When it comes to fueling a football player there is unequivocally no one size fits all nutrition plan. Nutritional needs vary based not just on the individual but also the position they play. Nutrition plans must be individualized for each player based on their weight, height, body fat percentage, and position on the field. One thing all plans have in common is consistency. Choosing high quality foods and being consistent with a diet year-round provides a solid foundation helping players perform at their highest potential.
Carbohydrates: To Fuel
Athletes need carbohydrates, and plenty of them! Football players rely heavily on glycogen stores for energy. Carbohydrates are the go-to source of energy for intermittent sports, like football, where glycogen stores are often depleted during workouts and training. The amount and frequency required will vary based on the time of year (i.e., off-season, pre-season, etc.), the player’s specific goals, and their position.
Choosing a variety of whole grain breads, pasta, rice, potatoes, fruits and vegetables ensures these players are not only getting the carbs necessary to perform but essential vitamins, minerals and fiber, which have a slew of important functions. In particular, these help to decrease inflammation and support recovery. Carbohydrates in the form of sports drinks, gels and other similar products should be limited to game day and practice fueling and not in a players day-to-day eating routine.
Here’s what players should be reaching for:
Whole Grains: oatmeal, 100% whole wheat bread, whole wheat or corn tortillas, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and low sugar cereals containing at least 5g of protein per serving
Fruit: fresh whole fruit including apples, pears, bananas, melon, pineapple, cantaloupe
Non-starchy Vegetables: broccoli, spinach, peppers, zucchini, lettuce greens (the darker the better), squash, onions, cauliflower, mushrooms, tomatoes, carrots
Starchy Vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, corn, butternut squash
Beans and Legumes: kidney beans, black beans, white beans, lentils
Dairy: Greek yogurt, low-fat milk and chocolate milk
Players should avoid refined carbohydrates including white bread, cakes, candy, cookies, pies, high sugar cereals, sodas, and juices.
Hydration is Key
Dehydration is no joke and something football players need to take very seriously. Especially during pre-season and the very beginning of the season when temperatures are high and they’re wearing all that.