Football is one of the most physically demanding sports in the world, and players need to fuel their bodies appropriately for optimal performance. Diets with caloric intakes twice that of the average person are not uncommon during the most grueling training periods. The exact amount of calories a player needs depends on several factors, including weight goals. However, football players generally need to eat a lot more calories than the average person.
Metabolic equivalents are a measure of the amount of oxygen required to fuel the body during an activity. Activities with higher metabolic equivalents require more energy and, thus, more calories. Football is an extremely physically exerting sport, placing a high demand on the body to supply energy, repair tissue and replace depleted glycogen stores. Football has a metabolic equivalent of 6.0, making it six times as demanding as complete rest.
A player's energy requirements are influenced by basal metabolic rate, or the amount of energy his body needs to perform basic functions such as respiration and cardiac function. Age, sex, weight, physical activity and genetics all influence basal metabolic rate. In general, younger football players have higher rates than older; men have higher rates than women; and larger players such as offensive linemen have higher rates than smaller players such as quarterbacks or defensive backs.
While a typical adult needs about 1,800 to 2,200 calories a day, football players require quite a bit more. Football players need about 50 calories per 2.2 pounds (one kilogram) of body weight, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Therefore, a 407-pound NFL player such as the late Korey Stringer could need more than 9,000 calories. A 155-pound youth player, on the other hand, needs about 3,500 calories.
Healthy adults need about 50 to 100 grams of carbohydrates each day, and about 45 to 65 percent of total caloric intake should come from carbohydrates. Football players, however, are at an increased need for carbohydrates due to the need to refuel muscle glycogen. About five to six grams of carbohydrates per 2.2 pounds of body weight is required for football, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
About 20 to 35 percent of the diet should come from fat sources, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Fat is a source of energy, and high-fat diets of about 35 percent of total caloric intake have been shown to improve performance and increase energy levels. While a diet extremely high in fat can be associated with cardiovascular disease, football players expend so many calories that this is not a concern, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
Healthy adults need about 0.8 grams of protein per 2.2 pounds of body weight, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Football players need about twice this amount of protein to help repair damaged tissue and promote growth of new tissue. Football players should consume about 1.5 to 2.0 grams of protein per 2.2 pounds of body weight. Furthermore, protein should comprise at least 10 to 15 percent of total caloric intake.
- Training & Conditioning: Fueling for Football
- Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning; Thomas R. Baechle, et al.
- Resources for the Personal Trainer; American College of Sports Medicine
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Protein and the Athlete – How Much Do You Need?
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Sports Nutrition for Teens