The gridiron field is a battleground. It’s tough on the body and tough on the mind. To have a successful season, players need to maintain a warrior-like level of speed, strength, agility and power. But getting to this level isn’t easy. It takes hours upon hours of hard work in the gym, and just as much focus on maintaining a healthy diet.
It’s a two-way street. The better your diet is, the easier it is to maintain strength, muscle, and athletic success. The worse your diet is, the harder time you’ll have reaching peak fitness. So how do you get the balance right? At the end of the day, it’s about knowing which exercise and diet options work best for you. Let’s break it down.
To get the most out of their bodies, football players need to hit a range of areas that hone their strength and power, speed and agility, flexibility and endurance. This means workout routines need to incorporate a combination of different exercises. Options for these include:
- Box squat
- Weighted back extension
- Dumbbell exercises (e.g. bench press)
- Kettlebell exercises (e.g. lateral lunge, Bulgarian squat)
- Sprinter sit-up
- Bench press
- Triceps curls
- Floor press
- Plank (including side plank)
- Push-ups (including chain push-ups)
- Uphill speed ladder
No doubt you’ll have a solid idea about how many reps and sets you’re capable of for each exercise. But just remember not to overextend yourself, and chat to a fitness trainer about developing a routine that’s right for you and your body. It’s also important to work cardio sessions into your routines, combining steady-state cardio with high intensity interval training to get your metabolism up. When it comes to finding a space to actually do your workouts, you can obviously head to the gym, or, find a space outside – it’s up to you!
To stay at the top of your game (and injury-free), you need to properly fuel your body. While some players have different diets to others, there are some across-the-board basics that every athlete can follow. Let’s start with breakfast. For starters, this meal should never be skipped. It’s important to kick off the day with a balanced meal of lean protein, healthy carbs, fruits and vegetables. This can include a combination of:
- Egg whites
- Turkey bacon
- Whole grain cereal
- Whole grain toast
For lunch, the go-to meals can be sandwiches, wraps and salads that combine lean protein such as chicken, fish or rice, with plenty of vegetables. Dinner, as you might have guessed, should also be focused on lean protein, vegetables, and healthy carbs. For example, this could be steak and potato, chicken and vegetables, lean beef lasagne, pasta, or lean-meat burgers. During every meal, it’s also important to replenish your body with liquids such as water, juice and milk.
Most pros also break up their day with at least two healthy snacks, which can include nuts and nut butters, hummus on gluten-free toast, turkey meatballs, and whole fruit. Gridiron is a game of strength, speed and stamina – so you need to eat the right kinds of foods to feed your muscles and brain during play. Every meal or snack you have should contain carbohydrate-rich foods, as well as protein for muscle growth.
Gridiron is gruelling, both on and off the field. However, if you can get the balance right between training and dieting, you’ll no doubt perform better on game day. Even if you’re not a gridiron player, you can still take inspiration from the way pro players approach their health.
David is the offensive coordinator of the Northwestern American Football Club women's team & a level one AGOA accredited official. Moving from the USA he brings a unique understanding & love of the game to the club.