It’s 6:30 in the evening. It’s raining and cold.
While most students are at home staying warm and studying for midterms, the Colorado Buffaloes football team is hard at work on the practice field where they have been for the past four hours running speed drills, tackle drills and running plays as if they could continue practicing all night.
So what are these athletes eating to have this kind of stamina?
While most students try to fit in a meal before morning and afternoon classes, and try to grab something cheap and substantial for dinner, the football team has a much bigger challenge.
Take Nate Bonsu for example.
Bonsu, the 6-foot-2, 295-pound defensive tackle, said he struggles to find time to eat the amount of calories and nutrition it takes for him to not only survive, but excel in practices and in games.
The freshman and Libby Hall resident said he always has to have a good breakfast, which usually includes eggs, meat and waffles, or whatever else he can grab.
Bonsu then tries to grab a lunch that consists of a lot of carbohydrates with a little bit of fat and protein that he said he needs in order to have energy out on the playing field.
However, finding time to eat is one of Bonsu’s biggest challenges as a student-athlete.
“Finding time for breakfast, lunch, something before practice, and having classes in between—it’s really hard to find time to eat right during the day,” Bonsu said.
But to him, it’s worth it.
“If you value how your body looks out there, then you better find time and make the right steps so you don’t die out there,” Bonsu said.
Weighing 295 pounds, living in a residence hall, and trying to get the amount of food needed to sustain grueling workouts everyday is not an ideal situation.
What is an ideal diet plan for a football player?
According to Jeff Pitman, the team’s director of strength and conditioning, the ideal balanced diet for the football team is 60 percent carbohydrates, 20 percent to 25 percent protein and the rest of the calories coming from fat.
Pitman suggests that an average 6-foot running back needs to consume around 4,000 calories, and add another 500 to 1000 calories if they are looking to put on more weight.
He also stated that another big challenge is keeping the weight the players have gained in the offseason.
For offensive lineman Mike Iltis, nutrition is a huge part of his life.
Before practice, the 6-foot-3, 280-pound redshirt sophomore said he has already had a piece of fruit, breakfast (which usually consists of oatmeal and eggs), two peanut butter and honey sandwiches, and lunch (normally some sort of pasta).
After practice, Iltis said he has a protein recovery shake.
“It gives your body back the protein and carbs it burned right after, so your body doesn’t feed off your muscles,” said Iltis of the protein recovery shake.
Iltis’ dinner normally consists of some pasta with meat and vegetables, and sometimes meat–pork or steak. He then finishes off with a sandwich or even more pasta.
So why are carbohydrates so important to these athlete’s diets?
Pitman said carbs help give an athlete’s body energy to perform in competition.
“What they are trying to do before the game is load up their muscles with energy and make sure their muscle glycogen stores are full so that they can last throughout the game,” Pitman said.
Four hours before kickoff, the team meets for their pre-game meal. This is especially important in order to have nutritious, carbohydrate-rich foods.
Pitman suggests pasta, potatoes, sandwiches, nice lean meats, vegetables and fruit. He also stresses to avoid fats before the game because it will slow down digestion and even cause stomach problems.
For Bonsu, his favorite pre-game meal is a rib-eye steak with mashed potatoes and vegetables. Iltis said he likes rib-eye as well, or pasta with meat sauce.
For the rest of the student body, eating right means eating healthier. For the CU football team, eating right can mean having the energy to run the ball for that extra yard or that final push to make a tackle.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Gina Yocom at Gina.firstname.lastname@example.org.