Maintaining proper hydration in football is of particular importance. Since preseason training and training camp occur during the warmer months, sweat rates and fluid loss is increased and can quickly lead to dehydration. Players should regularly weigh themselves before and after practice to keep track of how much fluid they lose. The goal is to prevent a fluid loss equal to or more than 2% of body weight during practices and competition. To help maintain adequate fluid levels, student athlete football players should consume 18-26 ounces of fluid three to four hours prior to exercise, with routine intakes of fluids ever 15-30 minutes during exercise. That amount may be more for greater intensity exercise sessions and hot weather.
Fueling and Hydrating Before, During and After Training and Competition
The goals of a pregame meal are to keep athletes from feeling hungry before and during the game and to top off carbohydrate and energy stores for the work that is ahead. When possible, athletes should try to consume a balanced meal that is high in carbohydrates and moderate in protein and fat 3-4 hours before training or competition. Then, have a quick digesting carbohydrate like a banana, sports drink or energy bar, in the 30 -60 minutes before starting. All choices should be familiar and easily digested. Read this handout for specific ideas on what to eat before training and competition.
Research has demonstrated that consuming carbohydrates in the form of a sports drink or easily digestible food (i.e., gels, chews, fruit snacks) can help improve performance or delay fatigue during intermittent high-intensity exercise. While the exact amount of carbohydrates needed will depend on playing time and position demands, a general recommendation would be to consume between 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour of activity.
Following hard training or competition, athletes should focus on the three R’s of recovery: refuel, rebuild, and rehydrate. In general, student athlete football players should aim to refuel within one hour of finishing activity with 0.5-1 gram of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight. The refueling snack or meal should also include at least 15 grams of lean protein and ~20 ounces of fluid for every pound lost. Chocolate milk makes a great refueling option because it provides the fluid, carbohydrate and protein needed after strenuous activity. Check out this handout for other great after-exercise refueling options.
Football is a contact sport with lots of collisions and high-intensity activity that takes a toll on your body. To help combat inflammation and promote recovery from week to week, it is important to include foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, flax seeds, and walnuts), rich in vitamin D (dairy, eggs, mushrooms) and lots of colorful fruits and vegetables (broccoli, peppers, berries, etc.).