Written by Stephanie Xavier, Dietetic Intern, University of Houston
Edited by Meredith Sorensen, MS, RD, LD with Memorial Hermann | Rockets Sports Medicine Institute
Staying on Track During the Super Bowl
For many people, the Super Bowl is a time to gather with friends and family and a chance to eat all our favorite tailgating foods. On the surface, this may seem like an event standing in the way of health and wellness goals, but there are several strategies we can use to continue making progress, regardless of what the goal is on an individual level.
Before the game or party:
Skipping meals to “save up” calories for later is unnecessary, stress-inducing, and often leads to overeating because of being overly hungry. To avoid this, start the day off with a well-rounded breakfast making sure to include good sources of protein and color from fruits and vegetables. Eating high protein foods like eggs or Greek yogurt in the morning, can increase satiety and muscle protein synthesis, and help control blood sugar levels 1–3. Fruits and vegetables contain micronutrients which support many functions in the body like energy production, bone maintenance, and immunity.
Stick to your normal Sunday exercise routine or go for a short walk Sunday before the game. Keeping the things you do leading up to the game as similar to what you normally do on Sundays as possible can help you continue working towards your goals even on a day that does differ quite a bit from your typical routine.
Incorporating some kind of physical activity and movement can also help you feel better during the rest of the day. Multiple studies have shown that completing multiple short bouts of exercise (5-10 minutes) spread throughout the day can help improve glycemic control in people with obesity or type 2 diabetes4,5. While these studies did not investigate the effects of this type of exercise in healthy individuals, it may help explain why incorporating exercise throughout the day can be beneficial.
During the game or party:
Look at all the options being offered before picking food to find what looks most appealing to you and what you are looking forward to eating the most. Giving this some thought before actually placing food on your plate can help you choose your favorite foods and build a more well-rounded plate rather than just piling food up without thinking. When you are deciding what to put on your plate think about filling about a quarter of your plate with some kind of protein like shrimp, chicken, or meatballs; half or a third with fruits and vegetables, and the rest with your other favorite foods like chips and salsa or jalapeno poppers.
After building your plate, eat slowly and take time to enjoy the food on your first plate. Eating slower can help meals be more satisfying and give our brain a chance to help process whether we are still hungry or not. Having a conversation during your meal and drinking water while you are eating can help you slow down.
Before going back to get more food take a second to practice getting in tune with your body’s hunger and fullness cues. One thing you can do to practice this is the apple test. Once you are finished with your first plate of food or at any point where you are deciding whether to eat more or not ask yourself, “Would I eat an apple right now?” If the answer is yes, then go ahead and grab some more food (it doesn’t have to be an apple), but if the answer is no, then consider waiting for a bit and ask yourself that question again before getting more food. Remember – if the answer is yes, it is OK to eat more. The goal of this test is not restriction or discipline, but rather taking a second to generate awareness.
Many times, at Super Bowl parties or when we are watching sports, there are large bags or bowls of chips and other snacks. Put a portion of these foods on a plate rather than eating straight from the bag or bowl. When we eat right out of the bag especially when we are distracted by watching the game, we eat a lot more of these foods than we would otherwise.
Consider drinking alcohol in moderation. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming no more than 1 drink/day for women and no more than 2 drinks/day for men. Drinking large amounts of alcohol can decrease sleep quality and muscle protein synthesis, lead to dehydration, and cause you to feel poorly the next day6,7. All of these effects make it difficult to get back to your routine and working towards your goals. Having water along with the alcoholic and other beverages you are consuming can help reduce the urge to continue drinking those other options.
After the game or party:
One of the most important things you can do after the Super Bowl is get back to your normal diet and routine on Monday. Regardless of what your health and wellness goals are, consistency is important. One day that differs from your normal routine is not going to stop your progress as long as you get back to doing all the things you normally do when working towards your goals. Social interactions and attending something like a Superbowl party are important for overall health and wellness, so be present and enjoy your time with friends and family.
Have questions? Please feel free to talk to an Athlete Training and Health Performance Coach or Meredith Sorensen, Sports Dietitian, MS, RD, LD with the Memorial Hermann Rockets Sports Medicine Institute. Meredith can be reached at Meredith.Sorensen@memorialhermann.org or can be found on Instagram at @meredithdarcienutrition.
Veldhorst M, Smeets A, Soenen S, et al. Protein-induced satiety: Effects and mechanisms of different proteins. Physiol Behav. 2008;94(2):300-307. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2008.01.003
Mamerow MM, Mettler JA, English KL, et al. Dietary Protein Distribution Positively Influences 24-h Muscle Protein Synthesis in Healthy Adults. J Nutr. 2014;144(6):876-880. doi:10.3945/jn.113.185280
Xiao K, Furutani A, Sasaki H, Takahashi M, Shibata S. Effect of a High Protein Diet at Breakfast on Postprandial Glucose Level at Dinner Time in Healthy Adults. Nutrients. 2023;15(1):85. doi:10.3390/nu15010085
Murphy MH, Lahart I, Carlin A, Murtagh E. The Effects of Continuous Compared to Accumulated Exercise on Health: A Meta-Analytic Review. Sports Med. 2019;49(10):1585-1607. doi:10.1007/s40279-019-01145-2
Holmstrup M, Fairchild T, Keslacy S, Weinstock R, Kanaley J. Multiple short bouts of exercise over 12-h period reduce glucose excursions more than an energy-matched single bout of exercise. Metabolism. 2014;63(4):510-519. doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2013.12.006
Thakkar MM, Sharma R, Sahota P. Alcohol disrupts sleep homeostasis. Alcohol. 2015;49(4):299-310. doi:10.1016/j.alcohol.2014.07.019
Vella LD, Cameron-Smith D. Alcohol, Athletic Performance and Recovery. Nutrients. 2010;2(8):781-789. doi:10.3390/nu2080781