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Nutrition and Lifting for Football Q&A with Trainer Pete Hogan

pete hogan

I had the pleasure of meeting Pete a few years ago when he was beginning a career change from Real Estate into nutrition and personal training. You will probably not meet a nicer guy and better trainer to work with for football. The best advice comes from those who have been through the gauntlet, and Pete Hogan was a player that dominated it.

Pete is a graduate of Newport Harbor High School’s class of 1998 and was a standout 3 year varsity football player and all-around athlete who served as team captain senior year and was the winner of the Jr. National Weightlifting Championship in ’97. Pete went on to earn a full football scholarship to Colorado State University, where he received All-Conference honors ’00, ’01, ’02 and was an Outland Trophy Candidate his senior year while serving as the team captain. After graduating in 2003, Pete played a season of football in Germany.

Here is my Q&A with Pete.

1) What are the best pre/post foods for football practices and games? What about Hell Week?

Pre and post nutrition is essential for performance and recovery during hell week, in season practice, and for games.  A balanced diet is crucial for maintaining energy output throughout the entire length of the practice/game and all macronutrients (carbohydrate, fat, and protein) are equally important.  The modern diet is loaded with processed grains and sugars. High intake of these will lead to increased fat storage, low energy production, muscle cramping, bloating, and inhibit adequate absorption and utilization of nutrients in the body.

For pre/post game meals high quality foods should be consumed to refill and replenish liver and muscle glycogen stores. A balanced meal should be consumed 2-3 hours before practice/game.  Fluids should be consumed frequently between meals and during game time.  The addition of a pinch of sea salt and lemon to water is an easy way to get in natural electrolytes and vitamin C. Athletes should workout or perform on an empty stomach for optimal digestion, absorption, and assimilation of nutrients in order to maximize energy.   A pregame meal should be balanced consisting of a starchy carbohydrate, healthy fat, and high quality protein. Brown rice, wild rice, yams, sweet potatoes, red potatoesare good sources of starchy carbohydrates that will help fill muscle and liver glycogen. Legumes are also a good source of carbohydrates due to their high content of B vitamins which help increase energy production. A healthy fat source such as grapeseed oil, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, etc. and a high quality protein (eggs, chicken, beef, fish, turkey, etc.) is a perfect pregame meal.  Beef jerky, whole fruits, trail mix (raw nuts mixed with dried fruit), and protein shakes can be consumed between meals.  An athlete should eat several times a day to maximize energy and to stabilize insulin and blood sugar levels.

Example of Pre and Post meal for Hell Week and in season:

Breakfast:

Egg Scramble (Eggs, sliced poultry, avocado, and vegetables)

Snack:

Handful of nuts with whole fruit or mixed raw nuts with dried fruit

Lunch:

Chicken Salad (avocado, legumes, tomatoes, carrots, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice)

Post workout (anaerobic resistance exercise):

Protein Recovery Shake (banana or coconut water + whey protein or hempseed protein)

Post-practice or Post game meal:

Starchy carbohydrate (Sweet potato), high quality grass-fed protein (beef), healthy fat (coconut oil), and vegetables (steamed broccoli and/or spinach, sautéed red onion, or stir fried vegetables).

Simple sugars coming from whole fruits including watermelon, cherries and pineapple are three fruits that can help replenish glycogen stores and help the athlete recover and reduce inflammation.  Watermelon contains vitamin C, iron, electrolytes, L-Citrulline, L-Arginine, and the high water content helps the body to rehydrate. Watermelon helps to remove and flush out UREA from the body which is often high after resistance exercise and football practices games.  During high intense impact exercise there is a high volume of protein deamination that takes place and Urea is the byproduct. Cherries are high in potassium, vitamin C, and are a perfect fruit or juice to add to a recovery drink because its nutrients help to reduce inflammation. Pineapple contains vitamin A, vitamin C, bromelain, calcium, and potassium.  All 5 contents help muscles heal, provide nutrients, reduce swelling, and improve recovery time.

2) What do you recommend for a rest and recovery program for football?

Rest and recovery is essential for optimal performance.  The importance of adequate sleep often gets overshadowed by training, nutrition, and performance.  In recent years the importance of sleep and its correlation with performance has come to light. A study conducted by the Stanford University (Cheri Mah) showed the correlation of sleep and athletic performance in collegiate football playersWell rested athletes maintain adequate levels of HGH, recover faster, and perform better. Athletes should aim to get 8-10 hours of sleep.  Some coaches use sleep devices (such as the Fitbit One Wireless Activity Plus Sleep Tracker) to track their athletes sleeping patterns. Coaches then have the ability to gage the athletes sleep patterns which enables them to design the appropriate workout protocol and intensity level. This may be an extreme way to emphasize the importance of sleep but proper rest is a critical component for recovery, performance, and building muscle.

Football puts a large demand of physical exertion on the body. Athletes need to take care of their skeletal muscle by performing dynamic movement patterns as a warm up to both practice and resistance exercise.  After workouts athletes also need to partake in an active trigger point rolling program in order to keep their muscles loose and healthy.  The muscle fascia is a web like structure that covers the entire body.  Soft tissue work needs to be done continuously throughout the week to keep muscle fascia and muscles loose. Trigger point rollers and/or lacrosse balls are both great tools for trigger point muscle release.

3) What is the most effective way to put on muscle for football players? 

Often football players and coaches take on a “more is better” mentality when it comes to training and building muscle.  Players consume more protein shakes, more nutrition supplements, take in more calories, and train harder and longer in attempt to put on more lean muscle. However, the best way to build lean muscle and healthy weight is to gradually increase portion sizes and caloric intake while partaking in an effective resistance training program.  First and foremost supplements and protein shakes should not supplement a poor diet.  Supplements can be effective but should be taken in accordance with the athlete’s nutrition needs (BMI, BMR, etc.).  Athletes should consume between 1.5-2.1 g/kg of protein per bodyweight per day based on their exercise load and exercise type (aerobic or anaerobic).

A high protein diet with low intake of carbohydrates is not a good idea for players trying to add lean muscle especially when following an intense anaerobic exercise program.  Low carbohydrate diets are effective for weight loss but should not be administered to a young athlete trying to build muscle.  Nutrient dense and starchy carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, red potatoes, quinoa, etc.) are needed to replenish and refill liver and muscle glycogen.  Balance is key and an excess from any macronutrient is not beneficial. Excess carbohydrates will store fat and excess fat and protein will put extra strain on the kidneys and liver. There is no magic pill to replace hard work and training.  Nutrient dense foods need to be eaten often and calories from high quality foods will provide the best results. Eggs mixed with lean proteins, healthy fats, and green leafy vegetables are a great way to start the morning.  Sweet potato topped with coconut oil combined with a grass fed steak and stir fried vegetables is a great dinner.  Healthy simple carbohydrates coming from fruits such as bananas, dates, watermelon, oranges, apples, figs, etc. help replenish muscle glycogen, cleans the system (antioxidants), and provide high levels of micronutrients. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for muscle health because the antioxidant repairs connective tissue.

Power Foods: Eggs, chicken, beef, fish, nuts (mixed raw nuts, raw almond butter), seeds (hemp seed, chia, saviseed, sunflower seed butter), avocado, coconut oil, potassium rich foods (red & yellow potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, dates, figs, raisins, bananas, carrots).

Leucine: Leucine is a branch chain amino acid which is very effective muscle builder.  Leucine is highest in organic dairy products (organic whey protein, full fat Greek yogurt), Grass Fed Beef, Salmon, Almonds, Chicken, Eggs, and Pork.

4) What are the best exercises for football? How does each one relate to the movements required? What are the most important for injury prevention? 

The best exercises for football, when performed correctly, are plyometrics (jump training), single leg split squats (holding 1 or 2 dumbbells with back leg raised on platform), deadlifts (single and double leg), and Olympic lifting. I focus on the following exercises for football players:

*Plyometrics are very beneficial because it requires the muscles to exert maximum force in a short period of time which can help football players to increase both speed and power. Both single leg and plyo’s can help build a strong ankle and lower leg which will help reduce the risk of low and high ankle sprains. Lower leg injuries such as high ankle and low ankle sprains are the most common injuries in football.  Training in a minimal drop shoe or Vibram Fivefingers will build the strongest ankle and lower leg.

*Speed and agility drills (cone drills, ladder, bags, etc.) and kettle bell training are examples of common exercises that are performed at the high school, college, and professional levels.

*Medicine ball work (medicine ball toss, ball slams, rotational throws, etc.), Deadlifts, sled work, push and pull circuits (both bodyweight and weighted)

*Squat Jumps and box jumps develop explosive squat mechanics and require the athlete to utilize their glutes and develop lower leg strength.

*Single leg spit squats also helps the athlete build lower leg strength and stability and balance as well.

*Olympic lifting (cleans, clean and jerk, and snatch) is excellent for football training.  All positions can benefit from Olympic lifting because explosive full body movement from the legs, core (hips, glutes, lower trunk), and upper body are performed on the field when blocking or tacking. Deadlifts also build power and strength in the legs, core, back, and arms.  All football positions require movements of frontal, sagittal, and transverse planes.  Full body movement patterns and rotational exercise will train the athletes’ body to perform better on the field.

*Corrective Exercise is essential. Strength coaches should administer corrective training when an athlete shows a movement limitation or a left/right muscle asymmetry. Band work involving stability and mobility exercises should be administered if the athlete exposes a right-left asymmetry. A Functional Movement Screen can be utilized to correctly assess an athlete in order to provide the appropriate corrective exercise or exercise progression.  The FMS was developed by Gray Cook and is often utilized by many college and NFL teams to lower injury and increase performance.

5) How can football players become mentally tough? What psychological techniques do you recommend? Football players need to be mentally tough to be successful on the field especially if they want to exceed at the collegiate or professional level.  Athletes that are not mentally tough will not excel. Many athletes have the drive, determination, and discipline but it is their ability to focus and react to adversity that separates average players from the great players.

EVENT + REACTION = OUTCOME.  How an athlete reacts to adversity (event of a play or mistake) will directly affect the outcome.  Know that mistakes are going to happen. Acknowledge your mistake, learn from your mistake, and move on to the next play.  Don’t beat yourself up. Respond appropriately to adversity. Your mental reaction to adversity needs to be positive.  If you miss a tackle, blocking assignment, catch, throw, etc. get up as fast as can and try again. Only allow positive thoughts in your head and remove negative thinking. Take out the trash (negative thoughts) after every mishap and prove yourself by bouncing back: remain calm under fire.

6) For football players that are looking for an edge and may be tempted to use banned substances, are there any natural adaptogenic, herbal or other supplement formulas you recommend? Football players can get an edge by training hard and eating clean.  The cleaner you eat the more nutrients will be available for the body to digest, absorb, and utilize.  It is ok to take supplements but make sure that you know what you are ingesting. Most protein shakes are highly processed and difficult to digest.  Find a protein supplement with organic whey or hempseed (hemp may cause digestive problems with some athletes) with no added synthetic or processed sugars. Look for products that contain only evaporated cane sugar or juice concentrates for added sweetness. Sucralose, aspartame and other artificial sweeteners are highly processed and are toxic to the human body. *See the article Best and Worst Whey Protein Powders.

 

Pete Hogan is a trainer at Power Fitness and can be reached by email at petejh5@gmail.com

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