As you begin to understand how important it is for physical conditioning, you must also understand that these same principles apply to your eating habits too. Nutrition is the one component of an athletic program where most people are misinformed or misunderstood. Everywhere you turn, you hear or read about someone who had gained or lost 20 pounds in one week. This type of information is misleading and dangerous. As athletes, you must know facts about diet and dietary habits, in order to perform at your optimum level. You cannot run a high-performance racecar on kerosene. Excess weight in the form of fat reduces speed and endurance of any athlete.
Proper nutrition is extremely important for football players. Because football requires short bursts of energy, eating enough carbohydrates is critical. As an athlete, you are always looking for the edge over your opponent. Nutrition is that edge. It does not only impact strength, speed and stamina, but recovery as well. You, as athletes, are responsible for taking control. You must provide your body with optimal body fueling. A player who comes to practice without having eaten breakfast or lunch, or skimps on fluid intake during hot summer practices, is not going to reach his full potential – which ultimately affects the performance of the team as a whole.
Carbs are the Key
Football is a stop-and-go sport with short burst of intense effort, followed by rest. Therefore, the primary fuel substrate for football is carbohydrates. An ideal diet for football players requires 55 to 60 percent of their daily caloric intake to come from carbohydrates, 15 percent from protein and 30 percent from fat. Simply stated, your diet should be 2/3 carbohydrates and 1/3 protein, with an emphasis on moderate fat. Carbohydrates-containing foods with lower fat should be emphasized: bagels over doughnuts, mashed potatoes over fries, grilled chicken over fried, frozen yogurt over ice cream. Upping the amount of carbohydrates in your diet will provide you with more available energy during practice and games. Less fried foods often decrease the chance of an upset stomach, which may also boost performance.
During Two-a-days/Pre-season, carbohydrates must be the main fuel source. Players will not recover in time for the next practice unless carbohydrate intakes are adequate. Watch your protein intake. While protein is needed in an athlete’s diet to build and maintain muscle mass, excess protein consumption will be stored as fat and may dehydrate the body. For example, turkey and cheese roll-ups, fruit, vegetables, Gatorade bars etc, are good food choices.
Post Game/Lift Snack
For optimal recovery after competition/practice or lifting, you need to consume a protein-carbohydrate mix. The snack should contain 6 grams of protein and 35 grams of carbohydrates. Suggestions include peanut butter crackers, trail mix, yogurt with cereal, a bagel with cream cheese or peanut butter, or a sports bar containing the right proportion. This snack should be consumed within 30 minutes after competition/practice or lifting for optimal benefit.
The primary goal for providing athletes with a pre-game meal is to fuel the body for competition. The best strategy is to choose lower-fat foods. Fats take longer to digest, so high-fat meals can leave the athlete with a full, heavy stomach and not enough energy to perform at his best. When planning a pre-game meal early in the day try to avoid foods such as, fried meats, fried potatoes, bacon, and sausage. Instead, choose foods that favor leaner protein and carbohydrates such as bread, cereal, and toast. For afternoon/evening games choose grilled, baked, or broiled meats, tomato instead of cream sauce, low-fat milk, and baked or broiled, instead of fried, potatoes.
Before you sit down for a meal, you should begin by replenishing your fluids and carbohydrates immediately following the game/lifting … sports drinks, sports bars (containing the proper nutritional ratio), or fruit. This is usually the hungriest time for the players.
When it comes to weight loss or weight gain, you must do it in small increments. In order to add Lean Muscle Mass and discard Fat Mass you must combine a proper nutritional plan and strength training program. By adding or subtracting the extra 500 to 1000 calories you are allowing your body to change it’s composition.
Tips for Weight Loss
To gain 1 to 2 pounds per week, you must add 500 to 1000 calories per day to equal 3,500 extra calories a week. Simply put: you must take in more calories than you burn off!
Eating on the Run
Watch the caffeine – It lowers blood sugar and can make your hungrier. It is also a diuretic and can be dehydrating.
Fluid & Nutrition
It is well accepted that fluids and nutrition play a vital role in football performance, and that a player's requirements are different to that of non football players.
Optimizing fluid intake and nutrition leads to better health and higher standards of performance. This section addresses and provides guidelines for the key topics concerning a fluid plan, nutrition plan, fuel for performance, the importance of protein, good and bad fats, supplements, and pre- and postmatch food intake.
During training and playing, the body controls its temperature by losing fluids, and failing to replace those fluids is a major problem. Excessive fluid loss reduces your endurance capacity, power, and concentration and increases reaction time. Losing more than 2 percent of your body weight in sweat is detrimental to performance and health.
Hyperhydrating-raising your body's fluid level above the normal rate-counteracts and reduces the negative effects of fluid loss during games and training.
A practical way to monitor sweat loss is to weigh yourself before and after exercise. Each pound of weight lost equals one pint of fluid, and each kilogram equals one and a half liters. These losses should be replaced as soon as possible by drinking water and sports drinks.
Once you have established your typical sweat loss, you do not need to weigh yourself every time. Practice your fluid plan during the week, particularly for heavy training sessions, and get used to drinking during training. It is advisable to avoid caffeine and alcohol as they can increase fluid loss.
Intensive training and competing place heavy demands on glycogen stores. As these stores are depleted, fatigue occurs and performance drops until players "hit the wall" and run out entirely. Players can avoid emptying their glycogen tank by basing their carbohydrate intake on their body weight and activity levels. See fluid plan for more information.
Football players require a greater intake of protein than sedentary people do because protein builds muscle and helps to repair muscle damaged during contact or weight training. Protein is also an energy source, although that is not its primary role. It can be burned as a backup fuel to produce energy when glycogen levels are in short supply-like the crucial last 10 minutes of a tough game.
Similar to that for carbohydrates, protein intake should be regulated according to body weight and the amounts of strength, power, and contact training in the program. Players who want to increase or maintain muscle mass while following a demanding conditioning program require up to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight in their diet each day. Because it's difficult to take in enough meat, dairy products, and other protein-rich foods to meet that requirement in a day, many players use protein drinks (whey protein powder mixed with nonfat or low-fat milk or water) to help them reach this level of intake.
The different types of carbohydrates vary in their rates of absorption, digestion, and influence on blood sugar levels. A food's glycemic index (GI) is used to describe the rate at which the food raises blood glucose levels. High-GI foods, such as white bread and honey, rapidly increase blood sugar and trigger the production of large amounts of insulin to counteract the rise. Low-GI carbohydrates, such as apples, porridge, oats, and lentils, have a slower rate of sugar absorption and therefore produce less insulin. Low-GI-carbohydrate-rich foods are more appropriate sources of energy for fueling training and competition, and they reduce the likelihood of carbohydrate intake increasing body fat amounts.