"Fueling the Body for Optimal Performance"
Consuming the right food and drinks at the right time plays a critical role in an athlete's performance. In fact, I have seen this occur firsthand this NFL season. I work with the Arizona Cardinals football team as a physical therapist, and one of our players, Karlos Dansby, has had an incredible year. Karlos is a 10 year veteran, but is playing some of the best football in his career and moving around like he is 24 years old again. He credits much of this year's success to the foods and drinks he consumes and the proper timing of these during training and games.
Whether you're preparing for a new season in 2014 and want an extra training edge, or are just looking to lose a few pounds as part of a New Years' resolution, this guide will help immensely. You'll be able to hit new heights in training and weight loss if your body feels better during and after workouts. Here are some practical health tips to help guide football players and weekend warriors alike when it comes to pre-, mid- and post-exercise nutrition.
» EAT! That may sound funny, but some athletes feel that they are too nervous or food will hinder their performance. But your body needs fuel. It's crucial to eat approximately three to four hours before the event or when you start your workout.
» The meal should consist mainly of carbohydrate-rich foods like breads, pasta, rice, potatoes, fruits and vegetables. Avoid fried foods.
» Protein-rich foods are OK, but should be not be the larger percentage as compared to carbohydrates.
» Skim milk and fruit juices can be consumed up to two hours before competition. Then hydrate with water or carbohydrate/electrolyte sports drinks up to and during the event.
» Do not overeat with a large meal.
» Continue to hydrate with water or a carbohydrate/electrolyte solution type drink like CytoMax or Gatorade.
» Avoid soda pop or high fructose corn syrup foods like candy bars, cookies and ice cream. These foods will cause your blood sugar to rise quickly and then crash down to low levels soon afterwards. Not what you want for the second half of a game or workout.
» It is important to replenish carbohydrate, protein and hydration levels once an activity is completed. Even though athletes typically don't like to eat after competition, replenishing these levels is imperative to prepare for the next game or practice. I always tell my athletes, "this game/practice is over, but let¹s prepare for tomorrow today."
» The use of recovery drinks/shakes is a great option when you don't have access to the proper foods and/or don't feel like eating. Nutritionists speak of a "window of opportunity" to ensure proper recovery. This time is normally 30 to 45 minutes after you've completed your exercise. This recovery drink/shake should contain water to restore hydration status, carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores, electrolytes to speed the re-hydration process and protein to aid in muscle repair.
» When it comes to protein postgame/post-practice drinks, whey protein is ideal for muscle protein synthesis and is easily digestible in a drink.
In order to succeed consistently and effectively on the football field or in the gym, the type of fuel you choose to ingest, and when you choose to ingest it is imperative! So plan ahead and make the right food/drink choices whether you are training for next season, or hitting the gym for a New Year's resolution. You will definitely see and feel the difference!
-Brett Fischer is a licensed physical therapist, certified athletic trainer, certified strength and conditioning specialist and a certified dry needling provider. He has worked with the University of Florida, New York Jets, PGA; Senior PGA TOUR and the Chicago Cubs.