Bulk and Balance: The football diet

By USA Football | Posted 8/10/2018

Photo via Keith Johnston

Thirteen of the top 25 collegiate football programs employ full-time registered dietitians, in some cases spending as much as $1 million a year on prepared meals for athletes. This might seem excessive to some, but the reason why coaches feel that dietitians are important is that while football is played only seasonally, nutrition and diet is a year-round commitment for those serious about the game. However, if you're a football player who is not lucky enough to have a dietitian coaching you and your team on nutrition, there are some simple rules to follow to ensure that your body is at its best and ready come game time.

Looking to lose weight

If you play a position that requires you to stay lean, such as quarterback or running back and you need to shed a few pounds, one option is a calorie deficit. This essentially means you are burning more calories than you are taking in. This can be accomplished by monitoring and recording your caloric intake. This can be done quickly and easily with one of the many fitness apps now on the market or imitate the diet of an all-star quarterback like Tom Brady, whose diet consists of lots of liquids and avoiding eating protein with starchy foods like potatoes or bread.

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Bulking up

Playing a position like linebacker means you need to be big and strong. In addition to adding more weight lifting to your exercise plan, you should eat three meals a day plus protein-heavy snacks before and after workouts. Try following the diet routines of your favorite linebackers and other NFL players, such as a diet rich in amino acids from proteins. Science suggests that athletes such as linebackers should consume between 0.5 and 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight on days they work out and that the proteins they're consuming should come from sources that also offer all eight essential amino acids, such as beef, poultry and fish. This will help you build solid muscle in a healthy way.

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Finding a balance

The most important aspect to consider when forming any fitness and nutrition regimen is to find a balance that works for you. Regardless of what position you play, you will need to create a diet consisting of complex carbohydrates, fats and proteins. However, everyone’s body differs, so what might work great for your teammate might not be your ideal plan.

The best advice when it comes to learning what is right for you, nutritionally speaking, will come from a registered dietitian. Seek local experts in the field of nutrition and exercise and discuss your fitness, football, and health goals with them. Together you can craft a healthy diet and exercise plan that is best suited to your body's needs.

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