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Depending on the position a football player plays, during training he could need as few as 5,000 calories a day or as many as 9,000, according to the American Dietetic Association. While it is often thought that "bigger is better" when it comes to football players, where those calories come from is equally important. Combine carbohydrates for energy and protein for muscle building to optimize your diet for maximum performance.
A football player needs about 2.7 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight. This amount increases to about 4 grams per pound of body weight per day during hard training. It is important to make the carbohydrates count. Complex carbohydrates, like those in whole-grain breads and cereals, vegetables and fruits give a football player longer-lasting energy than those from white bread, sugary treats or sodas.
Protein not only helps build muscle, it makes carbohydrates digest more slowly for longer-lasting energy when eaten together. Getting protein from lean sources like fish, turkey, beef, milk, cheese and eggs will help boost not only your muscle mass but also your overall energy levels. A football player needs about .7 or .8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. For example, a 210-pound football player should eat 168 grams of protein per day, according to the University of California Los Angeles Student Nutrition Awareness Campaign.
Fats and Supplements
Football players need fat. For every pound a football player weighs, he should consume .45 grams of fat per day. However, it's important that the fats come from heart healthy sources like olive oil, avocado, nuts, cheese and milk. Some supplements are encouraged by nutritionists for football players. However, check your league's banned substances list before taking any supplements whether for energy or nutritional purposes.
Practice can make you sweat a lot. Some football players can lose between 10 and 15 pounds in one practice due to fluid loss. Weigh yourself before and after football practice. Drink at least 3 cups of water or a sport drink for every pound you lost during the game or practice. If you sweat a lot, you're losing salt, so salt your foods to help replace the loss. However, if you are drinking high-sodium sports drinks, this may not be necessary.
Before you workout, eat 2 cups of a whole-grain cereal with 1 cup of milk, a banana and two glasses of water. After your morning workout drink a recovery protein shake, several glasses of water and 16 ounces of low-fat chocolate or regular milk. For breakfast, eat two servings of oatmeal or whole-grain cereal with brown sugar and dried fruit or four eggs with whole-grain toast and a glass of milk. Eat an apple and orange or a cup or two of mixed fruit. Drink water with your meal. For lunch, have a cold cut sandwich on whole-grain bread or bun with vegetables. Soup and fruit are good additions to this meal as well as milk and water. Eat a cup of yogurt with berries or a couple of handfuls of nuts for a mid-afternoon snack. Pregame dinners should be different than regular dinners. A good pregame dinner is pasta with meat sauce, or a meat dish with potatoes or rice on the side. Avoid fried foods or fatty foods before playing a game. Not only will they not provide the longer lasting energy you need, but they can also take much longer to digest -- putting your body's energy in your stomach and not in your muscles, where you need it.