Football Season Survival Guide
Autumn is here. To some people, that means crisp fall air, changing leaves, and day trips to go apple picking. To others, it means one thing: football.
And whether your team wins or loses, the den parties with your buddies, sports bars with their drink specials, and parking lot tailgates before games are there to support you.
Unfortunately, what starts out as a cheat-day indulgence quickly becomes a slippery slope. Between the NFL and college seasons, you’re looking at five months of football with up to six days per week of games.
Even the stoutest monk couldn’t resist all of them, and while you may start the season with a body like Adrian Peterson, partying at that high of a frequency will find you ending it like Andy Reid.
But get this—you CAN party hard without getting soft. Behold, our guide to surviving the football season, from tips to mitigate the damage of crappy food and alcohol to recipes that help you eat cleaner and leaner (without sacrificing flavor and fun).
The Game Plan
If you’re going to eat big and drink hard during the game, squeeze in a workout earlier that day. “You’ll at least burn some calories,” says Chris Mohr, PhD, RD, a nutrition consultant to the Cincinnati Bengals (mohrresults.com). “And working out will get your metabolism a little higher.”
That will help offset the calories you take in with the food and booze—at least to some slight degree. Also, “You’ll be able to better use the day’s excess calories for recovery from the workout,” says Mohr.
#2 Drink a Protein Shake—But Not Just Any Kind
Protein promotes satiety, so chugging a shake prior to a big meal will help prevent you from gorging on fatty foods and sugary desserts. But here’s the thing: the shake needs to look creamy.
A 2013 study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that the thickness and creaminess of a protein drink heightens your perception of its protein content, which helps promote the sensation of fullness.
In other words, those fruit-flavored, clear protein drinks won’t work as well.
We get it, you don’t go to a football game to sip herbal tea or warm milk. You’re gonna drink, dammit. But if you’re smart about the kind of booze you swill, you can get a buzz without exploding your waistline.
Favor clear drinks such as vodka, gin, and rum combined with a calorie-free mixer like club soda. They don’t pack the sugar of beer or mixed drinks. “The body preferentially metabolizes alcohol because it’s essentially a poison,” says Mohr. “While it does that, other stuff will likely get stored.”
In other words, alcohol shuts down your body’s ability to burn fat until it’s out of your system. You can’t do anything about that—but you can avoid making the problem worse by pouring more empty calories down your throat in the meantime.
Also, if you’re going to drink a ton, don’t binge on fattening foods at the same time, or at least aim for leaner choices. “Chips and salsa or pretzels is a better choice than nachos,” says Mohr, because they contain fewer calories. “Popcorn is better than nuts,” as long as it’s not doused in butter sauce.
The more fat you eat the more calories you’ll consume, and that equals more calories that are stored as fat while your body burns the alcohol you drank.
This will slow down your drinking and help to keep you hydrated, lessening the hangover. “Before you go to bed, have two cups of water to help replenish what you’ve lost,” says Mohr.
Most guys’ solution to the gas and indigestion that results from eating a heavy meal is to weather the storm—grab a book, head for the bathroom, and wait till the winds die down.
But you can avoid disaster in the first place by taking a natural digestive enzyme—particularly lipase, which helps break down the fat you eat.
A 2015 study in Gut and Liver showed that subjects who consumed lipase with a fatty meal felt significantly less stomach fullness afterward versus those who took a placebo.
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