One of my favorite fall sports has got to be football. Whether it’s high school, college, or professional-level, I just can’t say no to the smell of burgers at the tailgate, the sounds of crunching pads, and seeing amazing plays in person like The Little Giants in 2010’s infamous MSU-Notre Dame game (sorry - had to throw in my alma mater there - click on the link to watch).
This time of year, most high school and collegiate players are looking toward regional and state or conference and bowl games. It’s not too late to use performance nutrition to play your best during these important games. Here are some tips to help you arrive at these last practices and games ready to finish the season strong:
1. Drink up! No matter what your position, you’ll be more focused and energized if you are properly hydrated. Try carrying your own water-filled sports bottle during day, then fill with your preferred flavor of sports drink during practice so you know you will actually drink it. Take at least a couple gulps of fluid on each break or whenever it is offered by your staff. Weigh yourself before and after practice and drink 20 ounces of fluid for every pound of weight lost during practice (and with all those pads on – total weight loss through sweat can be high!). Your goal should be straw-colored urine THROUGHOUT the day.
2. Eat at regular intervals. Many football players go to class all day and don’t practice until the afternoon or evening. Don’t arrive to practice with hungry muscles. Try to eat every 3-4 hours. Your plate should be 1/3 filled with sources of carb such as bread, pasta, rice, or potatoes; 1/3 filled with sources of carbs such as veggies and fruits; and 1/3 filled with lean proteins such as poultry, lean beef, tuna, soy, fish, eggs, nuts, and protein. Be sure to eat a snack consisting of carb and protein prior to practice (try a bagel with peanut butter, yogurt with a banana, or handful of pretzels and a cheese stick) and eat within 30 minutes of finishing practice: try an energy bar, banana, or tortilla chips with a sports drink.
3. During games, along with following pre- and post-workout guidelines before and after games, be sure to refuel at halftime – even if it’s just a sports drink. If you can take in food, stick to foods you tolerate – good ones often include crackers, pretzels, bananas, or raisins.
Think a supplement will give you the extra edge? Think again! Most supplements have shown no performance edge in clinical studies and some may actually cause harm due to dangerous ingredients not always indicated on the label. Before you reach for a pill or a powder, make sure you are following the guidelines above.