What You Can Learn About Nutrition Planning From NFL Draft Prospects

Athletes can learn valuable nutrition lessons from prospects training for the NFL Combine.

The NFL Combine is one of the most important events for football players whose goal is to play professionally. Athletes train for weeks and sometimes months for the Combine. In an event of such magnitude, the smallest details matter. A few hundredths of a second or a fraction of an inch can make a big difference in a prospect's football future.

Even if you're not preparing for the Combine, you can learn important lessons from the athletes who train for it.

Nutrition and Body Composition

NFL Combine Training

At the NFL Combine, players' height, weight and percentage of body fat are measured. The body composition goals of an NFL prospect are different from those of someone getting ready for a bodybuilding show, and ideal composition is relative to each athlete's performance and position.

Important points applicable to all athletes are:

  • Your body composition should facilitate your ability to perform at your maximal level. Body fat percentage and lean body mass vary among individuals.
  • Different positions and sports typically have different ideal weight-to-body fat ranges. For example, the demands and responsibilities of a wide receiver differ from those of an offensive lineman. Following the rules from your group below, choose the right foods for football and watch your body composition change

NFL scouts typically categorize prospects into three groups—Fat Loss, Build Muscle and Maintenance.

Fat Loss Group

Athletes in this category are looking to lose fat for a variety of reasons, including to improve their speed or stamina. To lose fat you must be in a hypocaloric state, meaning you burn more energy than you take in. A good way to do this initially is to reduce calories by limiting your fat intake. You prefer to start by cutting fat because carbohydrates have such a dramatic impact on performance, and protein helps you maintain your muscle tissue. The goal is to lose fat, not muscle.

Build Muscle Group

Athletes in this category are looking to bulk up because they want to increase their strength level or are a bit undersized for their position. The goal is the opposite of the fat loss group. These athletes want to be in a hypercaloric state, meaning they take in more energy than they expend. Many athletes find it surprising, but the total number of additional calories they need to consume does not have to be dramatic. In many cases, all they need to do is add a nutrient-dense smoothie or snack to their daily diet. For athletes in this category, taking in more calories does not mean they can eat any type of food. "Junk food" is especially calorically dense and easy to overeat. The goal is to eat enough to gain muscle, not get fatter.


Given all the information about the other two categories, one would think that athletes in the maintenance group don't have to pay attention to anything. And for certain genetically blessed individuals, that may be the case. But in most instances, because of the grueling schedule athletes undertake when training intensely for the Combine, it's important to ensure they eat enough food to maintain their current body composition and adequately recover from training. This can be done with periodic weigh-ins and body fat measurements to ensure consistency. If an athlete begins to lose or gain too much weight, he might have to adopt the regimen of the fat loss or build muscle group.

Maximizing Performance With Supplements

The Endurance Benefits of Coffee

A favorite saying among sports nutritionists is that supplements don't beat a good diet. And though it is important to have a well-balanced diet and to consume quality food sources from all the macro nutrient groups, supplements can provide ergogenic effects. The right supplement stacking can benefit training and recovery which ultimately improves performance. It's important to know what to take, why you're taking it, and when you should supplement for maximal effect. Try supplement stacking with these items and watch how quickly you will feel and perform better.

Beta Alanine

  • Why: For improved endurance especially with lactic acid buffering. Beneficial for power endurance events and high intensity interval training.
  • When to take: Prior to your strength and conditioning training sessions.


  • Why: Compounds in coffee have been shown to improve exercise performance and boost metabolic rate. It can be helpful as a pre-workout fuel to train more intensely and to make your body more efficient at burning fat for energy (the less glycogen you burn during exercise, the more stamina you will have).
  • When: Drink coffee before early training sessions. Try to avoid drinking it in the afternoon, as it can impair the ability to sleep in some individuals.


  • Why: Creatine has been shown to increase exercise performance, especially with regard to strength and explosive power. In addition, it provides neuroprotective effects.
  • When: Take creative before strength and conditioning training sessions, especially before strength training or sprint training.

Fish Oil

  • Why: For improved joint health, neuroprotective effects, insulin sensitivity and cognitive performance. Fish oil can help you recover from intense training, build muscle while you lose body fat, and improve brain function for performance on skill/IQ tests.
  • When: Have a serving either with your meals or at the end of the day.

Greens Mix

  • Why: Vegetables are nature's multivitamin. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which allow you to recover better from the oxidative stress of training and provide essential micro nutrients that impact performance. Unfortunately, most of us do not consume enough vegetables. A greens mix delivers a good number of servings in one dose.
  • When: Take as a smoothie mix either early in the morning or before bed. Use as an insurance policy to make sure you get enough vegetable servings in a day.

Maximizing Workout Results With Periworkout Nutrition

Healthy Dinner

Periworkout nutrition is what you eat before, during and after a workout. It is of critical importance for football players preparing for the Combine. But athletes of all sports can learn from an emphasis on periworkout nutrition, especially if they have multiple intense training sessions in the same week or even day. When athletes have intense training regimens, they must properly fuel up before their workouts and consume the right foods after workouts so they can adequately recover for the next training session. Follow these periworkout nutrition lessons and watch your performance and recovery improve tremendously.

Pre-workout meal: Pick items you can digest quickly and easily. You don't want GI distress while training. Choose a meal with a good amount of starchy carbohydrates, like sweet potato, white rice, pumpkin, amaranth and pasta. Our bodies are efficient at using carbohydrates as a fuel source. It is the easiest macronutrient for our body to break down and use. Furthermore, when our glycogen stores get depleted, it's easier for us to fatigue during a workout. Make sure the meal has a good protein source to promote muscle protein synthesis and prevent muscle breakdown. Good choices include lean meats, poultry, fish, soy and eggs. Limit your fat intake. Healthy fats are beneficial to maintain balanced hormonal functions in our bodies, but they take longer to digest and should be consumed at other times during the day. Round out your pre-workout meal with a serving of vegetables to get a good amount of vitamins and minerals.

Intra-workout nutrition: Typically, consuming an adequate amount of water is sufficient during your workout. The exact amount varies based on individual sweat rates, hydration status entering the workout, and the climate where your workout is taking place. If your workout will exceed an hour, a carbohydrate-rich beverage and branched chain amino acids can be beneficial to restore muscle glycogen stores and keep muscle protein synthesis levels elevated.

Post-workout meal: Your post-workout meal is important, especially if you have several training sessions in the same day. As with the pre-workout meal, consume quality protein sources to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Consume fats in moderation, especially if you have another training session later in the day, as they take longer to digest. For carbohydrates, if you have another training session later in the day, choose starchy carbohydrates similar to the ones you consumed in your pre-workout meal. If you don't have another training session, choose carbohydrate sources that contain a good amount of fiber, like whole grains. Finally, round out your post-workout meal with fruit, which is a good source of antioxidants and contains water to help you re-hydrate after intense training.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock