But what makes the spectacle so fascinating (aside from watching performers dazzle on the stage as Shakira and JLo did in 2020) is undoubtedly the athletic ability of professional NFL football players. No matter which team you’re rooting for, it’s no secret that these athletes have tremendous skill and strength. This leads us to wonder: How do they have the energy to sprint 50 yards for a touchdown while dodging a line of defensive players looking to tackle them to the ground?
- Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN, sports registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Aside from a healthy dose of adrenaline, food is definitely an MVP player on their teams. We caught up with Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN, the lead registered dietitian for the Kansas City Chiefs, to learn which foods she recommends eating before engaging in any type of exercise (including the Super Bowl) to ensure you have sufficient fuel in the tank.
What the Kansas City Chiefs’ RD recommends eating before exercising
Whether you’re running a marathon, going for a chill stroll outdoors, or competing in the most important football championship in the world, Bonci believes that food is the best fuel for exercising. Specifically, she says that carbs are the most important type of food to eat before engaging in physical activity. “I always recommend eating some kind of carbs before exercising. For example, oatmeal, potatoes, and rice all provide energy for the exercising muscle,” Bonci says.
Of course, what you eat after a workout is equally important. “After exercise, I recommend cereal and milk, yogurt and fruit, or cheese and crackers. The goal immediately post-exercise is to have an 'appetizer amount' of food. Let your body relax and then have a full meal later,” Bonci says. Once your body has had a chance to cool down post-workout, she recommends eating a meal high in protein. “For the meal post-exercise, the protein on your plate is important, as well as replacing electrolytes and providing the added value of omega-3s for the anti-inflammatory effect to help your body heal and minimize any pain from training,” Bonci says.
Her ideal post-workout protein source is fish, which she uses to make a hearty, well-balanced meal like a salmon burger. “For example, a Secret Island Salmon Hot Dog on a bun with a side salad or a Secret Island Salmon Burger with lettuce and tomato and a side of fruit brings both protein and produce to the plate with great taste,” Bonci says.
In addition to eating foods that help support the body before and after exercising, Bonci stresses the importance of staying well-hydrated throughout. “The number one thing I've learned about properly fueling your body for a workout is that food and fluids need to be a priority, not an afterthought. They are the internal equipment and are necessary to prepare your body for exercise and repair from exercise so that you can do it again,” she says.
According to Bonci, before exercising, it’s important to drink plenty of water (if you have eaten). However, if you haven’t had a chance to eat, beverages with carbs and electrolytes are the way to go, Bonci says. As for what to sip on post-workout, she says drinking water is a safe bet if you’ll be eating shortly after. “However, if a liquid is the preferred post-exercise nourishment, chocolate milk or a fruit and yogurt smoothie are great options providing protein, carbs, and fluid to rehydrate and restore,” Bonci says.
In all, for optimal energy levels, Bonci’s golden rule is to be consistent with the number of meals and eating occasions daily—this means trying to eat something every four to five hours throughout the day.
What professional football players will likely be eating ahead of the Super Bowl
Although each football player has different preferences, Bonci says she’ll be serving a healthy buffet to keep the athletes fueled and ready to tackle (ha!) the big day ahead. “We don’t do anything different than we do during the regular season. Some players will eat a breakfast meal beforehand, like eggs, bacon, and toast, a breakfast sandwich, or an omelet. Other players eat chicken, broccoli, and rice. Meanwhile, others have pasta or fish,” Bonci says. However, those with pregame jitters—we don’t blame them one bit—will usually keep it simple and stick to slurping a smoothie.
Check out this 15-minute at-home pilates workout:
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