Game Day Nutrition for American Football
Reggie Johal considers what American Football players should be consuming the night before and on match day.
The Night Before
Although a sports nutrition program, by its very nature, should be an ongoing effort, the day leading up to a game is a time when we can begin to make efforts to prepare our bodies for the trials to come. Although energy needs will vary by the player's weight, height, position, and even their game time, all players should consume extra amounts of water and carbohydrates in the days leading up to a game, providing they do not overeat and get fat. In the last 24 hours before a game though, fat intake should be reduced, with an increased emphasis on carbohydrates as they will provide the fuel needed to power the player through the game. Adequate mineral and salt intake are essential, especially if the player is prone to cramping or the weather is going to be hot. Alcohol and other intoxicating substances should be avoided.
Assuming a 3 pm start, it is vital to consume a breakfast consisting of a slow-digesting carbohydrate source such as oatmeal and raisins, with a glass of milk. The energy from this meal is released over several hours. It is advisable to drink around one to two litres of water between now and up to an hour before game time to ensure muscles are hydrated and to guard against dehydration and muscle cramps. After that, it is best to only sip water, if needed, up until game time to prevent unnecessary trips to the bathroom.
Leading up to the game itself a further substantial meal should be consumed around three hours from the game, preferably something light such as chicken with pasta. This meal should not exceed 500 calories for most players.
About an hour from game time, before pre-game warm-ups is an excellent time to implement the next stage of our nutritional plan. By now, you need only sip water unless thirsty and glycogen stores should be topped up.
At this point, some players may wish to drink an energy drink in which case a waxy maize-based drink such as Volu-gro is best as it has been shown in studies to be the fastest absorbing carbohydrate.
Once Pre-Game warm-ups have concluded, ten minutes before a game is an excellent time to ingest a stimulant based drink such as NO-Xplode also high in ergogenic nutrients such as creatine, and nootropics such as vinpocetine, or a pre-workout stimulant such as Adrenalean.
However, although these types of supplements will reliably enhance performance in the gym, their use before games could potentially affect coordination as with all stimulants. Therefore, it is suggested to try them before scrimmages to road test them, before using them before games.
During intensely physical activity, urine production is shut down, so water can and should be drunk liberally if thirsty. Otherwise, if suffering from low blood sugar keep a supply of Volu-gro at hand to ensure you can rapidly increase blood sugar levels.
After a game, a fast-acting protein powder drink combined with waxy maize will lead to the most rapid replenishment of glycogen and amino acids for muscle cells. After a large drink such as this, a regular meal program with at least two meals before bedtime is a must to ensure the most rapid recovery from games. These meals should remain high in carbohydrates to continue the recovery process, as well as containing adequate amounts of protein. Some players may wish to consume an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen to reduce post-game muscle damage although they do cause stress on the liver. A healthier option would be consuming fish oils regularly or trying a natural enzyme supplement, such as Sorenzyme to reduce muscle soreness.
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About the Author
Reggie Johal is a former international American Football player for Great Britain, with a lifelong passion for strength and speed training, and has assisted many athletes on the applications of training protocols for their sports. He can be contacted through his Sports Nutrition site.
The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: