Football players eat plenty of healthful food, at least if they want to be at their best on game day. Although some players and coaches fall into the "bigger is better" camp, Pittsburgh Steelers consultant Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, says it's essential that football players eat the right foods in the right amounts. In her work with the Steelers, as well as with college and high school teams, Bonci emphasizes the performance benefits of good nutrition, such as improved quickness or increased stamina, something players can more easily relate to than calorie counting or proper nutrition in general.
Football players who work out in the summer might burn 700 to 1,000 calories during each session. They might burn 500 to 800 calories during an in-season practice. So they need to eat and drink well and often. Players are advised to eat five or six meals per day, which includes two or three snacks in between meals. A lineman might need to eat more than 4,500 calories per day to stay at optimal strength. And for two-a-day practices during the preseason, a football player might need to eat and drink around 10,000 calories to handle the grueling workouts.
A speedy wide receiver needs to eat differently than a 300-pound lineman. Under a sample diet plan formulated by college strength and fitness coach Bryce Karasiak, a wide receiver might eat about 3,400 calories per day as compared for 4,600 for a lineman. Karasiak lists specific foods with the amount of calories in his meal plans so players know exactly how many calories they are consuming. Instead of depriving college players of all fast foods and sweets, Karasiak recommends an occasional treat.
Types of Food
Sports nutritionist Bonci says many players eat too much fat and protein and not enough carbohydrates. She recommends a mix of 55 percent carbs, 30 percent fats and 15 percent protein. Or you can fill 1/3 of your plate with protein, 1/3 of your plate with starches such as rice or potatoes, and 1/3 of your plate with fruits and vegetables, then focus on carbs and small amounts of fats for your between meal snacks.
At training camp, you should drink enough fluids to restore any weight lost during two-a-day workouts. Drink water and sports drinks early and often to prevent dehydration and eat carbs to recover before the second session. At pregame meals, you want to eat low-fat foods because fats take longer to digest. Turkey subs, pasta, waffles, eggs and lean steak might be on the menu. Right after a game, it is essential to drink lots of water or sports drinks in order for you body to recover more quickly. Post-game meals might include steak or salmon because a higher fat content is OK after a game.