In the NHL, striking a balance between conditioning and dietary habits can come as a challenge. However, it’s come naturally for the Washington Capitals.
While every individual has a different mentality toward nutrition, many players try to maintain a healthy diet, going by the golden saying of “you are what you eat.”
“To feel good, obviously, you got to eat right,” Andre Burakovsky said. “You can’t just go have fast food or whatever a day before a game. You’ve got to plan your meals every day... I think food and rest are the two most important things for us.”
During the course of the season, it can be difficult to monitor food intake in correspondence with exercise. Although it’s vital to eat right and stay in shape, that can translate to dropping too much late, and also interfere with building muscles and adding fat back.
“Personally, I don’t think you have to be putting all the best stuff in your body; you can have some days you can treat yourself a bit with all the calories we burn,” Chandler Stephenson said.
“Everybody gets so lean, and everybody’s different, but you lose anywhere from 15 to  pounds from training camp to kind of where we are now.”
The Capitals are able to benefit from healthy pre-game meals that a number of players look forward to, which consists of chicken and pasta. However, there’s also more that goes into their diets, including what to eat on after games, before practices and on off days.
Burakovsky said he’s been trying to eat a bit lighter than he used to before games, as eating heavier can sometimes change how he feels on the ice and how much weight he drops during a game. So, for him, a lot of his diet consists of protein and vegetables.
“I eat a lot of fish, chicken, steak. When it’s game day, I try to eat a lot of salad and then some sweet potatoes and salmon and try to stay a little bit light,” Burakovsky said.
Dmitrij Jaskin maintains a strict diet, opting for healthy foods like chicken noodle soup, pasta and steak and chicken. He avoids fats and junk food as much as he can, saying that he feels poorly after eating something that’s not good for him. However, the Russian winger does enjoy candy, especially M&Ms.
Then again, when it comes to staying healthy, it can be hard to avoid guilty pleasures. Stephenson said he tries to stay away from red meat, but that it’s not always necessary to eat healthy every single day, and that on off days, it’s okay to cave a bit.
“An important thing is you can have those things, but it just kind of depends,” Stephenson said. “You wouldn’t have it before a game or in between games. Going into the day off, that’s when guys will tend to have it just to enjoy it.”
During the summer, the 24-year-old finds it difficult to avoid ice cream places, opting for bubblegum or cotton candy flavors. He’s also a fan of Krispy Kreme, Cinnabon and Auntie Anne’s.
In addition to desserts, Stephenson is usually good about avoiding a 24/7 McDonald’s that’s in his apartment building, but it doesn’t come easy. So occasionally, he admits that he treat himself to the occasional McFlurry, Big Mac and fries. He strays away from nuggets, being deterred after watching a video on how they’re made.
Stephenson did admit though that location and proximity to the nation’s capital greatly helps when it comes to eating healthy.
“D.C. is one of the best places I’ve ever been. There’s obviously not just fast food; they have a lot of good restaurants where you can get good quality food. That’s obviously a huge plus and makes things easier so you’re not always feeling guilty or indulging.”
Burakovsky’s treat day usually consists of burgers, saying his go-to places are Citizen Burger (he likes to eat organic) and All About Burger in Clarendon, as well as a few other hot spots in Pentagon City. He’s not a fan of pizza.
Overall, Washington’s players usually maintain a nutritious diet over the year, but that doesn’t mean they always stay away from the occasional scoop of ice cream or cookie.
“I mean, you got to treat yourself once in a while,” Burakovsky said. “If you’re just going to eat healthy all the time, it’s going to suck in the end.”