Most people wonder what it actually takes to fuel an NFL player. Players are bigger, faster, and stronger than in the past and if food really does fuel these players, how much food does it actually take? In the next couple installments of Niners Nutrition, I’ll break down the different position groups on the team and give you an insight as to what it takes to perform at a high level as well as what some of our players have to say about nutrition and even what foods they like to “treat” with.
We can categorize the offensive line and defensive line as the “Bigs” due to their overall size, strength, and position requirements. The NFL offensive lineman can range anywhere from 300-360+ pounds and despite this size, many offensive linemen carry a lot of muscle mass with body fat percentages from 18-30%. Sheer size and strength is what helps these athletes pass protect and block for the running game. They often have to move and hold off rushing defensive lines and athletes of similar size in order to help the offensive play.
Defensive line, depending on the defensive scheme, involves one or two defensive tackles and two defensive ends who play outside the defensive tackles. The defensive line works with the linebackers to try to control the line of scrimmage. Because of the variability of defensive schemes, the size of these players can vary greatly from nose tackle to outside linebackers. The average weight for linebackers is around 245 pounds, defensive ends are around 270 pounds, defensive tackles are around 308 pounds, all with considerable ranges and variability around the NFL and even on the 49ers.
Due to their size and energy demands, as well as the need to maintain muscle mass and body weight, both offensive and defensive linemen need to consume a lot more food and calories than a normal individual. Some athletes have an easier time at maintaining their weight than others which is why my focus is individualized depending if they need to gain, maintain, lose weight or just change their body composition to lose body fat and increase muscle mass. The caloric needs can range from 3500 – 6000 calories per day based on individual needs and goals. The focus is always on lean protein sources, complex or simple carbohydrates, and healthy fats. It takes some fine tuning and there is an art to creating a plan based on needs but also personal food preferences, food allergies, and motivation. Nutrition quality matters with what we serve our players, so locally sourced and organic foods are a priority. Carbohydrates are the most important macronutrient for a football athlete due the explosive nature of the sport. However, protein and fat are important macronutrients for muscle repair and overall health and recovery.
So, what does a meal plan look like for a lineman that might need to consume 5,000 calories per day to gain weight? Take a look at an example below: