College football is back in full swing which means tailgates, game day Saturday, and, of course, delicious food. A football game is just not the same on an empty stomach. But what do the athletes eat to fuel up for a game? Wheaties and protein powder? Not quite. Here's the breakdown of the game day food of the Ohio State football team, given by Kaila Olson, the sports dietitian that specifically works with the Ohio State football team.


While the fans are pregaming with game day foods like hamburgers, buffalo chicken dip, and wings, the players usually stick to meals consisting of plain chicken, pasta, and broccoli. Olson explains that that the player's pregame food is very basic on purpose, they try to limit spicy foods or foods that are cooked with a lot of fat or oil before the game since those foods are often harder to digest. After hydration, the most important part of a pregame preparation meal is carbohydrates in order to provide the energy needed to play hard all the way through the last play. So much for endless hotdogs. 

During the Game

During the game, keeping the guys hydrated is paramount to their continued success on the field. Sweating leads to dehydration, so staying hydrated between plays is key. Trainers on the sidelines have water and Gatorade to replace electrolytes, especially for the heavy sweaters. Halftime is like snack time for these college athletes, a snack that contains carbohydrates helps the players keep up their energy for the second half. When an athlete consumes carbohydrates, the body breaks the food down to simple sugars that can be used for energy. Olson says the halftime refuel usually consists of quick carbohydrates like pretzels and Gatorade. These types of foods are fast digesting and increase blood sugar levels quickly. 


The team celebrates a Buckeye win similar to the fans, with pizza! After a home game, Olson says the team always has Donatos pizza and smoothies from Smoothie King. She says the goal here is to consume protein and carbohydrates and also focus on calorie replacement after an intense game. The postgame meal after an away game looks a little different, but still focuses on protein and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates replace the glycogen stores that are reduced during an intense game and protein is important for muscle repair. Even just two hours of moderate physical activity is enough to significantly reduce glycogen stores, a full-contact football game can deplete them even more. The team will typically eat a meal directly post-game, something that is readily available in the city they're in, and then another meal on the flight home. 

Olson says one of her favorite parts of working with the team is helping the players invest what they are putting into their bodies and showing them how much nutrition matters. A lot of effort goes into the diet of an Ohio State football player and the sports nutrition department works hard to ensure they are fueled up and ready to get a Buckeye win on game day.