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Game Day Nutrition for American Football

Reggie Johal considers what American Football players should consume 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 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 hot. Alcohol and other intoxicating substances should be avoided.

Game Day

Assuming a 3 pm start, consuming a breakfast consisting of a slow-digesting carbohydrate source such as oatmeal and raisins with a glass of milk is vital. The energy from this meal is released over several hours. Drinking around one to two litres of water between now and up to an hour before game time is advisable 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, 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.

Pre-Game Nutrition

About an hour from game time, before pre-game warm-ups, is an excellent time to implement the next stage of our nutritional plan. 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 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 affect coordination. It is suggested to try them before, before using them before games.

Intra-Game Nutrition

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.

Post-Game Nutrition

After a game, a fast-acting protein powder drink combined with waxy maize will produce the most rapid replenishment of glycogen and amino acids for muscle cells. After a large glass such as this, a regular meal program with at least two meals before bedtime ensures the most rapid recovery from games. These meals should remain high in carbohydrates to continue the recovery process and contain adequate amounts of protein. Some players may wish to consume an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen to reduce post-game muscle damage, although they cause liver stress. A healthier option would be consuming fish oils regularly or trying a natural enzyme supplement, such as Sorenzyme to reduce muscle soreness.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • JOHAL, R. (2009) Game Day Nutrition for American Football [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

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 in applying training protocols for their sports. He can be contacted through his Sports Nutrition site.