution getting too extreme as you really need that energy to play hockey nearly every day!
We will go over how to best use Hockey for weight loss, what is reasonable to expect for results, and we will drop an off ice example workout for you to follow as well to help in your journey! If you are looking to gain muscle and strength instead of lose weight, be sure to check out our hockey strength training program article to put you on the right path!
Weight Loss Strategies
First things first – You probably know this deep down but I’m going to say it. The easiest and most effective performance enhancer for your hockey game is to not carry around excess weight. Excess fat will contribute almost nothing to your game (not even to hitting, muscle is a better replacement), and will slow you down and contribute to fatigue game in and game out.
All the rage around weight loss these days has to do with High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT as it will be referred to from here on out. HIIT workouts are built around the premise of short periods of time of max or near max exertion, followed by a longer period of rest. Depending on your goal, work/rest ratios may be 1:1 all the way up to 1:4. Here is the most simple HIIT workout example we can give –
Sprint for 15-30 seconds (80-90% of max)
Walk for 45-90 seconds
Repeat as many times to reach roughly ~20 minutes total time
For professional and high level players, they usually see 12-18 minutes of ice per game (with the exception of elite defenseman playing 20 minutes plus), with the remainder being rest. That equates to a somewhere around a 1:4 work/rest ratio which is more on the spectrum of performance enhancing or speed training HIIT workouts!
For recreational players, depending on your league you usually have 15-25 minutes of ice time during 40-50 minutes game lengths. In all likeliness you will fall somewhere around a 1:2 work / rest ratio which is closer to the fat loss side of things.
So knowing that each hockey game you play you are doing what is widely considered today as the best format of weight loss exercise, what is the other variable we need to look at in this equation? I think you already know the answer…. NUTRITION! If you are trying to lose weight, assuming your hormones are decently balanced, you need two things to really kick start your weight loss – A calorie deficit, and nutrient macro (carbs, fats, protein) tracking.
Hockey Nutrition for Weight Loss
We will go over a few different subjects since we can’t explain everything there is to know in this article let alone one topic! We will touch on eating suggestions around the hockey game, eating outside of hockey, and caloric deficits for weight loss.
Caloric Deficit For Weight Loss
Our first note is that the one thing that is Critical for weight loss is a caloric deficit. This means you calculate your total maintenance calories, use this free online calculator –
Once you have calculated your maintenance calories, try to follow this guide –
Game Days – Eat 90% of your maintenance calories
Non Game Days – Eat 75% of your maintenance calories
So for a 200lb athlete, 40 years old, with a sedentary job, this equates to roughly 2200 maintenance calories, so 1980 calories on game days, and 1650 calories on off days.
This is a starting point, and by no means a hard and fast rule. Listen to your body if things don’t feel right. Just know one thing – Feeling hungry is not a bad thing and normally goes hand in hand with weight loss!
Why You Need Carbs In Hockey
Hockey is a fast, high intensity sport that requires energy at the flip of a switch. Due to this reason there is no room for ketogenic diets when it comes to Hockey. We are going to dive into biology a little bit here so bare with us! There are three main energy systems the human body uses – (Skip down 3 paragraphs for what the point of this is)
Alactacid System – This energy system uses ATP and supplies 10-12 seconds of energy. This is a very important energy system in hockey due to the repetitive short sprints. It recovers in ~ 2 minutes. To compare to sprinting, this is your 100 to 200 sprint.
Lactic Acid System – This energy system is fueled by muscle and blood glucose, and provides energy for 2-3 minutes once the Alactacid system is depleted. You will know you are running out of energy from this system when your legs start burning and filling up with Lactic acid! To compare to sprinting, this is a 400 – 800 meter sprint. This system once totally depleted takes half an hour to a few hours to replenish, and requires carbohydrates, which it converts to glucose, and is stored as glycogen in muscles and the liver.
Aerobic System – You probably already guessed it, this is the long term energy system. Long distance runners, cyclists, triathletes etc. have elite level aerobic systems since this is the only one they use. This energy system can use glucose AND fat, which is why low carb eating is only suitable if this energy system is 100% of your sport, which isn’t hockey. This system is not important for your flat out speed at hockey, but if you find yourself out of energy and can’t recover near the end of games, this system likely needs training.
So what does this all mean? It means to perform to your best capabilities, you need to eat carbs and have your glucose stores fully topped up. So on game days, you should be eating lots of carbs to allow you to go as hard as possible and snipe a few bar down. What are some ideal carbs? Sweet potatoes, Regular potatoes, White rice, Quinoa to name a few. Avoid bread if you can simply for the fact that it is processed and an inferior food compared to what we just listed.
A Basic Diet Plan For Weight Loss
If you are playing Hockey 1-2 times a week and are trying to lose weight, here are some basic macro nutrient starting points to maintain muscle and start your fat loss journey. Some people call this ‘Carb Cycling’ but we like to look at it more as eating what your body needs to perform that day.
Protein – Every Day – 1g/lb body weight (200 pound person eats 200g P)
Why? This might seem like alot of protein, but if you are in a caloric deficit and trying to lose weight, this will help ensure you minimize muscle loss
Carbohydrates – Game Day – 50% of caloric intake from carbs
– Off Day – 20% of caloric intake from carbs
Why? On game days you want to be properly fueled to perform your best. On off days we are assuming you don’t have an extremely strenuous job, and you really don’t need those carbs. Even if you are working out, low carb is fine, and try to consume all your carbs around your workout.
Fats – Every day – Whatever calories left over
Why? Fats are no longer the demons they once were. Ketogenic (0 carb) diets will not work for Hockey players, and it is no more effective than eating a caloric deficit while eating carbs for weight loss.
But why do people find success with Keto then? When eating Keto it is much harder for many people to over eat. It basically helps them achieve their caloric deficit when you can’t combine refined carbs and fats in meals – You have just removed most hyper palatable and high calorie meals from your diet immediately! Pizza, Fast Food of almost any type, are now a no-no, and this helps people with their journey. Despite this, we at Going Bar Down recommend calorie control while keeping carbs in your diet.
Pre Game Meal Suggestion – On game days make sure to eat a meal of 40-80 grams of carbs with around 30 grams of protein 2-4 hours before so your game so you can fully digest and are ready to go at puck drop!
Dry land Training for Weight Loss
Non Game Day Training For Weight Loss
To really accelerate your weight loss, it is recommended you work out on off days as well. Not every day, as everyone needs rest, but a good starting point would be to do something active (Hockey or Workout) for 4 or 5 out of 7 days.
Remember based on our nutrition suggestions above, this is done on a low carb day, and it will really help if you consume your carbs around your workout window to put them to work for muscle building.
We have been talking about HIIT workouts throughout this entire article, and, you guessed it! We are going to suggest one again. We suggest this because
A) It will save you time in the gym, and we could all use more time!
B) It will torch fat which is our ultimate goal
C) It will mimic your energy system usage and therefore help your game!
Off Day HIIT Workout Example
Every 3 minutes x 5 rounds
Spin Bike / Assault Bike – 1 min as hard as you can
DB Lunges – 10 per side – 30 lb per hand (Increase or decrease based on strength
Rest 5 minutes after completing all 5 rounds
4 sets of
10 single leg deadlift (start at 25 lb dumbell go up or down based on strength)
Immediately into 30 air squats
Rest 2 minutes
Rest 5 minutes and if you are bagged call it, if you still have energy finish with –
1 minute rowing machine (Shoot for 10-15 calories)
Immediately into 15 push press (grab a barbell weighing 60-80lbs)
Repeat 4 times
That’s it! If you aren’t completely bagged after that, you are an absolute machine and I wish I was either gifted with your genetics or in as good of shape as you! If you aren’t familiar with some of these exercises, a quick google search will show you how to do them. You can break down that workout and swap in and out cardio machines / weights however you’d like. Sprinting, Assault Bike, Rowing, are some of the best options for cardio. For weights, shoot for exercises that use most of your bodies muscles. Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press, Rows, or Pull ups to name a few. These workouts should make you faster overall, but if you need that extra edge, check out our hockey skates reviews to find the lightest hockey skates to help your game.
When done with care and attention, losing weight while playing the great game of hockey can be enjoyable and successful! Unfortunately it is much harder to lose weight than to gain it (if you are one of the lucky few who has it the other way around, I am jealous!). Following our guide above should serve as a good starting point for anyone looking to drop a few pounds and improve their game. If you have dropped a significant amount of weight, this may affect the stick you should use. Consider consulting our stick guide to find the best low kick stick to help you go bar down more often. If you are looking to achieve more specific goals, send us an email as we are currently partnering with a premiere hockey training coach! We look forward to hearing to you, if you have any other comments or if this article helped you drop us a note below!