Nutrition of a Star Player

The Dallas Cowboys are able to maximize their performance through diet with the guidance of the team’s dietitian, Scott Sehnert, Director of Sports Performance, along with myself, team nutrition assistant and a sports dietitian.

As the season approaches, the Cowboys have a nutrition game day plan to keep the guys fueled and performing their best. This plan begins with a pre-game meal consumed 3-4 hours before game time. This meal keeps the players free from hunger and fatigue before and during the game, and helps maintain optimal energy levels throughout the game. The pregame meal consists of complex carbohydrates, low to moderate protein and low fat to ensure easy digestion and to avoid stomach upset. To know what this meal looks like, the Cowboys reveal their secret weapon they use to keep them fueled and performing their best on game day.

Our pregame meals include:

  • Omelets
  • French toast
  • White and whole wheat bread
  • Pastas (fettuccini, spaghetti, linguine)
  • Brown rice
  • Chicken breasts and lean cuts of sirloin steaks
  • Baked potato bar
  • Steamed vegetable medley (carrots, squash, zucchini, broccoli)
  • Seasonal fruits
  • Salad bar

Nutrition doesn’t stop after the game. In fact, the post-game meal is equally important, if not greater than the pre-game meal. Post-game is an optimal time to get vital nutrients into these athletes’ bodies and muscles to help with the repairing and recovery process. The focus of this meal is to repair, rebuild and refuel the body with key nutrients and fluids 30-60 minutes after the game. The Cowboys like to refuel with easy-to-handle “quick” foods, like build-your-own burrito bowls for their post-game meal.

While nutrition plays a big role on game day, having the proper fuel on a daily basis allows players to perform at their best. The Cowboys use dairy options like yogurt parfaits, cheese sticks and milk between and during meals, as well as milk based smoothies with additional whey protein for practice and workout recovery as part of the daily training routine. Milk based drinks are preferred for post-workout recovery since milk contains carbohydrates to help refuel the body, protein to help reduce muscle breakdown and promote growth, and fluid and electrolytes to aid in rehydration.

The proper game day nutrition and recovery are vital to a successful performance week in, and week out. The Cowboys focus on their pre- and post-game meals as well as everyday fueling around their training to ensure optimal performance for their players.

By Taylor Lile, M.S., RDN, CSSD, LD

Taylor Lile is a sports dietitian experienced at working with collegiate, professional and tactical athletes. Her interest in sports nutrition began in high school through her own experience as an athlete seeing how diet impacted her performance. At the University of Oklahoma, she was a sports nutrition volunteer with the football team, while earning her bachelor’s degree in nutritional sciences. In graduate school at Loughborough University in England, Taylor worked with the Nottingham Panthers of the Elite Ice Hockey League as a sports dietitian while earning her master’s degree in sports and exercise nutrition. Taylor currently works with U.S. Army combat forces and also has worked as a sports dietitian at Clemson University, University of Oregon and West Virginia University as well as with the NFL Dallas Cowboys and Gatorade Sports Science Institute through the NBA G League Texas Legends.

Get Content Like This in Your Inbox.