recreational ice skating

by Andrea Sobieraj, MS, CSCS

What is nutrition?

Nutrition is getting the fuel (like gas in a car) to make your muscles move. We get our fuel from the foods we eat. The three main fuels are carbohydrates, fats and protein. When you eat a meal, your digestive system (your tummy) breaks down the food you have eaten into these main fuels.

From the digestive system, the fuels travel through your blood to the muscles you will use to skate. Your muscles take the fuel from the blood and bring them into a special part of the muscle cell called the mitochondria. Inside the mitochondria the fuels are broken down even more by cool chemical reactions to create ENERGY! (See Figure 1 below.)


When to eat? What to eat?

You want to make sure you provide your muscles with fuel (to make ENERGY) before you skate because when we skate the stomach does not work as fast. Eat meals three to four hours before skating.

During practice, it is wise to keep providing some fuel but at a smaller serving size than a meal. Foods or drinks with carbohydrates work best. Many foods and drinks designed for sports are good choices during exercise as they have carbohydrates that are easy for the stomach to break down.

Avoid proteins immediately before and during exercise. Drink water every 15 minutes during exercise, as this will keep the blood flowing better and getting those fuels to your muscles faster.

Once you have stopped skating, you need to get even more fuel to those muscles. This is important because during exercise muscles get some wear and tear, and they need extra fuel to get back to feeling well enough to skate again. After your skate time, as soon as you feel up to it, have a snack with carbohydrates and proteins. Some suggestions are chocolate milk, a sports bar with protein, peanut butter crackers, a banana or a handful of nuts.

Take-home points

Feed your body foods that you know do not upset your stomach. You will feel best if you eat foods on a regular schedule so your stomach learns how to anticipate and react.

Quick Quiz

A. Which is not a main fuel?

  1. Air
  2. Carbohydrates
  3. Fats
  4. Protein

B. A meal will provide the best energy for skating if eaten

  1. Eight hours before you skate
  2. Five minutes before your skate
  3. Three to four hours before you skate
  4. The day before you skate

C. Which fuel should generally be avoided during a skate session?

  1. Fats
  2. Carbohydrates
  3. Proteins
  4. All of the above

D. During skating it is best to drink water

  1. Every 15 minutes
  2. Never break for water during a skate session
  3. Every hour
  4. Every 30 minutes

E. A post-skate snack should include

  1. Carbohydrates and protein
  2. Fats and protein
  3. Carbohydrates only
  4. Protein only


Answers: A. 1, B. 3, C. 3, D. 1; E. 1

Coaches, parents and skaters: If you have a question that you would like to see addressed in “The Healthy Skater,” please send it to

Andrea Sobieraj teaches exercise physiology at Brown University. In addition, she is a skater, skating director at FMC Driscoll Arena in Fall River, Mass. and co-owner of VO2breathe, a metabolic fitness company. Read her articles on training and nutrition at vo2breathecom.

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