How NFL Prospects Fuel to Perform Their Best at the Combine

Nick Winkelman of EXOS explains how his NFL Combine athletes use nutrition strategies to maximize their performance gains.

How NFL Prospects Fuel

"I say this joking around to my athletes, but I'm being dead serious. I believe nutrition is oftentimes the most important speed coach that we have," says Nick Winkelman, director of training systems and education at EXOS (formerly Athletes' Performance).

Most of us that understand nutrition plays a critical role in sports training and performance, but we still often take it for granted. Winkelman and his team at EXOS make nutrition a priority for their Combine athletes, because it can determine the outcome of their training, and ultimately, their performance at the Combine.

They assess the athletes before they begin their training program. Each athlete is given a set of goals based on his body composition. Some may need to lose or gain weight, but each player should improve his strength, speed and power.

But these goals often interfere with each other. "If you're not eating enough, you may lose body fat but won't have enough energy to get bigger, faster and stronger," Winkelman says. "So you have to find a find a balance."

You may not be training for the NFL Combine, but that doesn't excuse you from focusing on your nutrition. "You need to look at your nutritional system the same way you look at your training system," states Winkelman. "The concept of wasting your workout is profound when a nutritional system isn't in place."

Here's an example of how EXOS approaches nutrition for its Combine athletes, along with a sample post-workout recovery recipe.

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Meal Schedule

Each athlete is provided five meals per day: breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks. If the goal is to gain weight, another snack is provided before bed.


Before their workouts, all athletes consume Abbott's EAS Muscle Armor. It includes HMB—a muscle-preserving nutritional supplement. Those looking to gain weight also take creatine.


Athletes attempting to maintain or lose weight and who work out for less than an hour consume only water. If the workout exceed one hour, or they're attempting to gain weight, they have a drink with carbohydrate and electrolytes.

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Within 30 minutes of a workout, each athlete consumes a protein and carbohydrate drink designed specifically for his needs. For those losing or maintaining weight, the protein-to-carb ratio is 2:1. For gaining weight, it's 4:1.

Sample Shake

The following recipe is designed for a defensive tackle weighing 285 pounds at 15 percent body fat. He trains for 45 to 60 minutes per day, with a goal of maintaining his current body weight and composition.


  • Abbott's EAS Recovery Protein (vanilla) – 2 scoops
  • Abbott's EAS Whey Protein (vanilla) – 1.5 scoops
  • Banana – 1
  • Blueberries – ¾ cup

Total macronutrients: 90 grams of carbohydrate and 45 grams of protein for a 2:1 carb-to-protein ratio.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock