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Pre-game Nutrition for High School Football Player

My son is 16 almost 17 and plays high school football. On the day he has a football game he will not eat prior to the game. He has always been this way. I need advice on what he can do to fuel his body prior to game time.


Thanks for your question. In terms of pre game nutrition the three most important factors are ensuring he consumes adequate carbohydrates, liquids and electrolytes so he can perform to his best during the game. It is not necessarily required that he eats that much prior to the game. I would recommend eating a meal with both simple and complex carbohydrates for breakfast, oatmeal with raisins is a good example. Complex carbohydrates are a provide a slow release of energy whilst simple carbohydrates give instant energy. Pasta, bread, rice, fruit are all good sources of carbs, generally brown pasta, rice, bread still contain fiber which means they provide a slow release of energy, white rice, bread and pasta does not contain any fiber which means they are broken down much quicker and therefore release energy more rapidly. It is also important to avoid consuming any fat in a pre match meal, as fat can slow the digestion rate down, and you want to make sure the body is not buddy trying to break down a meal whilst in the middle of a football game. A meal with such as skinless chicken breast with a couple of cups of rice and some vegetables would be a healthy and relatively easy on the stomach meal. In terms of liquids aim to consume 1 to 1.5 litres of water throughout the morning before the game. This should be spread over the proceeding hours not in one go, and ideally most if it before the final two hours before the game. He can just sip a little water when he feels like it in the last two hours. Bananas are a good source of carbohydrates and also electrolytes, and are easy to digest. Ideally you would eat the breakfast upon wakening, the next meal 4 hours before the game, and then a small snack such as a banana, some rice cakes or some bread and honey about 2 hours before the game. Continue to sip water up until the start of the game. There are also a variety of sports drinks, I am not a fan of some of them due to the large amounts of additives and chemicals in them. Whilst they make help in sport, they are not great from a health perspective and really don’t offer anything that cant be achieved with real food. If your son is really averse to eating anything at all, then you might want to consider trying to make a smoothie, for example rice milk blended with banana and honey is a great way to get a mix of carbohydrates, liquids and electrolytes in one go. This can be consumed 2-3 hours before the game, just make sure than water is consumed to maintain hydration.

Nutrition Question from an Athlete

Hey, Love your site. I have an advanced question for you guys. Just a little about me before I ask my question: I’m a 24 year old athlete. I played football for about 18 years, and have been an avid wrestler and MMA competitor since I graduated college. Suffice is to say I know a thing or two about nutrition, and a thing or two about exercise. I am 6’2” and 220 pounds. (I’m very muscular) My situation is this: I am working out and exercising all the time, and working out and exercising HARD. My diet is also what I would have though is “Perfect”. I NEVER eat anything unhealthy, and I NEVER cheat. My diet is restricted to a single bowl of high fiber cereal for breakfast, a lunch of some grilled white meat or fish, with some vegetables, sometimes on whole wheat bread, and other times just served with brown rice, and I have a small dinner consisting of either 0%-fat yogurt, or possibly some tuna fish. I have recently assumed this plan, and have made some good progress. I have since dropped a lot of the extra flab I didn’t want, and gained a bunch of lean muscle. However, I have recently hit a “plateau”. I now look and feel exactly of what my goal is EXCEPT there is a very small amount of fat located on my lower abs and along the “love handles”. Try as I might, I can’t seem to make any progress on that area. I’m aware that this area is the absolute last thing to go before you achieve the “perfect” body, but I thought I’d have done enough to get rid of it already. I imagine that the physical amount of fat I’m trying to get rid of here is extremely small, but it just annoyingly won’t go away. Everything else is PERFECT, except for that. It’s even more annoying because, supposedly I’m following the “perfect” plan so why don’t I have the “perfect” body? Thus, I started to think that maybe the only possibility here is that I DON’T in fact follow the best diet plan. (I’m thoroughly convinced I work out and exercise more than enough, though). So I was just wondering what your opinion was on where I’m going wrong. And, as a corollary, my ultimate question is very much related to my situation. This is my main question: If someone had all the time, money, resources, and motivation in the world to do it, what is the PERFECT diet, exercise, and sleep plan? Thank you very much for your time, and I hope to hear back soon.


Hi, thanks for your question. Clearly you are dedicated to your training and have reached a high level of fitness and conditioning. You didn’t mention what your body fat percentage is, so it is difficult to understand how low your body fat currently is. However the fact that you are saying you only have a very small amount on your lower abs, suggests that you are very low. You are indeed correct in that there are certain stubborn areas where fat may not want to shift and unfortunately this lower ab area is one of the main areas where men store fat. Everybody responds differently to a diet and I wouldn’t say there is a perfect diet that will work for everyone. Certainly there are the fundamentals such as a balanced diet, exercise and adequate sleep but these are no set in stone rules as to what will work perfectly for everyone. Your profile was incomplete, so its difficult to write any specifics but just reading your question I would suggest that you do increase your consumption of vegetables and try to include some good fats such as olive oil and omega-3’s. Your outlined diet whilst doesn’t sound bad it does sound somewhat restrictive and from a health perspective you may be missing out on valuable nutrients and anti-oxidants by restricting your fruit and vegetable intake just to your lunchtime meal. Whilst I can see you are trying to control you calories, you still need to ensure that your diet is nutrient rich. Supplements can be used, but are often not as well absorbed by the body as their natural equivalents. Consuming small amount of seeds, nuts and grains are a good way of increasing nutrient consumption without ingesting too many sugars. In terms of exercise and losing body fat, you are probably already aware of High Intensity Interval Training. A fairly recently study found that sprint training was particularly effective for fat loss doing 60 sprints of 8 seconds each with 12 seconds rest in between.

Maintaining weight

I am 5’7, 124 lbs, very active and eat extremely healthy. I have always been thin, even when I didn’t eat healthy. In a few weeks I will start training for an upcoming race and will be working out way more than usual. . I’m worried I will lose weight. Do I need to stock up on calories during that time or will I stay the same as usual?


It is important to ensure you provide your body with additional calories during periods of intense training. If you do not provide adequate nutrients/calories, then yes it is possible you may have some loss of muscle mass/fat mass. In particular its important to ensure that you provide your body with the right food following your training sessions as your body can go into a catabolic state. I would suggest that following any training session whether it is cardio, or resistance training, that you consume a combination of protein and carbohydrates to replenish glycogen and provide amino acids to aid muscle recovery. For this recovery meal you want to eat lean fat free protein along with simple easy to digest carbohydrates. Examples would be tuna, white fish, chicken or turkey without the skin along with a white rice, sweet potato or regular potato without the skin. You should aim to eat this meal as close as possible to completion of your training session, ideally within 1 hour of finishing exercising. Additionally minimise any fat consumption in this meal, i.e. oil based sauces, butter, cream, as fat slows the digestive process down. By consuming easy to digest sources of protein and carbs, your digestive system is able to process this faster, ensuring nutrients are delivered to aid in your recovery as soon as possible. Alternatively if you need something on the go and making a meal is inconvenient, then I would suggest using either skimmed milk or a high quality plain whey protein powder and consume it with a banana or some honey. Initially if you aim for a 2-to-1 ratio of carbs to protein, so 20 grams carbs and 10 grams protein, following your training session and see how that goes. You will need to find what works best for you, but if you find you are still losing weight you can increase the amount.

Long Distance Runner Can’t Eat More Calories Without Gaining

In 2011, I made a lifestyle change and through proper diet and exercise, I lost 70 pounds to reach a healthy goal weight of 115 pounds (I am 5′ 3″). I began running and have completed six half marathons and one full marathon in the last 15 months. My struggle comes with maintaining my weight. I run over 40 miles a week, but I can’t seem to eat more than 1200 calories a day without gaining weight. I’ve tried a number of times to increase my calories to 1400 or 1500 a day, and my weight consistently increases. I am just as diligent at recording what I eat and measuring my food as I was when I was losing weight, so I am very conscious of how much I intake. I’ve researched studies that show that people who have lost significant amounts of weight (over 50 pounds) need fewer calories to maintain their lower weight than people who never dieted. Is this what is happening for me? Is my metabolism just very slow? I’ve had my thyroid tested as a routine part of my annual physical and it is normal. Considering how much I run, I want to be able to eat more, but I seem to be stuck at this 1200 calorie limit, which I know is too low to be healthy. And yet, I am healthy – I have no adverse effects of someone who too greatly restricts their diet (my hair and skin are healthy, I have energy, I sleep well, I don’t get headaches or light-headedness, etc). Is this just what my body is telling me that I need? Is it possible for me to need so few calories when I run as much as I do? Please help me! Thank you!


Thanks for your question. I have seen something of a trend of what you described in people who have lost a significant amount of weight through very high intensity cardiovascular exercise and distance/marathon running. What has often been a common factor in people struggling such as yourself, is a lack of muscle. Usually what I have observed is that the people who underwent this drastic weight loss, have engaged in long term high intensity, long duration exercise that involved little to no weight training. During the process of losing weight they not only lost a significant amount of fat but without knowing, a lot of muscle tissue as well. Marathon and long distance running is particularly catabolic and it is quite common for people to burn muscle reserves as part of their training. Muscle is an important factor in maintaining your metabolic rate and when people lose a significant amount through catabolic activates their metabolism is reduced. Muscle burns calories at rest, and by reducing the amount of muscle your bodies caries you ultimately reduce the amount of calories your body burns at rest. Additionally when you engage in weight training, your muscles also have an increased calorie requirement for the 48 hours following training. People engaged in regular weight training can usually eat more than the normal individual due to their increased requirements of sustaining the additional muscle mass. Along with the liver muscle can help absorb excess glucose in the diet. In people with very low muscle mass, such as marathon runners, there is less available muscle to absorb excess glucose. Therefore the only place for the sugar to be stored is as fat. I would recommend that you introduce a weight training element into your training program, and then observe how your body responds. I am confident that you should find you are able to increase you calorie intake without the noticeable fat gain you are currently experiencing.

Diet and Endurance

I was curious about how the body makes use of all the food and water we consume, and if at any point the amount needed to sustain a healthy lifestyle decreases with endurance training. I will soon undergo a training regimen for a long distance bike trip, and was wondering if part of increasing your endurance has to do with the way your body conserves or uses food and water. In other words, can the body increase fuel efficiency?


Your question is an interesting one. Regarding the first part of your question, whether the amount of food needed to sustain a healthy lifestyle decreases with endurance training, my answer would be no. For someone who is involved in endurance training, this usually involves frequent and long duration training and exercise., which means your calorie and nutritional demands will go up, compared to the average healthy person. Endurance sports can be physically very taxing on the body, and studies have shown that in some cases, athletes such as marathon runners have shown symptoms of cardiovascular problems due to what could be considered long term over training and stress on the heart. Endurance sports can be very catabolic and certainly your requirements for additional protein to preserve muscle, as well as additional carbohydrates and good fats will increase. During long duration and possibly high intensity exercise the body will utilise your own protein in your muscles as a source of energy if it cannot adequately provide enough energy from glycogen and fat reserves. Consuming adequate protein before and after training can help reduce the potential for muscle loss. Good fats such as Omega-3’s from fish sources as well as olive oil which is rich in monounsaturated fats and polyphenols have both been shown to be of benefit to heart health. Consumption of these fats as part of a diet are worthwhile for the long term Endurance athlete. The second part of your question, whether a person can become more efficient or “fuel efficient”, well this is not so easy to answer and can be interpreted in a number of ways. I am not aware of any studies specifically comparing the average person’s fuel efficiency vs an endurance athlete but certainly there are also many cases of highly trained individuals being able to outperform the average person due to training adaptations which allow their body to work more efficiently. If for example you take two individuals, one being a highly muscular athlete such as bodybuilder and the other an marathon runner with low body fat and muscle mass. According to one study a pound of muscle, at rest, burns about six calories per day so the bodybuilder with large amounts of muscle will require more calories per day than the marathon runner. If a bodybuilder has 50 pounds more muscle than the marathon runner, then they he will need 300 calories more based on those calculations. Others claim additional muscle needs much more calories. Either way in terms of maintaining their muscle mass they will use more fuel over the marathon runner if both are sedentary and not engaged in any activity. On that basis you could consider that an endurance athlete is more fuel efficient as their requirement for calories to sustain their muscle mass is less. There are benefits to adequate levels of muscle, as skeletal muscle mass strongly correlates with improved insulin sensitivity, a lack of muscle is linked to increased insulin resistance and poor glucose regulation.