Athletes eat a lot of food to keep up with the demands of the game they play. For players in the National Football League that often means eating more food in a day than most regular people eat in two or three days. In fact, the food intake for an NFL player can be as much as 6,000 calories a day, but averages out to be about 4,000 calories per day for most players.
So what do NFL players eat to ensure they are getting enough of the nutrients they need to keep playing football each week? We chatted with a former NFL player and some nutrition experts who frequently work with professional athletes to find out. The answers about the healthy foods that all NFL athletes eat may surprise you. Plus, read up on The 100 Healthiest Foods on the Planet.
Reggie Kelly, a former NFL tight end for the Atlanta Falcons and Cincinnati Bengals told us that the top three foods that are always in every NFL player’s refrigerator are salmon, sweet potatoes, and hummus. These three foods combine to make a balanced diet that keeps players filled with all of the nutrients they need for hard workouts, practices, and big game days.
“NFL athletes exert a tremendous amount of force while maintaining endurance throughout all four quarters. Being able to recover quickly requires high-quality protein, which can help reduce muscle loss, build more lean muscle, and help NFL athletes maintain a healthy weight,” said Daniel and Shanda Sullivan who are Certified Personal Trainers and Nutritionists who regularly work with elite athletes.
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According to Mario Limaduran, Executive Performance Chef, Trifecta, lean, high-quality proteins like salmon are a must-have for athletes in the NFL. “Not only provide a source of protein that is complete in amino acids, but salmon also helps fight inflammation that may be exercise-induced through the omega-3’s present in the fish. In addition, salmon is also a good source of potassium and an excellent source of vitamin D,” he said.
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Sweet potatoes are a nutrient-dense carbohydrate that helps fuel athletes and their need for quick bursts of energy. “Sweet potatoes are also relatively high in fiber, which supports the digestive system and is an excellent source of beta carotene, vitamin C, and potassium,” said Limaduran.
RELATED: One Major Effect of Eating Sweet Potatoes, Says Dietitian
As with everything in life, adding more nutrient-dense foods into your diet is all about balance. “For most individuals, incorporating one or more of these foods one to three times per day will fuel their lifestyle. But the key is to be creative and not to eat the same foods all the time,” said the Sullivans. Try to mix it up by creating different flavor profiles with the ingredients or try different combinations to keep your palate satisfied.
More ways to fuel your body like an athlete:
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