Whether preparing for off-season OTA’s, preseason camp, or the intense regular NFL season, a healthy diet and body is essential for peak performance on the gridiron. Professional football players are always searching for that extra advantage that can help improve their strength, speed, endurance, recovery, and overall athletic ability. Countless hours spent in the gym and on the practice field are absolutely essential for any athlete’s performance on game day, but proper nutrition is what gives athletes the edge.
There is no “one size fits all” sports-diet. Pro football players come in all shapes and sizes, and what is good for one may not be the best for another. These guys require a lot of calories, and most people think they get them from gorging on big juicy burgers, sugary candy, and fried foods. But, that isn’t really the case. Today’s football players are aware of the importance of nutrition and the role it plays in their performance, as well as how important it is to the longevity of their professional careers.
Every athlete has different preferences, but I’ve noticed during my career as a Sports RD that there are some common favorites. Here are five foods that professional football players love:
1. Salmon: This fish has become the protein of choice, especially at team meals. Salmon is rich in heart-healthy, omega-3 fatty acids and has shown to provide powerful anti-inflammatory effects on the hard-working muscles and joints of these athletes. Its high Vitamin D content promotes proper joint and muscle tissue function, supports immune health and plays a key role in protein and hormone synthesis.
2. Nuts/Seeds: Snacking throughout the day is common (and recommended) for pro football players since their calorie and overall nutrient needs are so high. The popular snack food for pro football players is nuts and seeds. Most common are pistachios, almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and chia and flaxseeds (usually blended in a smoothie). It’s common to see players munching on these protein and fiber-packed snacks during position meetings, post-workout, and in between meals. These healthy snacks provide the players with anti-inflammatory benefits, and they help with bone health, immunity and energy production.
3. Greek Yogurt: Another favorite is Greek yogurt. It’s common at breakfast and for a mid-day snack. They mix in high antioxidant ingredients like berries and nuts, and they also like to throw it into their post-workout recovery smoothies. Greek yogurt typically has twice the amount of protein than regular yogurt and half the amount of sugar. It provides important nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, which work together to promote strong, healthy bones as well as hydration. In addition, Greek yogurt is rich in probiotics, which has shown to improve both immune and digestive function.
4. Tart Cherry Juice: Tart cherry juice has become a popular beverage among elite athletes. Whether it be post-workout, post-practice, or post-game, pro football players are using tart cherry juice to help their bodies recover faster. Tart cherries are rich in anthocyanins, an antioxidant that fights inflammation and exercise-induced oxidative stress in the body. Some other noteworthy benefits include decreased muscle soreness, pain management and improved quality of sleep.
5. Low-Fat Chocolate Milk: There is nothing like a big glass of chocolate milk, and the players love to drink a glass after a tough workout. Studies suggest that low-fat chocolate milk aids post-workout recovery. For many athletes, it’s the recovery beverage of choice. It contains high-quality protein, which helps in repairing and building lean muscle, and because it’s a natural source of protein, the athletes don’t have to worry about it containing any harmful or banned substances that may be found in over-the-counter supplements. Low-fat chocolate milk also contains the right ratio of protein and carbohydrates, which is scientifically shown to refuel exhausted muscles and help return them to peak potential, and it provides fluids and electrolytes like calcium, potassium, magnesium and sodium to rehydrate and replenish critical nutrients lost in sweat. (Source: www.builtwithchocolatemilk.com)