Skip to main content

Fitness Corner: Nutrition II


Assistant strength and conditioning coach Duane Carlisle joined the 49ers this off-season from the Philadelphia Eagles. He is in charge of directing all of the speed, agility, and conditioning programs for all positions on the team. He has spent the last 13 years pushing athletes to perform to their maximum potential. Carlisle has also developed workout videos which can be viewed, by visiting

In a second installment on nutrition for football, Dr. Suzanne Nelson, the 49ers sports nutritionist, will discuss how players need to eat in order to fuel their intensity for exercise.

Coach Carlisle: Between practice and weight room workouts, players are typically exercising 4 hours per day. How important is it for them to eat before exercise?

Dr Suzanne Nelson: It's critical to eat and drink fluids prior to exercise in order to maximize performance. Before our players take the field, they fill up on high-octane fuel. They know that if they go into a tough practice with the fuel tank on empty it will limit their ability to train and compete at a high intensity.

CC: What foods and fluids are best for them to eat before practice?
Dr. N: Since practice is in the morning, breakfast is their pre-exercise meal. Two–three hours before exercise, they eat a meal that emphasizes healthy carbohydrates, lean protein, and fluids. Carbohydrates are key for training and performance since they are the primary energy source for the muscles and brain. Healthy breakfast carbohydrates include - fruit, fruit smoothies, whole-grain bread, cereals and bagels, oatmeal, grits, pancakes, yogurt.

Although protein is not used as a significant energy source, having lean protein is an important part of the meal for other reasons related to muscle repair and recovery. Players eat protein foods such as milk, cheese, natural peanut butter, egg whites, chicken or turkey sausage. Since fat takes longer to digest than protein or carbohydrate, it is limited to make sure the meal is digested quickly.

CC: What is a typical pre-exercise meal for a player?
Dr. N: There really is no typical meal – each player has his own routine in terms of timing and what foods are tolerated best. Some examples of pre-exercise breakfast meals our player eat are:
•    Yogurt-strawberry-banana-pineapple smoothie.
•    Egg whites, waffles, sausage, banana, and milk.
•    Breakfast burrito with egg white, cheese, salsa, chicken.
•    Oatmeal with raisins.
•    Odwalla nutrition shake, Honey nut Cheerios, English muffin with peanut butter.

CC: You mentioned that fluids are important – what do they drink pre-exercise?
Dr. N: It depends on the hydration status of the player, but a general guideline is for them to always drink 16 ounces of fluid with their meal. Considering personal preference and nutritional needs this may be water, milk, juice, nutrition shake, a fruit smoothie, or a combination of the above. During meetings before practice, I encourage them to drink water. About 30 minutes before going out on the field, another cup of water or a cup of a sports drink, like Gatorade, is recommended to ensure hydration.

In the next Fitness and Nutrition column we'll discuss how to recover with nutrition after exercise in order to reduce muscle soreness and fatigue in preparation for next day's practice.

Featured Question for Coach Parker
I'm looking for information that will help me recover from and avoid groin injuries. I injured my groin playing basketball about 12 weeks ago and because of my age (57) I'm aware that the body will not heel nearly as quickly as my youthful years. But I just love playing sports and would like to continue if at all possible. I don't want to cause any further injury so will just rest but I would like to know what can I do that would limit further injuries as well as recovering from it? - John A.
A: Without any further info, I would suggest you abstain from any activity that would involve the injured muscles. After 12 weeks, resume activity. No matter your age or condition, you would be sore after suffering a groin injury. But, you have a medical problem, and you should consult a physical therapist and get a plan for a gradual resumption of activity.

To eliminate further injuries – make sure you warm up very well before any physical activity. Think of boxers, they are already perspiring heavily when they get in the ring. Warming up is critical to preventing residual soreness! A 5 minute cool down would be helpful as well – try going from running to jogging to walking so your heart can slow down gradually and your body can remove lactic acid which cause soreness in muscles.

To have your question considered, please email Parker at

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.