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Nutrition Plan for Football

May 1, 2009 | Featured in the Summer 2009 Issue

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Eating is just as much a part of training as lifting, running and learning plays. Whether you're a quarterback or a lineman, you need to fuel adequately to train well, recover quickly and increase endurance. 

Specific nutrient requirements are based on your body size and position. What works for one player may not be the best strategy for someone else. But, all players can benefit from the following guidelines:

Organize the food on your plate into a peace sign. Break your plate into thirds, placing a protein in one third, a starch [rice, pasta, potato] in a second, and a fruit and/or vegetable in the last.

Consume at least three meals per day with snacks between. Try to eat every four hours. Your daily caloric total should range between 20 to 25 calories per pound of body weight.

Skipping breakfast is not an option, especially when you have early morning practice or lifting. If you’re not overly hungry, try a lighter alternative such as a milk shake, yogurt, cereal or fruit, or even a sports drink and sports bar.

Take breaks to rehydrate. Drink early and often to sustain performance. Consume fluids during training sessions, and follow these guidelines:

1. Gulp, don’t sip.
2. Swallow fluids; don’t spit.
3. Drink, don’t pour on your head.
4. Do not over drink. Don’t come to a training session with a gallon jug of water. Consume fluid as the guidelines suggest: 20 oz one hour before; and during, consume based on your sweat rate (see below).

Football is a game of strength, speed and stamina—so you need to eat enough carbohydrate to fuel your muscles and brain during activity. Every meal or snack should contain carbohydrate-rich foods, such as bread, bagels, tortillas, rice, pasta, quinoa, barley, potatoes, corn, fruit, vegetables, juice, crackers and pretzels. Likewise, you should also consume protein for muscle growth and a healthy immune system. Try eggs, jerky, nuts, peanut butter, baked beans, bean dip, chicken, turkey, beef, pork, fish/shellfish, tofu, low fat milk, yogurt and low fat cheeses. You can measure your daily protein intake using the following formulas:

Minimum grams: 0.6 x body weight [pounds]
Maximum grams: 0.9 x body weight [pounds]

Pre-, during and post-training guidelines

1 hour before

Drink 20 oz of a sports drink or water with a small amount of carbohydrate, such as a handful of pretzels or cereal or a granola bar Include some protein such as ¼ C nuts, a few pieces of jerky, an 8 oz low fat yogurt, or 12 oz of low fat chocolate milk

During

Drink enough fluid per hour based on your sweat rate, which you can determine with the formula below:

1. Weigh yourself before and after exercise. Try to weigh in wearing as little clothing as possible
2. Keep track of the number of ounces of fluid you consume during exercise
3. Subtract your post-exercise weight from your preexercise weight, then convert it to ounces [16 ounces to a pound, so if you lose 2 pounds during exercise, you have lost 32 ounces.]
4. To get your hourly sweat rate, add the number of ounces of fluid lost to the number of ounces of fluid consumed. Divide the sum by the number of hours you exercised

Example
Pre exercise weight = 190 pounds/ Post exercise weight = 187 pounds
Difference = 3 pounds [48 ounces]
Amount of fluid consumed during exercise = 20 ounces
Number of hours of practice = 2

48 + 20 = 68 ÷ 2 = 34 ounces of fluid required per hour

• Alternate between sports drink and water

15 minutes after

Replace sweat losses by drinking 24 ounces for every pound lost during practice. If you’re a salty sweater, consume a sports drinks and salty foods instead of sweet items. Try:

• A high carbohydrate sports bar with 300 to 400 calories
• A few pieces of jerky and a handful of pretzels
• A peanut butter sandwich
• 2 large handfuls of trail mix

Sample daily menu

Breakfast

2 eggs
2 slices whole-grain toast with butter or margarine
1 slice ham
12 oz low fat milk or 8 oz yogurt
8 oz juice
12 oz water

Lunch

Sandwich on a hoagie roll
5 slices lean meat [e.g., turkey, ham, lean roast beef or a packet of tuna]
1 slice cheese
1 piece fruit
Crackers, pretzels or baked chips [2 handfuls]
A granola bar or a low-fat muffin
12 oz water and 12 oz milk, juice or water

Dinner

8 to 10 oz lean meat, poultry or fish
2C pasta, rice or potatoes, with some fat added
2C vegetables (cooked or in a salad) with some fat added
1C light ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet, sorbet or pudding
12 oz milk or juice

Evening Snack

Sandwich made with whole-grain roll or bread, 4 slices turkey breast, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, pickles
20 oz water

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