Trent Richardson arrived as a pro on a run right up the middle. During Week 2 of the 2012 NFL season, in only the second game of his pro career, Richardson took a handoff from Browns QB Brandon Weeden and shot through a hole between the center and right guard of his offensive line. In an instant, he blew past the Cincinnati Bengals' middle linebacker, who fell hopelessly to his knees. With one more little move to the outside, Richardson was off to the races and into the end zone.
Watching the deft, even graceful moves displayed by Richardson—a 230-pound running back who can bench press 475 pounds—it's hard to believe that his powerful legs were once halted by a microscopic foe.
"Growing up, I caught a lot of charley horses and cramps because I wasn't hydrating," Richardson says.
Richardson's work ethic at Escambia High School (Fla.) was so intense that he sometimes skipped water breaks to stay on the field longer. That's admirable, maybe, but not sustainable. When your muscles aren't properly hydrated—either because they are low on water or they don't have enough of those tiny molecules called electrolytes—they can cramp. When cramps strike, they stop you in your tracks, even if you're normally capable of running over defenders like a bulldozer on rocket fuel.
"Your body shuts down for a reason," Richardson says. "Anytime you're cramping, you know you're not taking care of yourself."
When Richardson got to the University of Alabama, he paid attention to his team nutritionist's approach to diet and hydration. He noticed that he felt better after pre-game meals pairing quality proteins with carbs. Meals like eggs, steak and potatoes. Good choices. That combination delivers just what the experts at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute recommend for pre-workout nutrition.
"I have to keep fuel inside me to feed the fire," Richardson says, "I'll do whatever it takes to be ahead of every other player on the field."
On-field hydration was just as critical to Richardson's success. As a physical back who plays hard on every down, he demands a lot from his body. To replace the fluids and sodium he lost through sweat, he took swigs from his team's cups of Gatorade whenever the defensive unit ran onto the field.
Even with those vital extra calories, Richardson sometimes found his energy dipping by halftime. So he started eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the locker room, chasing it with more Gatorade Perform.
"Since I play so hard, I'm always going to be a little empty," Richardson says. "I drink and eat to have the energy to finish the game strong."
His determination, discipline and attention to detail paid off last season. After his 32-yard TD run, Richardson went on to become the first Browns rookie to rush for over 100 yards and score rushing and receiving touchdowns in a singe game. By the end of the year, he had broken six more Browns' rookie records. And his commitment to nutrition has him fueled up for more stellar performances in his second year.
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