A football player is intentional about his weight workouts. He's diligent about his off-season drills. A football player usually practices catching the football over and over again. But there's one area that many young football players neglect, and that's the area of diet and nutrition. What is a good football diet? How much does diet affect football performance?
I recently spoke with my friend Shane Freels, professional fitness trainer at Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas, Texas. Shane is a former collegiate linebacker, and now lives his passion of helping people achieve their personal and athletic success. He trains a number of NFL and NBA players, and a key component of their training regiment is intentional diet. Shane says that 80 percent of what determines an athlete's performance is the quality of their nutrition.
So, if you're not an NFL star with an enormous budget, what are the steps you can take to improve your nutrition?
What Not to Eat
A good football diet sometimes starts with not consuming things that you shouldn't. The two biggies for young people are fast food and sodas. You can't perform at your peak when you're eating food that is over-processed and made for mass production. Sodas are some of the biggest performance inhibitors out there. The high level of sugar and carbonation forces your body to work harder, and takes energy from you, rather than providing the energy you need to perform. If you simply cut out these two items, you'd be a lot better off nutritionally.
You also want to avoid as much processed or packaged food as you can. Examples of this are pre-packaged, or microwave dinners. The more processed the food, the less real nutritional value it has.
What To Eat Instead
A good football diet starts first thing in the morning, and many of us don't eat breakfast at all. This is a huge mistake for someone who wants to be a serious athlete. Whether you feel hungry or not, breakfast is a vital meal that sets your energy and metabolism for the rest of the day.
As often as possible, eat whole, unprocessed foods. Instead of a bowl of processed cereal for breakfast, eat some steel cut oats with fresh blueberries. Instead of a piece of pizza from the snack bar at school, get fresh sliced meats from the deli at the grocery store, and pack sandwiches. Eat those sandwiches on whole wheat bread, instead of plain white bread. Pack an apple and some peanut butter to grab some extra calories during the afternoon. Little steps here and there can go a long way to boost your performance.
Drink Lots of Fluids
You've probably heard this over and over, but you really cannot get enough water and electrolytes. Most young people don't stay hydrated. When you're training intensely, your body depends on good hydration to successfully perform and recover. Find a good electrolyte replacement drink to help with this recovery. Keep a water bottle with you during the day, so you're keeping yourself hydrated all day. If you wait until you're thirsty, it's too late!
Eat On Purpose
A good football diet involves a change in your mindset and developing good habits. If you want to perform at your peak, you have to be intentional about what you eat. Don't let your diet be something that happens to you, make your diet work for you. Eating, like exercise, needs to be done on purpose if you want to be serious about your performance on the football field. Following these simple steps will start you in the right direction.