Eat like a pro football player

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Ever wonder how many calories it takes to keep a 300-pound linebacker in the game?

While tailgaters are chowing down on burgers and hot dogs, football players eat to maximize their performance and strength.

“What they eat, when they eat and how much they eat will affect how they perform, how they feel and their outcome,” said sports nutritionist Heidi Skolnik, who has worked with the New York Giants.

The key to fueling football players is figuring out how many calories they need to get through the day.

“The number of calories you need is determined by your size, the intensity of your workout and the duration of your workout,” Skolnik said.

During summer training camp, a 300-pound linebacker could easily consume a combination of proteins, carbs and fats – adding up to 7,000 calories a day. While that may seem like a lot, Skolnik said that athletes who under-eat could face serious consequences.

“Athletes who under-eat on a chronic basis really are at an increased risk for injury,” Skolnik said. “When you don't have enough carbs in your system, it can affect your central nervous system; it can affect your timing; it increases your risk for misstep, and of course, your stamina and your endurance is not as great.”

For athletes who aren’t quite pros but enjoy working up a sweat, Skolnik still advises paying careful attention to nutrition and fueling –without consuming quite as many calories.

“If you are working out intensely for more than an hour, than you will benefit from taking in some kind of substance – usually carbs and fluid – to help you go longer and harder for an intense work out,” Skolnik said.

Eating a snack two hours before a workout can help improve performance. But Skolnik warns that athletes should avoid high-fat, high-protein or spicy items, as they can increase body heat and metabolism, as well as cause dehydration.

Instead, Skolnik advises snacking on a Kind bar and a yogurt, or 1/3 of a cup of hummus with a few pretzels.

“And with both of these, you want to take in 7 to 10 ounces, have a cup of fluid,” Skolnik said.

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