Dr. Randy Martin: We all know what football fans eat and drink on game day, but have you ever thought about the nutritional needs of the players as they get ready for a game? I met with Jeff Fish, the Falcons’ director of athletic performance, to find out more.
To get professional football players ready for game day, Coach Jeff Fish, the director of athletic performance for the Atlanta Falcons, says, “We want to make sure that we have a good hydration base before we go out on the field – especially in this climate. We also want to make sure that, nutritionally, we are prepared to go out and handle the demands on our bodies – we need fuel for more than three hours of very intense work.”
“We put together about 50 meals in a template and choose from those meals each day, depending on that day’s needs,” says Fish.
So what do players eat on game day?
“Our rule of thumb is that about four hours before kickoff, we have our pregame meal,” he says. When the players eat depends largely on the game time.
“If it’s a night game, obviously we’ve already had other meals earlier in the day, with breakfast and lunch,” Fish explains. “The pregame meal consists of lean proteins, some [complex] carbohydrate-rich foods, vegetables, and fruit.”
Players have a variety of options to choose from, depending on their tastes, he says.
How Players Stay Hydrated
Fish says that players’ hydration levels are monitored from day one when they show up at training camp.
“We have a protein station and a recovery station, and a list of our target guys, who, after our weigh-ins, [need more hydration],” he says. “We actively seek them out and make sure they are topped off. We keep [up with those players] throughout the year.”
Then, “whether it’s through IVs in extreme cases, we’ll start the hydration process right after the game,” says Fish.
Dr. Randy Martin: As you can see, professional football players adhere to strict meal and hydration plans to stay healthy and in the best shape possible. I learned a lot from meeting with Coach Fish and hope you enjoyed this insight into how players prepare for game day.