American Football

with Jason Bell

In American Football, nutritional strategies vary from player to player, based on the individual’s height, weight, and body fat percentage, in addition to the position they play.

Carbohydrates are required to fuel National Football League (NFL) players, and are their go-to source of energy. This includes food such as brown rice, potatoes, wholegrain bread, whole wheat pasta, fruits and vegetables.

NFL players also need to incorporate protein in their diet, in order to build and repair muscles. Lean, high quality protein should be eaten at meals, and before and after workouts. This includes food such as fish, chicken, turkey, and eggs.

One to two servings of monosaturated fats, such as those found in olive oil and nuts, and omega-3 fatty acids, should also be consumed each day to keep players’ hungers satisfied.

Jason Bell is a big name in American Football. He played defense in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, and New York Giants, before retiring in 2008.

However, he’s still very much involved in American Football, working as an NFL pundit alongside Osi Umenyiora.

We spoke to Jason to find out what his typical diet consists of, the best ways to stay hydrated, and his top nutrition tips. He also shared invaluable advice for anyone who dreams of starting a career in American Football.

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Q&A with Jason Bell

On a typical training day, what do you eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks?

I’ve never been a heavy breakfast kind of guy, but if I do have breakfast, it’s usually some kind of oats mixed with berries. I’ve been doing intermittent fasting, so I generally don’t like to eat before noon. But I will have coffee - I can’t give that up! I usually have it with oat milk and agave syrup, as I try to avoid any artificial sugars or sweeteners.

I try to plan my meals depending on how busy my day is, and what I have planned. I like to eat a light lunch, so I’ll usually have a plant-based salad with grains and things of that nature, but never any heavy meats.

I try to be as organised as possible and plan my snacks because I’m often on the move. I eat a lot of nuts and fruit, and I usually carry a banana or an orange in my bag. Because I live in London, I’ll always take a bag with snacks packed as I don’t know when I’ll get home. Sometimes I’ll go for a smoothie, made with fruits and vegetables.

Dinner is where I like to be creative, and I like to eat light throughout the day so I can be a bit more flexible in the evenings. I give myself more leniency there, and it’s definitely my biggest meal. At this point I like lean chicken and vegetables. One of my favourites is sweet potato.

How has your nutrition changed since you stopped playing American Football professionally?

The way I look at it, is I try to eat like I did when I was playing, even if it’s just to stay fuelled for my work schedule. I try to put in the best quality calories possible, particularly after a workout as that’s when the body needs and absorbs nutrients the most.

I try to eat as cleanly as possible, and hydrate constantly. Hydration is so important if you want to recover and be effective day after day.

One of my favourite meals for fuel is oats, with a good quality peanut butter and fruit. I try to eat the purest forms of protein and carbohydrate.

I’m also big into my multivitamins. There are some really good brands out there, so you just need to try them and see what works for you. I try not to take too many supplements though, as they don’t make up for eating healthy as a whole.

Do you take any electrolyte, carb or protein drinks at any time?

I spend a lot of time and focus on keeping my body hydrated and maintaining the right electrolyte balance. As soon as I wake up in the mornings, I’ll always drink a tonne of water.

Protein shakes and smoothies are fine as well, but once again only as a supplement, if for whatever reason I can’t get that through my normal diet.

What does your typical day of training look like from waking up to going to bed?

I wake up and do a quick range of motion routine, focusing a lot on my back. Then I like to do some light cardio, whether that’s walking or using my exercise bike at home. It all depends on what commitments I have on that day and how much time I have.

I don’t do weights anymore, after all those years of lifting as an NFL player. I do a lot of calisthenics, as the biggest thing for me is being flexible and maintaining my range of motion.

How many calories do you burn on a typical training day?

I’m not sure. I’ve never been one to track that. Losing weight has never been a huge issue for me, I’ve always had more trouble gaining weight.

One thing I learned from a Wall Street friend of mine, is every day I wake up, I get on the scale, because then I understand the impact of what I did the day before and how my body has responded. It helps a lot and it’s the only thing I track. I know if I’ve eaten something that I haven’t digested properly.

The most important thing I’ve learned is to trust and listen to your body. A lot of people are so quick to listen to other people telling them what they should eat and how they should train, but you have to become sensitive to your own body first.

What are your top tips for anyone looking to pursue a career in American Football?

    Watch our show, The NFL Show, and listen to our podcast, The Jason and Osi Podcast. You should definitely try to get involved with the NFL Academy if you can.

    Social media has given us a platform where we are able to see what people are doing, how they’re training, and what they’re doing to work on their skills. Dig into that and watch what the pros are doing. When I was growing up, we didn’t have access to that, but it’s definitely helped to level the playing field.

    Also, you should join your local team – whether that’s American Football or Flag Football – and tell them I sent you!

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What are your five top nutrition tips?

1. You can only improve what you track, however you’re going to track it.

That’s the only way you’ll understand the impact of food and training on your own body.

2. We're all different.

Our bodies are different and the way they respond to things is different, so you have to listen to your body. It will tell you what is and isn’t good for you.

3. Stay away from processed stuff.

You might think you’re eating healthily, but so much food is processed now. Try and eat natural, whole foods where you can.

4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

5. Supplements are just that – a supplement to your diet.

Don’t rely on them for good nutrition, you should be getting that from the foods you eat.