A football player’s nutritional needs depend on which position he plays. For example, a wide receiver will likely eat differently than a defensive lineman. But every football player needs enough energy for short bursts of action over a long period of time.
The USDA recommends the following for most athletic children and teens:
|9-13 years old
14-18 years old
|1,600-2,000 calories a day
2,000 calories a day
|1,800-2,200 calories a day
2,400-2,800 calories a day
With long practices, often happening twice a day, some football players tend to stay very active. Resources recommend at least 3,000 calories a day for these extremely active football players, depending on how often they practice.
Before a Game or Practice
The meal before a game or practice is likely to be lunch for most players. It is important not to load your body down too much with foods high in fat or fried foods. Two-thirds of a player’s plate should consist of foods high in carbohydrates. The other third should consist of leaner proteins.
|Foods that would work well for a pregame meal include:
Two hours before the game or practice, a player should drink between 12 and 20 ounces of fluid (water or a sports drink). He can do this with his pregame meal. The player should drink another 10 to 12 ounces of fluid 15 minutes before the game or practice starts.
During a Game or Practice
Remaining hydrated is very important during a game or practice. Dehydration decreases performance. Every time there is a break in the action, a player should use it as an opportunity to rehydrate. Pouring water over his head will not prevent dehydration.
After a Game or Practice
It may be tempting to go the easy route and eat fast food on the way home, but this can be harmful. Instead, have a postgame snack ready to eat before leaving the locker room, like an energy bar or crackers.
Football players should eat a full meal within one hour after the game or practice ends. It needs to be a good mix of protein and carbohydrates. The ratio of carbohydrates to protein should be 2-to-1. Like the pregame meal, the postgame meal should avoid fatty or fried foods. It should include food like whole grains, poultry, fish or pasta. The player should eat until he is full, not until he is stuffed.
Replacing the fluids lost during the game or practice is also an important step of the postgame meal. For every pound lost during the game or practice, a football player should drink between 12 and 16 ounces of fluid.
Call the Children's Sports Medicine Program at 404-785-6880 for more information.