Jul 6, 2018
Camp Food
Amy Bragg

Eat, practice, eat, sleep, eat, meetings, practice, eat. Such is the typical preseason football camp schedule–those exhilarating, yet taxing days when the year’s football team is formed.

Proper nutritional intake is extremely important at this time, and menu planning can be a complex task. Athletes need a lot of energy to endure the physical stress of practice and conditioning sessions combined with the mental demands of meetings and the limited recuperation time.

When planning menus for football camp, I focus on a few main goals:

• Hydration, hydration, hydration

• Timing meals to best utilize the energy and nutrients from food

• Matching athletes’ tremendous energy expenditure

• Preserving weight, especially lean mass gains from the off-season.

The August heat imposes huge fluid and electrolyte demands on the athletes, so providing appealing drink choices at every meal is a priority. We also clearly identify high sodium foods during meals to help cramp-prone athletes make good decisions. Sprinkled throughout the menus are foods like olives, salsa, soups, lunchmeat sandwiches, pickle spears, trail mix, salted mixed nuts, pretzels, and baked chips. Other high sodium menu items include chicken noodle, chicken tortilla, and tomato soups, and grilled cheese sandwiches.

We also track each player’s weight before and after practice to monitor both individual and team weight fluctuations. If the team’s weight is moving down, this will be addressed in the following days’ meal plans.

We pay close attention to the timing of meals, based on the workout plan for that particular day. For example, on Day 9 of preseason camp, athletes will be doing strength workouts at 9 a.m. with rest time in the middle of the day and practice at 4:30 p.m. Therefore, we plan a large breakfast at 7 a.m., recovery drinks after weightlifting, pre-practice lunch at 1:30 p.m., dinner immediately following practice, and a nighttime snack to boost the day’s intake.

On Day 10, there is double practice, at 7:30 a.m. and in the afternoon, so we structure meals differently. Players are encouraged to eat a small pre-practice snack, and brunch is waiting for them as they finish their morning practice. We encourage them to take a short nap afterward, then provide them with a pre-practice lunch, which has to be appealing enough to pull them up from their naps, but also appropriate for pre-practice consumption. Dinner is served after the second practice of the day and is followed by a nighttime snack to cover the day’s expenditure.

To replace all the calories lost during workouts and thus maintain weight, simply getting enough food into each player is another challenge. The schedule and fatigue that often define football camp can very easily turn eating into a chore. Working out in the heat can also zap appetites. Therefore, it’s key to provide athletes with enticing foods that encourage them to eat.

We have found it works well to start meals with cool foods like fruit salad, Jell-O, chicken salad, deli sandwiches, yogurts, and frozen fruit bars. Athletes tend to eat more if they can start with a cold plate and work up to hot entrée foods.

At times when practice and conditioning performance will not be affected, we also offer some indulgent foods, which contain a higher amount of fat and are energy dense. These foods act as “weight support” tools, and they really boost team morale. Comfort foods like King Ranch casserole, chicken and dumplings, macaroni and cheese, and fried foods with mashed potatoes and gravy can help maintain weight, especially for the picky eater. However, we also remind athletes to put together well-rounded plates that include leaner protein entrees with fruit and vegetable sides.

And we don’t forget dessert! Strawberry trifle, angel food cake with fruit, and cookies and milk are good choices for providing comfort and calories without too much fat.


Day 9

Pre-Conditioning Breakfast:



Turkey sausage

Cinnamon and whole wheat toast

Jelly, peanut butter


Cereal bars

Whole bananas

Fruit salad

Deli sandwich bar

Trail mix

Gatorade bars

Sport Beans

1% and skim milk

1% chocolate milk

100% orange, cranberry, apple, and grape juices

Cherry juice


Sports drinks

Pre-Practice Lunch:

Beef, chicken, and shrimp fajita trio

Sauteed onions and peppers

Corn and flour tortillas

Charro beans

Mexican rice

Chicken quesadillas

with guacamole

Mild salsa

Cilantro lime chicken soup

House salad

Honey mustard and house dressings

Assorted whole fruit

Trail mix

Jamba juice smoothies

Sport Beans

Water, sports drinks


Boiled shrimp

Strip steaks

Chicken alfredo

Baked potatoes with fixings

Broccoli with parmesan cheese sauce

Garlic toast

Salad bar

Tomato soup with croutons

Cheesecake and assorted fruit desserts


Sports drinks

Evening Snack:

Chicken fajita baked potato

Chocolate chip cookie

Water, 1% milk, cherry juice

Day 10

Post-Practice Brunch:


Strip steak

Hash brown potatoes

Quiche lorraine

Yogurt parfait

Waffles with sliced strawberries, blueberries, peaches, and slivered almonds

Cereal bars

Whole bananas

Whole wheat and sourdough toast

Assorted bagels

Butter, jelly, peanut butter, cream cheese

Fruit salad

Deli sandwich bar

1% and skim milk

1% chocolate milk

100% orange, cranberry, apple, and grape juices

Cherry juice


Sports drinks


House salad with Italian vinaigrette and ranch dressings

Tuscan bean soup

Bread with salted butter and olive oil

Honey pecan salmon

Spaghetti and meatballs

Penne with meat sauce

Parmesan cheese

Steamed broccoli and cauliflower

Deli sandwich bar

Whole fruit

Trail mix


Sports drinks

Post-Practice Dinner:

Roasted turkey breast

Sliced honey ham

Cornbread stuffing with

giblet gravy

Cranberry sauce

Deviled eggs

Green beans


Mashed potatoes

Cream corn

Strawberry Jell-O salad

Dinner rolls with salted butter

Deli sandwich bar

Chicken and rice soup

Pumpkin pie with whipped topping

1% and skim milk

1% chocolate milk

Water, sports drinks

Evening Snack:

Chicken pot pie soup with saltines

Ham and cheese po’boy

Water, sports drinks,

cherry juice

Amy Bragg is Director of Performance Nutrition at the University of Alabama.

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