By Lisa Dorfman, MS, RD, CSSD
As a sports nutrition and fitness coach, I’m responsible for fueling high-profile, top-rated athletes whose careers depend on strategic intake and use of food! Food has purpose and will reward us when we keep a few facts in mind:
Touchdown Prep: Pregame Fueling Rituals
Don’t eat and run: Schedule your pregame meal three to four hours before kickoff and choose foods that will stick with you but not weigh you down. Avoid fried foods, heavy seasoned meats, creamed sauces, soups, or gravies. Also, too much fiber from vegetables and whole grains can cause intestinal cramping and bloating.
Lighten the carb load: A common mistake players make is to consume a few plates of pasta, potatoes, rolls and cookies. However, eating large quantities of high-carbohydrate foods can leave you feeling tired and sluggish on the field. Instead, use visual cues to judge portion size and stick to 2-3 tennis-ball-size servings of plain brown rice, baked potatoes or pasta; a palm-size (about five to six ounces) portion of lean meat or chicken; and a serving or two of fruit. Teens and younger players can use 1/2 to 3/4 these amounts.
Drink up: All athletes need to get and stay hydrated, but this is especially important for athletes with asthma, to prevent the drying and tightness in the airways that could precipitate an attack on the field. An hour or so before game time, begin drinking 16- 20 oz of fluid, ending 10 to 15 minutes before the game begins. Players can lose an average of 800 mg sodium an hour, so during the game, consume one cup of water or sports drink every 20-30 minutes. The sports drink will help replace electrolytes lost through sweat, including minerals such as sodium and potassium that help your muscles contract and relax.
Victory Celebration: Post-Game Meal
- Sweet success: Now’s the time to reward your muscles with sugar. Within 30 minutes of coming off the field, focus on eating carbohydrates that have a high glycemic index (GI), like smoothies, muffins, bagels, fruit pops or high-carb sports bars. These will replace the glycogen in your muscles faster than more complex, fibrous carbs. Not hungry when the action stops? That’s normal.When body or core temperature is elevated, appetite is suppressed, and it’s difficult to consume carbohydrate-rich foods. If this is the case, recovery shakes and bars are a great replacement.
- Muscle meals: Add protein to carbohydrates to enhance muscle recovery rate, provide essential amino acids for muscle repair, and promote a more anabolic, muscle-building hormonal profile. Chocolate milk has been shown to be an excellent post workout recovery option, since it is a good source of carbohydrates, whey, casein, potassium, sodium, magnesium, vitamins and minerals. Other options: fresh fruit/Greek yogurt mix; milk, yogurt-based or whey protein-fortified smoothies or shakes; cottage cheese and fruit; or grilled chicken
Lisa Dorfman, MS, RD, CSSD, is director of sports nutrition and performance in the University of Miami Department of Sports Medicine and a personal nutritionist for many NFL players. Lisa’s new book, Performance Nutrition for Football (Momentum Media, 2010), is available at www.primeathlete.com.
Reviewed by William Berger, MD and Michael Foggs, MD