Football is a physically demanding sport that requires a combination of speed, agility, and endurance. Football players need proper nutrition on a daily basis to stay energized and ready for the intensity of practice or a game. No matter if your son is an 8-year-old pee wee football rookie or a seasoned college quarterback, making sure he gets the nutrition he needs is a priority.
Fueling Your Player
Your football player needs an abundance of energy to keep up with the stop-and-start action in football, and stamina to make it through to the last seconds on the clock. Carbohydrates supply energy and should account for approximately 60 percent of your son's daily caloric intake. The key to properly fueling for football is to include the right type of carbs at each meal and snacks throughout the day.
Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs
Whole grain breads, bagels, pastas, and crackers that are relatively low in fat are ideal choices for football players. Carbohydrates that are significant sources of fat, such as fried potatoes and forms of fast food or cakes and other pastries contribute to weight gain and potential health issues like high cholesterol. Football players who are overweight may tire more easily, and might not have the endurance to stick it out for the whole game.
Protein is the second nutrient that's crucial to a football players' diet. Roughly one-third of an athlete's nutrition should stem from lean sources of protein, such as poultry, fish, peanut butter, cheese, and eggs. Protein builds muscle, but if your player gets too much protein in relation to his carb intake, he may begin to bulk up with fat instead of muscle. Combining protein and carbohydrates in one meal--a ham and cheese sandwich on whole grain bread or a serving of low-fat yogurt, for example--is a good way to ensure your player is getting enough of both types of dietary fuel.
The timing of a football player's meals and snacks plays a role in how well he's prepared for grueling practice sessions and game nights. For pre-game nutrition, start with a carb-filled meal hours before the main event. Provide players competing in the afternoon with a whole grain pasta dinner the night before the game. Evening football games should be preceded with a hearty carb-heavy breakfast of eggs and whole grain pancakes, waffles, or French toast. Fluids are important too: give your football player plenty of water, juice, or sports drinks prior to play. Offer a small snack like fruit or a protein bar an hour or so before the event to curb hunger and provide extra fuel.
Keep fatty foods to a minimum, as the body doesn't digest them as quickly as it does carbohydrates. Eating too much fat before playing football will provide your son with less energy than he needs, and can cause digestive unrest like gas or an upset stomach.
The most important rule for post-play recovery is to re-hydrate. Even in the coldest climates, football players sweat significantly during a game or practice session, losing essential minerals such as potassium and sodium. Sports drinks, water, and other non-caffeinated beverages replenish the lost fluids and electrolytes after a heavy workout. Your son is also likely to be ravenous after a game or practice and will be ready for a big meal. Replace the energy expended directly after the workout with more carbs, such as granola bars, crackers, or pretzels. A protein-rich meal should follow to retain muscle mass and satisfy intense hunger.