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Healthy Foods for Football Players

author image Syeda Sidrah
Syeda Sidrah has been writing since 2009. She has performed research combining areas of health and psychology, as well as worked with Baylor College of Medicine as a research assistant and fitness instructor. Sidrah obtained her Bachelor of Science in psychology with a double concentration in health promotion education and human nutrition from the University of Houston
Healthy Foods for Football Players
A balanced diet allows a football player to feel more energetic, leading to a successful play. Photo Credit: Paul Burns/Blend Images/Getty Images

Meeting your nutritional needs is an essential factor for successful performance in football. Due to the physical demands of the sport, in which a football player must play with short bursts of energy, you should eat a variety of carbohydrates and proteins to fuel your body. A healthy, low-fat diet that consists of a balance between carbohydrates and proteins will help you reach your full potential as a football player and lead your whole team to success.

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Daily Caloric Intake

Although caloric intake depends on your level of training and the position you play, generally speaking, you need to consume about 5,000 calories per day. However, some players may need up to 9,000 calories per day. According to the American Dietetic Association, you need to consume more than 2.7 g of carbohydrates per pound of body weight per day. During tough training sessions, your body may need between 3.6 and 4.5 g of carbs per pound of body weight per day. You also need to incorporate proteins into your daily diet. Consuming 0.6 to 0.8 g of protein per pound of body weight per day is essential. Although athletes must watch their fat intake, healthy fats are essential to keep your body functioning well. A daily intake of 0.45 g of fat per pound of body weight is important.


In football, the most important source of energy is carbohydrates. They provide your body with the quick energy it needs to perform short and fast bursts of motion. In fact, 55 to 60 percent of your total daily caloric intake should come from carbohydrates. Sources of carbohydrates include whole-grain breads, pastas and fruits. Leslie Bonci, nutrition consultant for the Pittsburgh Steelers, advises making low-fat carbohydrate choices. Her suggestions include choosing bagels over doughnuts and mashed potatoes instead of fries.


A football player’s nutritional needs are generally higher than those of the average population. You should obtain 15 to 20 percent of your daily caloric intake from protein-rich sources such as lean meat, poultry, fish and milk. Another source of protein is soy, which can satisfy your daily needs and support muscle development. Your diet should consist of a variety of protein sources during each meal, such as low-fat cheese, milk and yogurt along with fish, chicken, turkey and lean cuts of beef.


As a football player, your diet should include only moderate levels of fat, since it increases your chances of gastrointestinal issues. You are advised to consume 30 percent of your daily calories from healthy fat sources such as nuts, seeds and canola and olive oils.

Pre-Game Meals

Before a game, it is best to avoid fatty foods and focus on carbohydrate and protein consumption. Examples of pre-game meals include a turkey sub with fruit salad and yogurt; waffles with eggs, ham and fruit; or pasta with red meat sauce, salad and fruit. All of these will give you the energy required to perform successfully.

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