The four pillars of nutrition for an athlete are:
1. Carbohydrates: To Fuel
Players need carbohydrates, and in abundance! Football players rely heavily on glycogen stores for energy. Carbohydrates are the go-to source of energy for intermittent sports, like football, where glycogen stores are often depleted during workouts and training.
- Whole grains: oatmeal, 100% whole wheat bread, whole wheat or corn tortillas, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and low sugar cereals containing at least 5 g of protein per serving
- Fruit: fresh whole fruit including apples, pears, bananas, melon, pineapple, cantaloupe
- Non-starchy vegetables: broccoli, spinach, peppers, zucchini, lettuce greens (the darker the better), squash, onions, cauliflower, mushrooms, tomatoes, carrots
- Starchy vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, corn, butternut squash
- Beans and legumes: kidney beans, black beans, white beans, lentils
- Dairy: Greek yogurt, low-fat milk, and chocolate milk
2. Protein: To Build And Repair
Players need enough protein to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, and to repair muscle damage that occurs during training. Choosing lean, high quality protein at meals, but also before and after every workout is imperative.
- Dairy and products
- Skinless chicken
- Beans and pulses
3. Fat: Essential In Moderation
Football players also need good fat. Too much fat (usually the saturated fat) can put players at risk for increased fat mass, which only slow them down and kill performance goals.
- Monounsaturated Fats: Olives and olive oil, canola oil, avocado, nuts (pistachios, macadamia, almonds, cashews) and sunflower seeds
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids (polyunsaturated fats): fatty fish (salmon, tuna, halibut, trout), walnuts, flax and chia seeds
4. Hydration Is Key
Fluids are an essential part of a nutrition regime as they regulate body temperature, transport nutrients and oxygen around the body. Dehydration maybe a common phenomenon experienced as water and electrolyte loss occurs in the form of sweating. This may impair the functioning of the heart and body temperature regulation, leading to reduced performance.
- Sports drinks (4–8% carbohydrates) when training for more than one hour
- Cold water
- Coconut water
- Unsweetened fresh fruit juice
- Homemade rehydrating fluid (1 liter water + 6 leveled tsp of sugar + ½ leveled tsp of salt)