Tuesday, April 21, 2015

One Way To Think About Sports Nutrition...Look to the Best

Sports writers did not create rules for becoming a great quarterback out of thin air; they observed quarterbacks in action and, then, described the traits these athletes had in common.

Andrew Peach, the author of "An Introduction to Catholic Ethics" explains that Aristotle's knowledge of virtue is acquired by observing virtuous people. I have always thought his analogy is helpful. Look to the one who embodies the quality or characteristic you want. Observe: What do they do?  Determine: How do they do it?

This method underscores why I sought a spiritual director. I noticed that my colleagues who were the most serious about their prayer life and deepening their relationship with the Lord met with one on a regular basis. I figured if athletes work with a personal trainer, why shouldn't I connect with a spiritual one?

One area that needs improvement in my life is nutrition. I try to eat well balanced meals with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, but if I were to track my weekly intake, you might notice a large number of M&Ms. I tuck potato chips into my sandwich for added crunch and the peanut/pretzel vial at my golf club provides my weekly salt block. I am in need of much more than a nutritionist. I think positive and proactive examples help. What do athletes at the top of their game eat? What do they snack on. Fortunately, I found some answers.
Sorry, couldn't find a photo of the dining hall

Over spring break, I attended golf school for two days at the prestigious IMG academy. I was curious to know what this 450 acre training facility for high school through professional athletes in Bradenton, Florida had to offer. If you're curious you can read more about it here.

I can tell you one thing they did not offer: dessert. Most of the adult athletes and teams eat at one common dining facility. Naturally, there was a well-stocked salad bar, a bevy of fruit to go, soup, and a choice of entree (one which was always fish). There wasn't a PBJ station or cookie jar anywhere in sight. When I asked my friend why, we realized who we were with and where we were. To call "sugar the enemy" is strong, but professional athletes are keeping it at bay. I made that note to self and bought some sweet & salty Chex Mix at Walgreens later that day.

That weekend, the stellar performance of Jordan Spieth lifted the ratings of the 2014 Masters by 24%! From time to time during the 4-rounds I got to watch, I noticed golfers eating a KIND bar on the course, or others at a banana. Many made strong efforts to stay hydrated. But reading the Sports Illustrated cover story "Old School" about the 2015 champion, Jordan Spieth, revealed much more. Alan Shipnuck writes, 

"Spieth has begun having blood work done to fine-tune his diet, which is why on the course he now snacks on walnuts instead of cashews and dried blueberries rather than raisins. His meals are heavy on vegetables, even though he says he "flat out hates" them. For every round he has a prescribed amount of water to drink—at the sunbaked Texas Open it was 60 oz per nine holes."

To what degree did his new diet contribute to his success? 
Reading about the high octane fuel these athletes ingest truly does inspire me. I will never forget (based on a funny set of circumstances) that when former Notre Dame All-American, national champion and WNBA All-Star Ruth Riley stayed in my apartment, she didn't eat anything I had to offer. She was however thrilled to see a brand new juice bar had just opened on my street. We walked in to Evolution and she found she met her match.

Although the drinks in house are pricey, I have a feeling they are worth it. One can't help but feel "clean" after drinking a tasty breakfast beverage that includes a weekly dose of vitamin C and more. Who knew that beets, apples, kale, tangerine and berries could taste so good together? Ruth Riley, who played basketball professionally for 12 years does.

This fall, I will be working with the JV girls golf team. I hope to talk to them about the importance of good nutrition for sport and for life. I hope to model it too! Perhaps some of them will inspire me as well. Based on a recent outing with the JV boys squad, I'm not so sure. That's for my next posting...

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