Nutrition for Football Training

footballReturning to school doesn’t only mean buying school supplies and moving back to campus for many high school and college football players.  It means rejoining the team for grueling practices morning and night in the end-of-summer heat.  Combine increased training with a busy schedule and many young athletes put themselves at risk for under-fueling for performance.  Below are some tips for staying adequately hydrated and fueled for pre-season football training.


The amount of fluid you need each day depends on your body weight and how much fluid you lose each day—these numbers are unique for each individual. Here are some general guidelines for fueling for aggressive training. 

Daily fluid needs (this is without much exercise!):

Approx. 35 ml per kilogram body weight

(to convert pounds to kilograms divide by 2.2)



A150# person (68 kg) needs approx. 2400 ml fluid (86 ounces, 11 cups)

We generally consume 20-30% of our fluid needs with food

So that brings it down to 65-70 ounces and 8-9 cups of fluid we need to DRINK!


A 180# person (82 kg) needs 2863 ml fluid (100 ounces or 13 cups)

—Minus the 20-30% fluid from food

Fluid we need to DRINK:   10 cups


A 200# person (91 kg) needs 3200 ml (114 oz; 14 cups)

—Minus the 20-30% fluid from food

Fluid we need to DRINK: 91 ounces or 11 cups


Now lets add in exercise!


During Exercise

Most people lose 1-4 lbs of body weight from sweat during exercise.

All of that fluid needs to be replenished during and after exercise to remain well hydrated.

A FOOTBALL player, practicing in full gear in the heat of summer can lose up to 16 POUNDS of water during practices/games.  Not a typo–I said 16 pounds!

The goal is to replace 80-100% of losses during practice.

If someone loses 1 lb in an hour-long practice, he or she will need to replete with 1, 16 ounce (1 pound) water bottle.  (note: 16 ounces= 1 lb)

For someone who sweats a lot and loses 5-6#, that would mean 64-94 ounces (4-6, 16 ounce water bottles) during practice to reach 80-100% repletion.


Due to the hot weather and use of equipment that can increase body temperature and sweat rate, sports drinks are highly recommended during practice to replace sodium, chloride, and potassium losses to prevent cramping or hypernatremia (low sodium in the blood). Gatorade or Powerade are simple and relatively inexpensive options.  

Try to drink throughout the workout and avoid chugging too much water or sports drink at one time-–it’s hard to perform with fluids sloshing around in your stomach and intense activity can slow the rate that fluids pass through your stomach!


Hydration Between workouts:

  • It’s important to continue to rehydrate between workouts, especially if rest is less than 12 hours.
  • Sipping frequently throughout the day provides better hydration and less GI upset than “chugging” water.
  • Eating a moderate amount of salt to both replenish sodium and chloride losses and increase thirst is helpful, as well.
    • (i.e. sprinkle salt on cooked veggies, eggs or potatoes, use deli ham for sandwiches)

The goal between workouts is to replace any fluids lost during the workout and keep hydration status at neutral so you don’t enter into your next workout under-hydrated.


Determining Fluid Losses and Hydration Status: 

  • One strategy to know how much fluid you lose (and need to replace) during a workout is step on the scale immediately before a workout and immediately after. If the scale shows a loss of 2#–you need to replace 2# of fluid or 32 ounces.
  • Another indicator of hydration is color of your urine. If your urine is dark yellow, you are likely dehydrated (unless you are taking certain vitaOne strategy to know how much fluid you lose (and need to replmins or medications). Light/Pale, almost clear colored urine is consistent with proper hydration.



 Now Lets Talk Food

Fueling for workouts:


  • Make sure to eat something within 60-90 minutes of training.
  • If training is in the morning and you don’t have time for a full meal prior to practice, have something small, high in carbohydrate and easy to digest.
    • Example: Banana with toast and peanut butter
    • Bowl of cereal with banana

Post- workout

  • Replenish with a combination of carbs, protein and a little fat as soon after training as you’re able.
    • Examples:
      • 16 ounces chocolate milk
      • 2 pieces of toast with butter, 2 eggs
      • 2 pieces bread with peanut butter and a glass of milk

Between Workouts

Meals should be frequent and adequate.

  • Try eating every 2-3 hours
    • A combination of carbohydrate (bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, corn), protein (meat, cheese, fish, beans, soy) and fat (oil, mayo, avocado, butter, nuts) plus 1-2 servings of fruit and/or vegetable.
  • Pack snacks in your bag, car, etc. to make sure that whenever you’re hungry, you have something available
    • Examples:
      • granola bargranola bar
      • PB sandwiches
      • Trail mix
      • bananas
      • beef jerky
  • Eat to satisfy hunger but try to avoid feeling overly full right before a workout.
    • Generally, it’s good to give your body at least 45 minutes after a small meal before training.
    • If you’re feeling hungry or tired right before a practice, foods like bananas, chocolate milk (if you tolerate dairy) and granola bars can be easy-to-digest options.


Sample Day:

Pre-workout snack: banana + granola bar, 8 ounces water or sports drink

Breakfast: 3 eggs, 2 pieces of whole grain toast with butter, yogurt with ¼ c granola, 1 c orange juice, 16 ounces water

Snack: ½ c trail mix or granola bar with milk, 8 ounces water

Lunch: 8 inch turkey and cheese hoagie with oil or mayo and veggies, small bag of pretzels, 1 cup of fruit, 12 ounces Gatorade and/or water,

Snack: Crackers and hummus or cheese, 8 ounces water or sports drink

Snack: (optional) Fruit with Peanut butter

Dinner: 1 c rice or pasta; 7 ounces fish or chicken, 1 cup cooked veggies with butter or oil, Dinner roll, 16 ounces water, fruit salad

Snack: yogurt or ice cream, 12 ounces water

(Sample day based on 6 ft tall, 180 pound, 18 year old male and provides approx. 3200-3400 Calories/day)


Note: The above recommendations apply to normally healthy athletes.  Every athlete is unique and therefore has individual needs.  Always consult with a dietitian or physician to best understand your specific nutrient needs. 

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