How to Be the Perfect Weight and Size for High School Football

This post is all about weight. Football is one sport where the weight of the player has a big effect on ability (and position!), but you don’t have to be tall and huge to be the best player.

What is the best size for different types of players? How should you lose or gain weight for football? And how many calories do teenage football players need? It depends on position and age, but the average Division I college football player is 6’1” and 231 pounds– that’s big. High school players are not this big, you are still going through growth spurts and developing.

Size is important, but what is healthy and what will actually help you grow appropriately as a teen and play to the best of your ability?

Keep reading for the best tips.

Looking for a little more help and guidance with nutrition this season? I’ve got you covered-

Fueling Teens Nutrition Game Plan for High School Football Ebook

All you need to know for a healthy football season! Including a 28-day meal plan, snack idea list, tips for what, when, and how much to eat for football, including tips for getting to your goal weight. Fuel up for your best football season yet and rise above the competition!

Click here for more information.

How Big Should Football Players Be?

Bigger football players, especially linemen, are common, but for such an intense and vigorous sport, shouldn’t they be losing weight from all the training? 

Lineman have special diets to keep them big. Lineman don’t run as much and they think they need to be big to block their opponents.

How big and tall do you need to be to play football? Well keep in mind that college and NFL players have finished growing and have had many extra years of training to bulk up. High school athletes are not going to equally compare to college and professionals. 

As of the past few years, the average Division I college football player was 6’1” and 231 pounds. That’s big. 

The average size depends on the position. Here’s a breakdown of the average weights of college football athletes for a few different key positions:

Defensive Positions Average Height and Weight: 

Defensive Back 5’11” 186 pounds

Safety 6’0” 200 pounds

Defensive Lineman 6’3” 275 pounds

Linebacker 6’1” 224 pounds

Offensive Positions Average Height and Weight: 

Quarterback 6’2” 208 pounds

Offensive Lineman 6’4” 297 pounds

Running Back 5’10” 205 pounds

Tight End 6’4” 242 pounds

Wide Receiver 6’1” at 191 pounds

Fullback 6’0” 234 pounds

Kicker 6’0” 190 pounds

Remember that these heights and weights could be exaggerated, because schools often list players as bigger than they actually are on their rosters.

Depending on the position, players see an advantage in being bigger or smaller. Lineman need to be tall, heavy, and strong, while the more athletic positions -safety, wide receiver- must cover lots of ground and be lighter on their feet. Typically for many defense positions weight seems to be important, while for offense height is more important than weight.

These heights and weights are just averages, there are many players on the field that are bigger and smaller. There are outliers that play great without the height or size. More important are the skills based on the position.

The height and weight of high school players will vary greatly compared to this list as they are still growing. Age differences create a bigger spectrum of heights for teenagers.

Many of the tall players won’t have reached 6 foot yet because they are still growing. High schoolers should focus on gaining muscle mass and weight that is appropriate for their age and growth.

Football Players- Fit or Fat? 

Despite high levels of physical activity, football players are not immune from the consequences of excess body fat. 

Unfortunately, the average football player is getting bigger and bigger and many are considered obese for their size, even high schoolers. Obese athletes are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some cancers, and other chronic diseases associated with obesity.

Just being big isn’t bad for health, but body composition matters. Obesity is classified through BMI, and BMI does not take into consideration overall body composition, which is more important for assessing health risks. 

However, the body composition of many football players is still concerning. The bigger football players, linemen especially, average almost 30% body fat composition, 25% and above is considered obese for males. Running backs, tight ends, and linebackers average 17% body fat. The healthy range is between 18-24%, and even lower for athletes.

High schoolers should attempt to gain muscle and not excess body fat as they want to be bigger for a position.

Can Football Help You Lose Weight? 

Is excess weight slowing you down on the field? Playing football can help you to lose weight, as long as you are burning more calories than you are consuming. You can do this by making a plan for a healthy diet and exercise to be in a calorie deficit. Get the best tips below.

Any type of exercise will help you to lose weight, choose the type that you will do and can commit to regularly.

****If you want to lose weight for football, speak with a doctor or registered dietitian first to make sure it is appropriate for your age and weight. Dieting can negatively impact your performance as an athlete.

Keep reading to find out how many calories you burn during football, how many calories football players need, and some tips for weight loss for football players (especially for high school athletes looking to cut weight). I’ve also included how big a football player should be, and tips for weight gain for high school football athletes.

How Many Calories Do You Burn Playing Football? 

Depending on many factors including weight, intensity, position, and rest time, you can burn anywhere from 300-800 calories per hour playing football.

For a high school football player weighing 150 pounds approximately 500 calories are burned per hour of football. A 165-pound football player burns about 600 calories per hour. A player weighing 200 pounds burns approximately 700 calories per hour.

How Many Calories Do Football Players Need?

Some NFL players report eating close to 8,000 calories per day. Linemen usually are the players that try to bulk up, they want to be big so they can block their opponents. A safety, on the other hand, likely wants to stay slimmer so they can be light on their feet. An NFL safety might eat around 4,000 calories per day. It all depends on individual nutrient requirements.

High schoolers on the football team probably don’t need as many calories as the professionals, but they do need more calories than the average teen.

Have you experienced how much a teenager can eat? Their appetites can be amazing due to their nutritional requirements. The teenage years are a time where appetites increase and growth spurts occur.

Teens involved in sports also need additional calories due to requirements for exercise. They need a lot of calories to fuel their bodies, support growth, and fuel physical activity.

The average teenage male needs around 2,800 calories per day.

High school football athletes training for 2 or more hours per day may need to increase their calorie range to 4,000 calories per day, depending on the player.

Here’s a chart to give you a good idea for calorie ranges for teenagers:

Teenage Male Calorie Requirements:*

AgeNot ActiveModerately ActiveActive
14-152,000 – 2,2002,400 – 2,6002,800 – 3,000


AgeNot ActiveModerately ActiveActive
*From 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Not Active= Minimal activity per day. 

Moderately Active= 30-40 minutes of physical activity per day.

Active=  40 or more minutes of physical activity per day.

Calorie level depends on age, gender, weight, amount of muscle, physical activity amount, and many other factors. It is extremely individualized and the best we can do is provide a general recommendation.

These calorie levels can be a good place to start but ideally you will want to figure out what works best for you. Try tracking food and calorie intake for just 3 regular days per month to get an idea of eating habits and places for improvement.

At this point in a teenager’s life, they don’t really need to track calories regularly unless there are concerns. The best thing a teenager can do to eat the appropriate amount of food is to make a plan for eating regularly throughout the day with 3 meals and 1-3 snacks and to listen to their hunger cues.

Teenage athletes can practice listening to their body to determine how much to eat to satisfy their hunger without eating too much or too little.

Weight Loss Tips for Teenage Athletes 

If teenagers are overweight, it might seem like putting them on a diet can be beneficial. During the teenage years of growth and development, it isn’t a wise decision to diet. You don’t need to restrict food- you just need to eat smarter. Teenagers should develop healthy eating strategies instead of trying a restrictive diet. An appropriate eating plan will help a teenager more than any diet.

Do Not Restrict Calories

For high school athletes looking to cut weight for football, just know that this is an important period of growth and development in your life and a restrictive diet is going to do you more harm than good. The most important thing you can do is create healthy habits. Don’t stress about the weight for now, the healthy lifestyle habits will bring you lifelong benefits and the weight will come.

Do not follow a low-calorie diet when you are participating in sports. If teens don’t eat enough they won’t be able to perform at their top performance ability.

Your endurance and energy levels will decrease, you won’t be as fast or as strong, your endurance and strength will suffer, you will be at higher risk for injury, and your body won’t recover appropriately after training and competition.

Check out my Nutrition Game Plan for High School Football ebook for more specific details on how to get to your goal weight this season.

What Parents Can Do:

If you are concerned because your teen is overweight, track their weight on a growth chart and check with your doctor or a dietitian if their weight gain is worrisome.

Don’t put your child on a “diet”. Trying to have a child or teenager lose weight might negatively affect their growth plus develop an unhealthy relationship with food and negatively impact body image long term.

Work with your pediatrician and a registered dietitian to make healthy lifestyle changes for the whole family. Change will come slowly, but the habits will stick for a lifetime.

Model appropriate eating behavior at homes. It is a parent’s job to determine which foods are available and served at home and when. A teen decides if and how much to eat. Try not to fill your pantry with unhealthy junk foods, now is a good time to practice healthy eating behaviors as a family.

You should also limit screen time, and do not eat meals in front of the TV. Find ways to increase activity levels for all family members.

Focus on overall health, not weight. Children should “grow” into their weight and not try to lose weight or go on a diet. Don’t talk about weight and be positive about body image. The worse teenagers feel about their weight, the more likely they are to develop an unhealthy relationship with food and overeat.

For teenagers that are overweight, they do not need to start dieting. All it takes is healthy habits that add up over time and bring benefits for long term.

How to Lose Weight For Football

If there are serious weight concerns for a football player, talk to your doctor or visit a sports dietitian who specializes in teen athletes. Develop a plan that allows you to get proper nutrition to perform your best while also working on losing weight.

Do not restrict calories drastically. As an athlete you do not want to lose weight too quickly- you need to eat enough to preserve muscle mass and maintain your energy levels. This will help you to have the fuel you need through training and competitions as an athlete to perform at your best ability.

If a teenager restricts calories too much then they are likely to not get enough energy, but also to not get the nutrients they need to support growth and development at this time in their lives.

Here are some simple and realistic steps to take if you need to lose weight as a teen athlete (make sure to follow your doctor’s recommendations):

1. Make a Plan

Find out how many calories you burn in a day and create a plan for your eating schedule. Eat about 200-500 calories less per day and continue to plan in regular exercise. Don’t expect quick weight loss. Plan to lose no more than 1/2 pound -1 pound per week.

Plan in 3 meals and 1-3 snacks throughout the day. You’ll want your meals to be around 500-1000 calories each and your snacks to be around 100-300 calories each, depending on your total calorie budget and overall goals.

2. Be Smart At Meal Times

In order to get the nutrients and the calories you need to fuel your body, you’ll want to appropriately eat enough of the main food groups. At meal times you should fill 1/3 of your plate with carbohydrates, 1/3 of your plate with lean proteins, and the last 1/3 with vegetables.

If you do this you will fill up nutrient-rich foods that are low in calories but high in fiber.

3. Do Not Restrict Carbohydrates

Do not cut carbs- carbohydrates are the best fuel source for athletes. If athletes decrease their intake of carbohydrates they can feel more fatigued and have less energy during exercise. Carbohydrates come from grains, fruit, starchy vegetables, and dairy products.

Choose mostly whole-grains instead of white breads/pastas/crackers. Limit desserts, candy, treats, and other sugary foods and beverages.

4. Stay Hydrated

Make sure you are drinking an appropriate amount of water throughout the day. Water can help you curb some cravings and can help you to feel full faster during meals. Plus, as an athlete it is important to stay well hydrated so you aren’t feeling fatigued and light-headed on the field.

Decrease your intake of soda, juice, and other sugary beverages. If you like drinking sweet things, try substituting lemon water or a green smoothie.

Check out my post here for more tips on what football players should drink.

5. Identify Your Problem Behaviors

Think through your eating behaviors to find areas for improvement.

Are you:

  • Eating too many foods with added sugars and solid fats,
  • Eating too many refined grains,
  • Eating big portions of food,
  • Skipping meals,
  • Eating fast food too often,
  • Eating enough fruits and vegetables,
  • “Grazing” all day on packaged snacks high in sugar, sodium, fat, and calories,
  • Drinking soda, juice, or coffee drinks that are high in sugar,
  • Eating for emotional reasons or when you are bored,
  • Eating in front of the TV, your phone, computer, or another screen?

Trying to change everything about your eating habits can be overwhelming all at once. Set a realistic goal this week and just choose 1-2 things you can work on, like decreasing soda or packing a lunch instead of going out to eat. Start small to build the habit and then slowly work up from there.

You can make these positive changes that will help you to be a healthier teen and better athlete. Do your best each day, remember that good things take time and even baby steps are a step in the right direction. Just think of something you can do today to help you eat a little bit healthier than you did yesterday.

If you’d like some help with an eating plan, check out my eating plan for football players post. 

How To Gain Weight For Football

Increasing weight for a position also increases long term health risks. Excessive weight gain will have consequences for the athlete’s long term health.

For high schoolers players looking to gain weight for their position, they need to focus on making a plan that allows them to address their short term athletic goals while following proper nutrition recommendations for their age.

Remember, from the sizes listed above, these adult football players have years of training to put on plenty of muscle, not just fat. Especially in high school, players need to be aware of their growth and development years.

High school athletes should not try to quickly gain weight, but instead have a nutrition plan to build muscle over time. Make an appropriate nutrition plan.

If your goal is to get bigger you have to do it in the right way with a plan for proper nutrition and training. Speak to your coach/parents/trainer/doctor first and set appropriate goals for growth. 

Trainers should focus on short term athletic goals and how they affect long term health goals. Quality sports nutrition and strength and conditioning programs can optimize body composition while limiting the health consequences that come with excess weight gain.

Do not try any restrictive diets or extreme health trends- eat enough protein (but not too much), stay within your recommended calorie level, resistance train regularly, avoid performance enhancing drugs, and don’t try to gain more than 1 pound per week. Monitor your body composition regularly, if possible.

Be patient and it will be worth it, you’ll gain weight over time and it will be mostly muscle instead of fat. You’ll be faster, stronger, and have more endurance, while excess fat gained quickly would bring the opposite effects. 


  • Playing football helps you burn hundreds of calories per hour and can be a great activity to complement a weight loss plan. Be sure to eat well and exercise in order to lose weight. 
  • The best type of exercise you can do to lose weight is the type that you enjoy and will commit to doing regularly.
  • High school football players need about 3,000-4,000 calories per day depending on their age, weight, position, and activity level. 
  • If you want to lose weight for football, speak with a doctor or registered dietitian first to make sure it is appropriate for your age and weight. Dieting can negatively impact your performance as an athlete. 
  • Adopting simple healthy habits is the best way to get a teen to an appropriate weight. 
  • High school football players cannot expect to be as big as the pros or even college football players. Through more years of growth and training they can develop more muscle mass and have a better body composition to be healthier and stronger. 
  • Enjoyed this information but looking for more nutrition tips for high school football? Check out my Nutrition Game Plan for High School Football ebook which includes a 28-day meal plan, weight tips, eating schedule, etc.


1. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. How to Talk to Kids About Weight and Obesity. July 11, 2017. Taylor Wolfram.

2. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. How Many Calories Does My Teen Need? May 1, 2018. Esther Ellis, MS, RDN, LDN.

3. Gatorade Sports Science Institute. Football Player Body Composition: Importance of Monitoring for Performance and Health. April 2015. Roberta Anding and Jonathan M. Oliver.

Katherine Harmer, RDN

I'm a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a love for coaching others to success in their health goals, especially teenage athletes. Tennis was my sport of choice in high school. Now I'm a little bit older, a little bit smarter, and a little bit worse at tennis.

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