If you’re like most people, then you’ve probably been led to believe all your life that calories matter. And, to some degree, this is true. Take in more calories than your body burns/needs, and you will gain weight. Take in fewer, and you’ll lose. Take in just the right amount, and you’ll stay the same. All of these things are true, but none of this means that all calories are created equally, nutritionally speaking, especially when it comes to athletes.
The food that you eat and that you get your calories and, thus, your energy from matters. Think of it this way- would you feel just as satisfied eating a 100 calorie tablespoon of mayonnaise as you would a 100 calorie piece of chicken? Calories differ in terms of the satiation they offer, as well as in terms of overall nutritional content, effects on the body, hormone release triggered in the body, and digestion speed and efficacy.
This is especially true for athletes, especially young ones, who require all the energy, stamina, speed, and endurance possible from their calories. Thus, all people, but especially athletes, need to be making efforts to take in calories (aka food) that is nutrient dense, meaning full of not just empty calories but healthy, energy and endurance promoting calories.
Usually, unless the athlete in your life has a weight problem, there is no need to religiously count calories. Just eat the most filling, nutrient dense calories possible, and you should be just fine- better than fine even! You only need to count if your athlete is encountering weight gain or is at an unhealthy weight to start with. In these instances, you should count, with a main focus on health, to ensure your athlete isn’t getting too many calories for his age, height, and activity level; a simple online calorie calculator can help with this matter.
Overall, though,the bottom line is that calories count, but they don’t just count in number. They count in quality and in terms of the value they provide to the body, so keep these tips in mind as you nourish the young hockey player in your life.