Below is a letter I received from a soccer coach whose team has embraced proper fueling as a way to get to the winners’ circle. I hope it will inspire you to get your team on the Good Nutrition Bandwagon! After all, performance starts with fueling, not training!
Dear Nancy, I wanted to give you an update on what's happening with our boys’ high school soccer team. Inspired by your Food Guide For Soccer, we've slowly gone from giving only very basic nutrition advice other than "hydrate and eat carbs" to a full fledged nutrition "battle plan.”
Pre-season, the head coach asked if I would talk to the players on nutrition, explaining he wanted to make nutrition education a big part of this years’ season. I agreed and have talked to the players, sometimes several times a week. The information I give them comes almost exclusively from your Food Guide for Soccer, Sports Nutrition Guidebook, website, and other articles you have written. The players are being taught, to the best of our ability, the what, when's and why's of nutrition and how it impacts them and their game.
Our official high school season began on Aug 31 with two games against two very tough opponents. We ended the day with two wins. 3-0 and 5-0. We are about half way through our regular season with a record of 7 wins, 1 tie and two losses. We are one game away from first place in our division and the team has their sights set on a county championship as well as a district and state title.
The players are engaged and believe in the nutrition improvement effort.They've felt and seen the results and most (dare I say all?) of them get it. I had to chuckle as some of the boys told me that about a half hour before their first game this season they saw most of the opposing team line up at the snack bar and walk away eating hot dogs, burgers and fried chicken. Our nutrition guide (something I prepare for each game) for that game advised them to avoid those items. We offered them alternatives. Fresh fruit, thick-crust pizza, soft pretzels, and a choice of chocolate milk, water or sports drinks. We beat the opposing team 5-0. First time in 3 years!
For critical evening games, we'll often keep them at school and feed them before they board the bus at 4:30. They have all trained their bodies to accept pre- and mid-game fueling. We've just started to include an additional "emergency" bag of gummies to be used if we find ourselves in overtime situations. We offer them low fat chocolate milk within 15-20 minutes of the end of each game. They all enjoy it and they all know WHAT it's doing for them. They've made their water bottle their best friend. This season, leg cramps are extremely rare.
I keep reinforcing my doubt that any team we face will be as well prepared nutritionally. While some teams we'll face may be technically better, most of them will hit the wall by half time. The “good nutrition advantage,” as you know, is both physical and psychological. That's powerful.
The players now consider proper fueling to be their secret weapon. The gummy bear bag is passed around discretely during halftime and the post game refueling never takes place within view of the opposing team. FUNNY! It shows me they believe!
Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the helpful information in your books!
If you are an athlete who trains to exhaustion, you are either fueling up for a workout or refueling and recovering from the workout. While much attention has been placed on recovery, I find that many of my clients are confused about how to best refuel after a tiring workout. Here are a few tips based on research presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s 2013 Annual Meeting (www.acsm.org).
• It’s never too late to improve your sports diet.
Even experienced veteran cyclists often do a poor job of refueling. Only 38% of 212 competitive cyclists chose a carbohydrate-protein mix. Because residual fatigue from both training and competition strongly influences the ability to perform optimally, you would be wise to pay attention to a proper recovery diet!
• Be sure to include enough carbs in your daily diet.
Among 215 Navy SEALs, 86% ate less than the recommended carbohydrate intake (>2.5 g grams carb/lb; >5 g carb/kg). Like many serious athletes, the SEALs chose a high protein diet that would help build muscles—and skimped on the carbs needed to optimally fuel muscles.
• Rehydrate soon after you exercise; don’t delay until evening.
Although adequate hydration contributes to optimal performance, it can disrupt sleep in athletes who rehydrate primarily at the end of the day. A study with 35 male rugby players indicates 75% of them did a good job of rehydrating at a 10-day training camp. However, those who hydrated well at night tended to wake up at least three or more times to urinate. For better sleep, drink more fluids right when you finish exercising, instead of near bedtime.
• Don’t hesitate to make your own recovery drink.
A study comparing a fruit smoothie (made with milk, banana,berries) with a commercial product showed similar recovery benefits for subjects who did muscle-damaging exercise. Both recovery drinks offered the same amount of calories, protein, and carb. Food works!
• Spend your money on real fruits, veggies and whole foods –not on supplements.
• For 17 days, well-trained cyclists took an antioxidant supplement containing freeze-dried fruit-vegetable juice powder. The supplement offered no boost in immune function beyond that created by exercise itself.Instead of antioxidant pills, you might want to put that money towards your health club membership?