6 Ways Football Players Can Improve Performance

Few, if any, post-game interviews have gained more attention than the one with Richard Sherman after the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC Championship (if you missed it, you can watch here). It was an extreme interview, but Sherman’s explosive energy is what gave his football team the edge – it was the difference between first and second place, but it did not come from training. That energy came from proper nutrition.

Football is a challenging sport that requires dedication, strength, and energy – both on and off the field. The importance of nutrition in sports is gaining attention, and top athletes, such as Richard Sherman, understand that their energy level and performance ultimately depend upon what they eat. Now, all football players want to know: What do top football players eat, and how can I take my game to the next level? While each football player has slightly different needs, the best players follow these six fueling principles.

They consume carbohydrates:

Carbohydrates, not proteins, are the main fuel source for all football players. They give them the energy needed to quickly move after the ball has been snapped – or, in Sherman’s case, jump to block the pass to help the Seahawks win the NFC Championship. Football players need to consume the right amounts, and types, of carbs if they want to play their best.

  • Whole grains provide the best, longest lasting fuel on a day-to-day basis. Some examples include: Whole wheat pasta, bread and bagels, brown rice, and quinoa. Click here for a full list of whole grains.

They build lean muscle:

Football players are known for being strong, and more muscle means more power. Proteins are the building blocks for muscle, making quality protein a staple in every football player’s diet. By increasing lean muscle mass, football players are better able to tackle opponents, run down the field, and hold their place in the line of defense.

  • It is best for football players to choose lean sources of protein. Some examples include: Lean beef (flank, loin, or ground), grilled or baked chicken and turkey breast, lean pork (pork chops, loin), eggs, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
  • If you’re unsure of how much protein you need,use this protein calculator from My Sports Dietitian to find out.

They achieve their ideal body composition:

Every football player has to look and play his part on the field. Depending on the position, a player’s body composition can dictate how well he performs. For example, a linebacker and a running back aren’t able to switch positions and still perform optimally due to their body types. Body composition isn’t just about weight either; it’s about the amount of fat mass and lean mass each player has – which is greatly influenced by what they eat.

  • This article reports on how important it is to monitor athletes’ body fat to help them optimize their athletic performance.

They eat right to reduce injury and promote recovery:

Given the nature of the sport, football players’ bodies take a beating. Proper nutrition helps to keep players on the field longer – or return to the field faster if they get injured. When Percy Harvin had hip surgery, you bet that his nutrition, which was likely full of antioxidants and protein, helped him get back on the field tohelp his team.

  • Nutrition and Injury Recovery” by Dr. David Geier, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist from Charleston, South Carolina. It provides information about which foods can aid in recovery and if supplements, such as steroids and over-the-counter supplements, are effective in this process.
  • Nutrition and Injury written by the UCLA Bruin’s Nutrition Team, gives additional information on how to promote a speedy recovery through proper nutrition.

They focus on pre-game nutrition:

Proper nutrition is essential year-round for football players, but pre-game meals take thespotlight during the football season. Foods need to fuel the athlete, but not slow him down – especially a cornerback like Richard Sherman! More specific information regarding diet plans for football players can be found in Lisa Dorfman’s football nutrition E-book for My Sports Dietitian.

  • Pre-game Meal and Half-time Recovery Nutrition for Athletes is another great resource about pre-game nutrition. Here, Tavis and Ronnie, co-owners of My Sports Dietitian, provide information about the timing of pre-game meals, the breakdown of nutrients, and half-time nutrition for optimizing athletic performance. Be sure to check out the website – the first 50 athletes to sign up will receive a free coupon code for the course.

They don’t ignore fueling during the game:

Fueling during a game is extremely important, and that doesn’t just mean drinking Gatorade. Some professional football players think outside of the box – or cup – for their during-game fuel. Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch eats Skittles while on the sideline, and Gushers are Sherman’s go-to snack. It may sound odd, but these are full of simple carbohydrates that are easily broken down – which means they provide fast fuel. Although these sugary options are not recommended in high amounts, or for everyday snacking, they can serve as a kick-start to any football player’s game.

  • Fueling during long workouts is just as important as fueling during long games. Here Tavis explains the role of nutrition during a workout. This is particularly important for football players, since practices can last for hours at a time.

If you’re interested in more information on these topics, check out www.myfootballnutrition.com. This blog has highlighted a few of the key concepts that can be found there. Information on myfootballnutrition.com dives deeper into subjects such as position specific goals, supplementation, and many more nutrition-related concepts that are important for football players. It also provides examples of diets to follow, along with the scientific breakdown of how we use carbs, fats, and proteins for fuel and growth. Myfootballnutrition.com is a great resource for any football player wanting to optimize his performance and gain the advantage!

You can also listen to Lisa Dorfman’s interview on the Next Level Podcast show as she discusses the challenges of fueling football players.

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Contributing Authors:

Lisa Dorfman, MS, RD, CSSD, LMHC
The Running Nutritionist ®
Author: Performance Nutrition for Tackling Stress (Momentum Media, 2013)
Twitter: @FoodFitness
<www.foodfitness.com
<www.AntiStressDiet.com
<www.HealthyMiami.com

Laura Maydak, BS Clinical Dietetics and Nutrition
Twitter: @lmaydak
Linked In
Email: lauramaydak@gmail.com

Sandra Hensley, MS, RDN, LD
Email: shensley70@gmail.com

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  • Hanna

    I love the simple breakdown of what a PROFESSIONAL does. As you outline in the article, it really is pretty simple. But they have perfected their craft. This leaves me eager to learn more and excited about checking out the affiliate site!

  • Hanna

    I love the simple breakdown of what a PROFESSIONAL does. As you outline in the article, it really is pretty simple. But they have perfected their craft. This leaves me eager to learn more and excited about checking out the affiliate site!

  • Shelly Guzman, MS, RD, CSSD

    Breaking it down into just 6 principles makes fueling like the pros seem totally manageable and doable for any football player. While it’s true that nutrition doesn’t have to be hard, it’s nice that there will be an easy-to-access resource to help with fine tuning and challenges that may arise. Looking forward to the release of “Performance Nutrition for Football Players” on myfootballnutrition.com!

  • Shelly Guzman Johnson

    Breaking it down into just 6 principles makes fueling like the pros seem totally manageable and doable for any football player. While it’s true that nutrition doesn’t have to be hard, it’s nice that there will be an easy-to-access resource to help with fine tuning and challenges that may arise. Looking forward to the release of “Performance Nutrition for Football Players” on myfootballnutrition.com!

  • Dylan A. Bailey

    As a former high school football player, I wish I had access to these 6 tips while active. What outstanding accurate dietary information from leading experts in the field. I also really enjoyed the last tip on the importance of proper fueling during games/long workouts; fast digesting fuel=explosiveness which can make the difference in winning or loosing/ finishing last in conditioning sprints. The lesser fueled player…is a poorly prepared player!

  • Dylan A. Bailey

    As a former high school football player, I wish I had access to these 6 tips while active. What outstanding accurate dietary information from leading experts in the field. I also really enjoyed the last tip on the importance of proper fueling during games/long workouts; fast digesting fuel=explosiveness which can make the difference in winning or loosing/ finishing last in conditioning sprints. The lesser fueled player…is a poorly prepared player!

  • Nick Yonko, RD, CSCS

    I personally love the 4th tip – They eat right to reduce injury and promote recovery – so many great athletes spend way too much time on the sidelines injured or extend recovery due to lack of proper nutrition. It is hard to be great when you are not in the game. Every football player should hang these tips inside their locker so they can see them every day.

  • Nick Yonko, RD, CSCS

    I personally love the 4th tip – They eat right to reduce injury and promote recovery – so many great athletes spend way too much time on the sidelines injured or extend recovery due to lack of proper nutrition. It is hard to be great when you are not in the game. Every football player should hang these tips inside their locker so they can see them every day.

  • Kelli Kidd, MS, RD, CSSD

    Love these tips and the additional embedded resources. The protein calculator and grain list were two of my favorites. This is a must read for football players, coaches, and athletic trainers. Can’t wait for the release of “Performance Nutrition for Football Players” on myfootballnutrition.com!

  • Kelli Kidd, MS, RD, CSSD

    Love these tips and the additional embedded resources. The protein calculator and grain list were two of my favorites. This is a must read for football players, coaches, and athletic trainers. Can’t wait for the release of “Performance Nutrition for Football Players” on myfootballnutrition.com!

  • Jenna Corbin, MS, RD, CSSD

    Awesome tips and resources for all football players. Nutrition can be the difference between taking your game to the next level or not. To play like an elite athlete, you must fuel like an elite athlete. “Performance Nutrition for Football Players” is going to be a valuable, must-have resource. Anxious for its release!

  • Jenna Corbin, MS, RD, CSSD

    Awesome tips and resources for all football players. Nutrition can be the difference between taking your game to the next level or not. To play like an elite athlete, you must fuel like an elite athlete. “Performance Nutrition for Football Players” is going to be a valuable, must-have resource. Anxious for its release!

  • Christine Turpin RD, LDN, CSCS

    Great tips! I love how these nutrition guidelines are broken down into
    simple easy to read steps. The additional links provide the essential
    resources football players must have as part of their game plan to excel
    in their sport. These simple easy to read tips are broken down
    football players can use to excel in their sport. “Performance Nutrition
    for Football Players” is the tool coaches and parents need to fuel their athletes.

  • Christine Turpin RD, LDN, CSCS

    Great tips! I love how these nutrition guidelines are broken down into
    simple easy to read steps. The additional links provide the essential
    resources football players must have as part of their game plan to excel
    in their sport. These simple easy to read tips are broken down
    football players can use to excel in their sport. “Performance Nutrition
    for Football Players” is the tool coaches and parents need to fuel their athletes.

  • Alain Luu

    Great detailed description about how football players can improve their performance. I would recommend this article to any football player out there looking to be at their peak performance while staying healthy. These tips should be implemented in the locker room for easy to read tips.

  • Alain Luu

    Great detailed description about how football players can improve their performance. I would recommend this article to any football player out there looking to be at their peak performance while staying healthy. These tips should be implemented in the locker room for easy to read tips.

  • Sophie

    I really enjoyed the first tip, there is so much hype about protein (and while it is necessary) carbohydrates are just as important!

  • Sophie

    I really enjoyed the first tip, there is so much hype about protein (and while it is necessary) carbohydrates are just as important!

  • Nikki Jupe, MS

    Great blog! Grabbed my attention quick, I can’t wait to read the ebook! I’ve already mentioned this to some coaches I know! This will be a hit with many athletic personnel, and I hope it reaches the players just as fast!

  • Nikki Jupe, MS, RD, LD

    Great blog! Grabbed my attention quick, I can’t wait to read the ebook! I’ve already mentioned this to some coaches I know! This will be a hit with many athletic personnel, and I hope it reaches the players just as fast!

  • Really enjoy how the article is riddled with interesting and useful links. In football, its always incredibly important for the athlete to understand their “ideal body composition” per position. No reason this shouldn’t be posted in every teams locker room.

  • Really enjoy how the article is riddled with interesting and useful links. In football, its always incredibly important for the athlete to understand their “ideal body composition” per position. No reason this shouldn’t be posted in every teams locker room.

  • Chrissy Cooper

    These are great tips for football players, coaches, and athletic trainers alike. I like the uniqueness of Lynch and Sherman’s fuel during games- high performance athletes like these need quick carbs to refuel their bodies! I’ll definitely be checking out some of the links in this article.

  • Chrissy Cooper

    These are great tips for football players, coaches, and athletic trainers alike. I like the uniqueness of Lynch and Sherman’s fuel during games- high performance athletes like these need quick carbs to refuel their bodies! I’ll definitely be checking out some of the links in this article.