Eat Like a Quarterback: Workplace Wellness Inspiration from NFL Nutrition Experts

Posted by on Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 with 1 Comments

Pre-season games are starting, fantasy leagues are forming, and Miller Lite displays are popping up in supermarket aisles: football season is almost here! And this year, there have been a few headlines about new hires on NFL teams — not coaches, not players, but nutritionists.

As sports medicine and nutrition research reveals that what athletes eat can make a big impact on their performance, the NFL is falling in line with many other companies across the country when it comes to nutrition and workplace wellness. Teams and executives are really starting to pay attention to how diet affects the performance and long-term health of their employees — only in this case, the employee might be a 300-pound linebacker.

NFL players training on the field inspire workplace wellness

NFL players know that nutrition is an integral part of success on the field.
Image source: Flickr user lehighvalleypa

This wasn’t always the case. Susan M. Kleiner, a long-time NFL nutrition consultant, told The Huffington Post that she saw a shift away from the idea of simply getting players as big as possible begin in the 1990s, when she was working with the Cleveland Browns. Then-coach Bill Belichick “was at the forefront of looking at body composition and trying to enhance lean body mass and muscle mass without having players be over-fat.” The impetus? The NFL had started screening for drug use, and the players needed a replacement for that competitive edge.

Enter nutritionists, who began designing diets and meal plans for athletes who had previously focused on bulking up by eating meatball subs and double cheeseburgers… and who often found themselves being diagnosed with diet-related chronic illnesses, like heart disease, after retirement.

Today, the NFL treats nutrition and meals like any good workplace wellness program – they provide players with meals that provide energy and boost performance! During the season and especially in intensive training camp sessions, team nutritionists plan and serve meals with ample amounts of vegetables, hearty whole grains, and lean proteins. (The obvious difference is that these hardworking athletes require 4,000-plus calories’ worth per day to keep up with their rigorous practice schedule, as opposed to the average American’s recommended 2,000-calorie intake.)

For example, Men’s Health reports that during many training camps, “Each food eaten has a purpose, whether it’s for hydrating, muscle repair, preventing muscle cramping, or to replace nutrients lost through sweat. At camp, empty calories are banned.”

That’s an amazing takeaway for all of us who want to improve our health and performance, no matter where we work. Think about it: what’s your training camp? Is there a big project you’re hustling to complete? A new client you’re trying to win? An important business trip coming up? Take a page from the NFL nutritionists, and try to make everything you (or your employees) eat have a purpose. Think of yourself and your team as a machine that requires the highest-octane fuel, and it might become easier to put workplace wellness first when it comes to office meals.

Here’s some specific inspiration from around the NFL:

  • Record-setting (and recently retired) tight end Tony Gonzalez maintains a mostly plant-based diet, using the 80/20 principle: 80 percent of his diet is vegetarian (vegetables, fruit, oatmeal, whole grains, beans) while 20 percent is from lean animal protein – mostly fish and chicken. Think a giant green salad with plenty of raw veggies, avocado, nuts, and a small portion of grilled salmon or chicken.
  • During the summer, staying hydrated is key, for athletes and “civilians” alike. NFL players tend to snack on fruit during training camp, because whole fruits like berries and apples provide fiber, vitamins, minerals and have a high water content to help stay hydrated. Keep berries, oranges, watermelon, and other fresh fruit on hand in the break room for refreshing snacks on hot summer days.
  • NFL players tend to eat a lot of fish like tuna and salmon that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help repair muscles and boost immunity. Kleiner recommends players eat five fish meals a week.
  • The “no empty calories” rule applies to snacks as well as meals during training camp and other intensive practice sessions. Have a handful of almonds instead of a bag of potato chips, or apple slices with peanut butter instead of a candy bar.
  • Don’t forget about beverages. While athletes may pound Gatorade on the field to keep a steady supply of sugar-fueled energy pumping through their veins, those of us who aren’t working out for several hours a day are better off sticking to water and unsweetened tea. Before you order that soda with lunch, ask yourself, “What purpose will this Coke serve? How will it help my body and my brain perform better today?”

From office breakfasts full of egg-white omelets to healthy Chinese lunches of beef-and-broccoli with brown rice, the possibilities for positively fueling your body are nearly endless — especially when you take advantage of the wide range of menus and prompt delivery provided by!

When it comes to feeding employees and coworkers, make your company's food program really count! If your workplace dining plan needs to take it up a notch — or if you don't have one at all — is here to help. From Virtual Cafeteria Service to diverse menus to local takeout & offers customizable dining solutions for every business and budget. Contact us today to get started!

One response to “Eat Like a Quarterback: Workplace Wellness Inspiration from NFL Nutrition Experts”

  1. […] fan is hungry for more content and immersion, not less. After all, fans today are even focusing on what their favorite players are eating and wearing. Providing a more involved experience to fans even when they’re at the stadium is […]