Lisa Dorfman, MS, RD, CSSD, LMHC, is the only dietitian to author two books about football nutrition. She has published Legally Lean, Vegetarian Sports Nutrition Guide; and Performance Nutrition for Tackling Stress.
Dorfman offers seven tips to offseason nutrition for football players.
Fuel before morning workouts. Many football players pull themselves out of bed to make it to a morning workout. Dorfman recognizes that it may be unrealistic for all athletes to eat a balanced meal before a morning lift or training session. She recommends that athletes-on-the-go drink at least 16 ounces of fluid – perhaps an endurance sports drink with carbohydrates. A box of dry cereal will also help provide energy.
Eat protein and carbohydrates after a workout. Dorfman recommends athletes eat six to eight ounces of protein after a workout, along with two baseballs worth of pasta, rice, or some other carbohydrate. Do not eat foods heavy in fat – such as McDonald’s breakfast – before or after a workout for risk of causing an upset stomach.
“Those foods take too long to digest, and they’re not the most nutritious,” Dorfman said.
Pack nut butter and jam sandwiches. These sandwiches are easy to make, and don’t spoil in heat as quickly as cold cuts. An athlete’s travel bag should also include a sports drink or water bottle, bananas, apples, oranges and breakfast bars.
Hydrate 24-7. Players should hydrate at night before bed and then first thing the next morning. Eighty percent of a player’s hydration comes from fluid, and 20 percent comes from food. Fruits and vegetables provide hydration. An athlete should also consume 3 to 10 liters of fluid per day, based on heat and body composition.
Drink the right fluids. Soda, sugary juices and coffee are not the types of fluids that provide optimal hydration. Players should drink water, sports drinks, coconut water, fortified juices, smoothies, milk, almond milk, soy milk or lactose-free milk. Athletes want to replace 1 ½ times the amount of weight they lose in fluid. So if a player drops 1 pound during practice, he should drink 16 to 20 ounces of water in addition to his regular water intake.
Do not replace meals with mass-gainers. Dorfman isn’t opposed to mass gainers, as long as they are consumed between meals rather than in place of meals. Players who are trying to gain weight often buy mass-gainers in order to increase their daily calorie intake – only to scale back on the calories in their regular meals. High school football players should eat between 4,000 to 6,000 calories per day. A sports-certified dietician can determine the right amount for a player based on a body count measurement. A player attempting to gain weight should add 350 to 500 calories to the daily recommendation.
Eat 4-6 small meals per day. The fueling process requires a 24-hour-a-day commitment for athletes in training. Don’t wait eight hours between meals. It’s better not to space out protein intake throughout the day with 5- to 8- ounce portions instead of one 18-ounce serving. Avoid chicken nuggets. They do not provide good weight – just water weight that will come off with exercise.
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