While the gameday playbook might be full of winning strategies, a well-thought-out sports nutrition plan plays a key role, too. As a registered dietitian nutritionist and director of team nutrition for the Denver Broncos, I work to help the team maximize their performance through diet and nutrition. With the season in high gear, I wanted to give you a sneak peek at the Denver Broncos pre- and post-game nutrition plan.
Pregame nutrition is extremely important, and it starts the night before a game with our pregame dinner. Here, players have a variety of lean proteins, carbohydrates, healthy fats and fluids. The focus of this meal is carbohydrates – as that is the primary fuel source for muscles and the brain – with approximately 60% of their meal coming from carbohydrate-rich foods.
- Pregame Dinner Offerings: Made-to-order pasta as well as items such as grilled chicken, fish, rice, quinoa and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Our home games are typically around 2:00 p.m., so the team’s game day breakfast gives the players a second opportunity for pregame fueling. Because heavy proteins and fats take longer to digest than carbohydrates, we choose lean proteins and carbohydrates as the focal point of this morning meal.
- Pregame Breakfast Offerings: Made-to-order omelets plus oatmeal, pancakes, waffles, eggs, hash browns, chicken and turkey sausage, and multiple fruits.
Healthy eating doesn’t stop at the pregame meal; in fact, recovery nutrition is the most impactful thing athletes can do (besides getting adequate sleep). It is vital that we help our athletes recover through proper nutrition within 30 minutes of coming off the field – for both practices and games. In the refueling phase of nutrition, we are focusing on a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein: the carbohydrates help replenish muscle glycogen stores (a key for building back energy stores) and the protein helps with repairing and rebuilding muscle.
- Post-Game Recovery Offerings: Low-fat dairy foods, which offer that optimal refueling ratio of carbs to protein.
Ongoing Daily Nutrition
While nutrition is important on game day, it’s also an essential piece of players’ training regimens throughout the rest of the week. We use nutrition and fueling strategies to help reduce inflammation when athletes get injured, optimize recovery after weight training sessions and practices, promote hydration and reduce the risk of muscle cramps, and help them properly fuel up before they enter the field for practices and games. We also do a lot of education (such as cooking demos) to teach younger players how to cook at home and how to shop when they go to the grocery store.
- Recommended Ongoing Nutrition: High calories, good proteins and healthy fats throughout the day to help players get adequate calories for their weight goals.
Having a winning nutrition plan throughout the week as well as on game day is vital for the success of any team. Learn how to optimize your sports nutrition strategy with dairy.