Snacks for Football Players – How to Fuel Your Workouts
It is August in Texas, which means one thing – the start of football season. With practices underway, planning healthy snacks for football players is important. Below are easy snack ideas football players can use to stay fueled before, during, and after activity.
Planning Nutritious Snacks for Football Players
Having the right food available at the right time is key for promoting optimal sports performance. Taking the time to plan ahead and pack nutritious snacks can help set yourself up for success. On the weekend, consider pre-making sandwiches, packing bags of trail mix, and creating post-workout snack bags that you can grab on your way to practice.
Pre-Workout Snacks for Football Players
Prior to working out, athletes should aim to eat carbohydrate-rich snacks to fuel their workouts. Carbohydrates provide the energy the body needs to perform at its best. In general, the more time you have prior to your workout, the larger the snack can be.
Snack Ideas for 2-3 Hours Prior to Workout
When athletes have more time to digest prior to their workout, a larger snack or “mini-meal” can be eaten. Choosing a snack that is high in carbohydrates, contains moderate amounts of protein, and is low in fat can help ensure you have the energy needed for the upcoming activity. Snack ideas include:
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a sports drink
- Turkey and low-fat cheese wrap with fresh fruit
- Breakfast bar with banana
- Frozen waffles and low-fat yogurt
- Fruit Smoothie
Snack Ideas 1 Hour or Less Prior to Workout
In the hour before exercise, it is best to stick to carbohydrate-rich snacks that are low in fiber. The carbohydrates will provide a source of quick energy to fuel your body on the field. Snacks athletes can enjoy in the 30-60 minutes leading up to the workout include:
- Sports Drink
- Banana, Grapes, Oranges
- Dried Fruit
- Applesauce Squeeze
- Low-Fat Granola Bars
- Fig Bars
- Mini Bagels
- Sports Chews or Gels
Ideas for Half-Time Snacks
Nutrition priorities during your workout include focusing on hydration and replacing carbohydrates used for energy. Make sure to take advantage of the half-time break to refuel and rehydrate. The added carbohydrates, fluid, and electrolytes from half-time snacks can help keep you going strong though the end of the game.
- Fresh Fruit – Orange Slices, Banana, Grapes
- Dried Fruit
- Applesauce Squeeze
- Pretzels – Salty snacks can help replace sodium and stimulate thirst to drink more.
- Carbohydrate based sports bar – Even eating a couple of bites can provide some added energy for the second half.
- Sports Drinks – provides hydration, electrolytes, and carbohydrates for energy.
- Sport Chews or Gels – Drink water when you consume chews or gels to help avoid an upset stomach.
Recovery Nutrition Snacks for Football Players
Following a workout, it is time for athletes to focus on refueling, rehydrating, and resting. Athletes should focus on consuming:
- Carbohydrates: Refill energy stores used during the activity
- Protein: Build and repair muscles
- Fluid and Electrolytes: Rehydrate to replace fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat
Following a workout, drinking low-fat chocolate milk can help provide your body with the nutrients needed to promote recovery. Chocolate milk contains carbohydrates, protein, fluids, and electrolytes, making it a great post-workout drink. Eat some granola bars with your chocolate milk to further increase your carbohydrate intake.
Other recovery nutrition snack ideas include:
- Ham sandwich with baked chips and fruit
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with low-fat milk
- Greek yogurt and fruit parfait
- Granola bars with nut butter
- Trail mix with pretzels, dried fruit, nuts, and dry cereal
Pack snacks to have with you to eat after your workout. Then follow-up your recovery snack with a well-balanced meal containing carbohydrates and lean protein in the next two hours.
Importance of Hydration
When planning your snacks for football workouts – don’t forget the importance of hydration. Dehydration negatively impacts performance and cognitive function. It also increases your chance of developing a heat illness, especially when exercising in a hot and humid environment1.
Football players should be mindful about drinking plenty of water and other beverages throughout the day to ensure they go into practice well-hydrated. Consuming fruits and vegetables that contain a high-water content can also assist with helping you stay hydrated. Foods such as watermelon, cantaloupe, oranges, strawberries, cucumbers, and celery all have a high-water content and make a great addition to your performance diet.
When you sweat your body loses both fluid and electrolytes. Consuming a sports drink during activity can assist you with replacing both fluid and electrolyte losses. Drinking a sports drink that contains carbohydrates (regular sports drink not a zero-calorie drink) can also assist with providing extra energy for your workout.
Following your workout, it is important to replace the fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat. Weighing yourself before and after a workout can help you determine how much fluid was lost. For each pound of weight lost during the activity, you should aim to drink 20-24 oz of fluid.
Consuming sodium, during the recovery period can help your body replace the sodium lost in sweat. In addition, the sodium will help your body better retain the fluid you drink after exercise. Consider adding salty foods such as jerky, deli meat, cheese, pickles, soups, and pretzels to your recovery nutrition snacks and meals2.
*Note: Talk with your doctor or sports dietitian about staying hydrated in the heat if you have been advised to follow a low-sodium diet or are required to limit your fluid intake.
A final note on hydration is the importance of athletes avoiding energy drinks. Energy drinks contain caffeine along with a “proprietary blend” of ingredients claiming to increase energy levels. These energy blends may include ingredients such as: taurine, B Vitamins, guarana, green tea extract, L-carnitine, ginseng, ginger root, and chromium. The combination of ingredients in the drink may have a synergistic effect in the body and lead to health concerns.
Bottom line – consuming energy drinks, especially in combination with intense workouts and summer heat can be dangerous. If you need more energy – make sure you are eating enough to support your workouts and every day activities, staying well-hydrated, and getting enough sleep.
Ready for Football Season!
You now have a sports nutrition game plan to keep you fueled this season. Remember the importance of planning ahead, staying hydrated, fueling before activity, and recovery nutrition afterwards. It’s time for Friday Night Lights!
For additional suggestions on ways to meet your performance nutrition needs visit with a Registered Dietitian who can work with you on developing a customized sports nutrition meal plan. Check-out my recent blog Healthy Snacks for Teenage Athletes for additional snack ideas.
1.American College of Sports Medicine, Sawka, M. N., Burke, L. M., Eichner, E. R., Maughan, R. J., Montain, S. J., & Stachenfeld, N. S. (2007). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and fluid replacement. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 39(2), 377–390. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0b013e31802ca597
2. Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2016). American College of Sports Medicine Joint Position Statement. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 48(3), 543–568. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0000000000000852
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