Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton broke just about every conceivable rookie QB record in 2011, including total passing yards and touchdowns for a first-time signal-caller. So how does the reigning Rookie of the Year improve his game even more? By carefully controlling what he puts into his body–previously foreign territory for the electrifying athlete.
“I’m going into next season with the mentality that I’ll do anything I can to get any edge possible, and now I’m focusing on nutrition and what I can do off the field,” Newton says. “That means I watch what I put into my body, whether it’s an hour before a workout or practice, or an hour after. It’s about helping me build up the right way instead of being sore the next day. And it’s completely new for me and a big morale booster.” (The QB doesn’t need any work in the swagger department–learn Cam Newton’s Confidence Keys.)
While Newton has scored huge on the field, his old nutrition plan needed tweaks. “I used to splurge big,” he says. “When you’re so busy, junk food is too easy to find, especially at night. And cereal. I demolish cereal.”
With the help of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI), Newton is now fueling exactly the way his body needs. During a recent testing session, GSSI scientists looked at Newton’s body composition and how efficiently he processes fat and carbohydrates, and then they configured his M.O. accordingly. “Football is a game of inches,” says GSSI senior scientist JohnEric Smith, Ph.D. “So every small improvement counts. While we can’t disclose Cam’s exact numbers, we can say what we’re doing will help boost his energy and recovery time.” (Discover how else football players fuel up in How NFL Stars Are Made.)
You may not be gunning for an NFL record, but you can adopt Newton’s preseason strategies to improve your own muscle strength and recovery. Newton’s nutrition plan is under wraps, but Smith copped to these three basic tenets:
1. On average, the body torches about 60-90 grams of carbohydrate in an hour. So when pre-fueling for a workout or replenishing post-session, adjust your caloric intake accordingly.
2. Your body loses an average of one liter of sweat per hour. Smith recommends refueling with an electrolyte-packed sports drink for heavier workouts, to replace salt.
3. For optimum healing after a hard workout, aim to consume 20 grams of protein. Ingesting it as soon as possible will improve muscle recovery, Smith says, and help provide more energy for future sessions. (Want more must-have nutrition tips delivered to your inbox? Sign up for our free Daily Dose newsletter.)