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
#1 Train Beforehand
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, Ph.D., 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 use the day’s excess calories better for recovery from the workout,” says Mohr.
#2 Drink a Protein Shake—But Not Just Any Kind
Protein promotes satiety, so chugging a shake before 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.
#3 Choose Lower-Calorie Booze and Food
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.
#4 Alternate Alcoholic Drinks with Water
This method 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.
#5 Take Digestive Enzymes
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.
5 Optimized Tailgate Recipes
By: Liv Langdon
Recipe #1: Slow-Cooker Jalapeno 4-Meat & Sweet Potato Chili
Our primal instincts tells us to eat whatever animal we can get our hands on for means of survival. Our slow cookers tell us to gather everything we can get our hands on for lazy, indecisive meat eaters. I say, let’s combine both! With four types of meat (beef, chicken, turkey, and bison), two types of beans (kidney and black), and all types of flavor, this grain-free, sweet potato chili is filling, healthy and has just enough jalapeno to spice up your life (in all the best ways).
Yields: 6-8 servings
● 2 tbsp. Onnit coconut oil
● 1 lb. lean (90/10) ground beef, grass-fed if possible
● 2 chicken breasts, chopped into 2” cubes
● 3 Onnit Warrior Bars, turkey & buffalo jalapeno flavor
● 1 large yellow onion, chopped
● 3 small sweet potatoes, cleaned & diced
● 2 jalapenos, sliced thin
● 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
● 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
● 15 oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
● 3 cups low-sodium chicken stock, pastured-raised if possible
● 3 tsp. Onnit Himalayan salt
● 1 tsp. garlic powder
● 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
● 2 tsp. cumin
● 1 tsp. black pepper
● 2 tbsp. chili powder
● 2 tsp. smoked paprika
● Green onions, thinly sliced
● Avocado (squeeze lemon or lime on top to prevent oxidizing, or browning, when serving)
● Shredded white cheddar cheese, raw cheese if possible
● Plain full-fat Greek yogurt
1. Heat 1 tbsp. coconut oil in a large pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion, ground beef, 1 tsp. Himalayan salt, garlic powder, black pepper. Cook and break up the beef as you stir, until the beef is no longer pink. Add 1 tbsp. chili powder, smoked paprika, and cumin. Transfer beef to the bottom of the slow cooker.
2. Using the same pan, add 1 tbsp. coconut oil and the chicken breast cubes. Sear the chicken until cooked through, about 6 minutes. Add chicken on top of beef in slow cooker.
3. Slice the Warrior Bars in half lengthwise, then into small ½-inch pieces transversely. Add to the slow cooker.
4. Finally, add the diced sweet potato, black beans, kidneys beans, crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, cayenne pepper, and remaining Himalayan salt & chili powder.
5. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 5-6 hours, until the potatoes are tender. Serve warm with desired toppings.
Recipe #2: MCT High-Protein Queso
Queso doesn’t exactly scream “healthy,” but this Heavenly cheese dip packs a powerful punch–of MCTs, that is. MCTs (Medium Chain Triglycerides) are a particular type of beneficial fat that requires minimal action from the liver to convert directly into fuel in the form of ketones. Ketones are one of the brain’s two primary fuel sources, and also a vital source of ATP energy for the body. ATP energy is what allows every muscle to move inside your body. MCTs can be consumed from various food sources, including the most concentrated form, MCT oil derived from coconut.
Want more MCT in your life? It’s found in coconut oil, butter, cheese, whole milk and full-fat yogurt. This Optimized Queso is loaded with a variety of foods containing MCTs and blended with cottage cheese, which adds a slow-digesting protein source for added muscle-building properties and sustained fuel to keep you going during rowdy game days.
● 2 tbsp. grass-fed butter
● 2 tbsp. cashew flour*
● 1 cup whole milk, organic if possible
● 2 cups shredded white cheddar, raw cheese if possible
● 1-2 tbsp. Onnit MCT oil
● ½ cup cottage cheese, organic if possible
● ½ tsp. Onnit Himalayan salt
● ¼ tsp. chili powder
● ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1. Add butter and flour to a small saucepot over medium-high heat. Whisk together until the mixture becomes bubbly and foamy.
2. Add the milk to the mixture. Turn the heat up slightly to bring the milk mixture to a simmer. Slowly stir as the mixture thickens. Once the mix thickens enough to coat the spoon, turn off the heat.
3. Add the shredded cheese into the pot, until melted into the sauce. Stir in the spices. Turn heat on low if the cheese needs to melt a bit.
4. Add the cheese mixture, cottage cheese and MCT oil to a blender. Blend for approximately 30 seconds, or until well combined. If a thinner queso is desired, simply add more milk to the blender.
NOTE: This keeps well in an air-sealed container in the fridge. Heat on stovetop or in a microwave when ready to serve. Garnish with shredded cheese and cayenne pepper when serving.
*If you don’t have cashew flour (let’s be real, you probably don’t), then simply grind up raw, unsalted cashews in a food processor or blender. Other flours will likely work, but it may throw off the taste and texture. I’d recommend rice, chickpea (garbanzo) or sorghum flour for gluten-free alternatives.
Recipe #3: Texas Caviar
Bring a little Southern Hospitality to your next tailgate with this classic, colorful dish. It’s quite the multi-purpose player: dip, side salad, burger topper—you name it, this is a great go-to for the next BIG game. Bonus: it’s healthy AND so damn easy to throw together last minute.
● ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
● ½ tbsp. Stevia
● ⅓ cup white wine or champagne vinegar
● 2 tsp. chili powder
● 1 tsp. Onnit Himalayan salt
● 2 cups tomatoes, seeded and diced
● 15 oz. can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
● 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
● 11-15 oz. can super sweet corn, drained and rinsed
● 1 red onion, diced
● 1 red bell pepper, diced
● 1 green or orange bell pepper, diced
● 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, stevia, vinegar, chili powder and Himalayan salt.
2. Add remaining ingredients, except the cilantro. Stir to combine.