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Fitness Corner: Nutrition III


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 third and final 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.

The Food Zone: How to Maximize the Recovery Process

Eating for peak performance is not something that our players wait to do until 24 hours before game day. They know that it's important to eat smart every day in order to achieve peak performance on the playing field and to maximize recovery between workouts.

Coach Carlisle: How does nutrition play a role in recovery from exercise?
Dr. Nelson: Re-fueling and re-hydrating immediately after exercise is a critical step in the recovery process. This means giving the body certain nutrients and fluids right after lifting or practice to reduce soreness, fatigue, and metabolic stress. Additional calories and fluids are consumed during the course of the day to complete the process.

CC: What are your specific goals for the recovery process?
Dr. N: For every player, the goals for recovery nutrition are to:
•    Replenish muscle fuel stores (called glycogen).
•    Restore body's water/hydration status.
•    Replace electrolytes lost through sweat.
•    Repair/rebuild muscle.
•    Provide the body with the necessary nutrients to maintain a healthy immune system.

This is accomplished by eating a balance of carbohydrate, protein, fat, antioxidants, minerals, and fluids, in 5-6 meals per day. From an energy standpoint, nutritional intake should match individual training volume and intensity. However, for certain players, energy demands are very high - and despite their best efforts to consume enough food – especially carbohydrates - to match training from day to day, energy depletion can gradually occur. The result is a decline in mental and physical performance and possible increased risk of injury due to fatigue.

Coach Carlisle: On their day off, can players eat whatever they want?
Dr. N: (laughs) A day off from training is an opportunity for players to "catch-up" not "melt down" nutritionally. Although players still need to stay on track with their nutrition and weight goals, they should also enjoy eating some of their "favorite foods." Although these foods – wings, burgers, fries, pepperoni pizza – tend to be high in fat and calories, they're important to include occasionally along with other healthy choices.

Players who are trying to gain weight need to take advantage of time off to consume extra calories that will promote muscle weight gain. Alternatively, players who are trying to lose weight may be concerned about over-eating on a day when they're not exercising. In this case, it makes sense to decrease calorie intake to adjust for reduced energy expenditure. Extreme calorie restriction, however, is not recommended, as it would limit the recovery process.

Bottom line: The purpose of a recovery day is to recover – and that means replenishing body fuel stores for the training days ahead to promote muscle rest and repair. If it has been a tough week of training - as it always is during season – taking time to re-energize with the right nutrients is critical to long-term athletic success.

Featured Question for Coach Parker: I'd like to know what is the best thing to eat to keep my mind and body energized and motivated. Also, I tend to cramp up in my thighs when I am bench pressing. What can I do to prevent that?
Answer: Your diet should consist of at least 60% carbohydrates with the emphasis being on complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, and about 20-20% protein, and 15-20% fat. If you are cramping, it might be because you are dehydrated or because you are perhaps using your legs. Make sure that when you bench press that you keep your hips flat on the bench, and don't bounce the bar, and that should eliminate the cramping problem.

To have your question considered, please email Parker at

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