Randy York's N-Sider
Nebraska Director of Sports Nutrition Josh Hingst doesn't create recruiting posters, but he might think about the value in something like that when at least three Husker seniors prepare to ride off into the sunset after playing Iowa Friday in the first-ever Heroes Game.
In outlining five nutritional principles that help Nebraska stay physically fit throughout the season, Hingst kept coming back to how those three seniors exemplify major change and enhanced performance. Hingst says All-America candidates Lavonte David and Alfonzo Dennard deserve poster-like status for their quantum leaps in nutritional discipline, and 6-7, 320-pound offensive lineman Jermarcus "Yoshi" Hardrick has improved his eating and drinking habits so dramatically, he just might follow David and Dennard into the NFL.
"Nutrition is probably one of the most neglected areas in college athletics because there's so little appreciation for the complex science that nutrition really is," said Hingst, who was quoted in a recent Wall Street Journal article that described nutrition as college football's last frontier. Even Sports Illustrated devoted nine pages to the same subject this fall. "Personally, I think nutrition is no less important than any other piece of the performance puzzle," Hingst said. "Our offensive and defensive strategies are very important, but our nutritional strategy is important, too. That's why we take it very, very seriously at Nebraska."
Fatigue Makes Cowards of Us All
Hingst reminds us that Vince Lombardi once said "fatigue makes cowards of us all", and he's one nutritionist who's convinced that fatigue isn't just related to which players are in great physical condition. "A greatly conditioned team that's poorly fueled is going to look just as fatigued and out-of-shape as a poorly conditioned team," Hingst said.
To prove his point, Hingst shared five prioritized principles that not only reinforce why Nebraska football players are nutritionally sound, but also drive home why David and Hardrick have shown transformational improvement since transferring to Nebraska as junior college superstars and how the physically gifted Dennard learned to value nutrition every bit as much as his God-given talents.
Don't just take my word for it. Make sure you watch Hingst interview Fonzo, Lavonte and Yoshi for the N-Sider. Depending on when you watch the video, consider this either an appetizer or Thanksgiving dessert as we all face our favorite feast of the year. In addition to the players' endorsements of Nebraska Nutrition, here are five Josh Hingst fundamentals to healthy eating:
Principle 1: It's All About Calories
"You have to meet your energy needs, and energy is not an energy drink. Energy drinks are more stimulant-based. Energy is what we get from food in the form of calories. Our guys expend so much energy every day, they have to have calories. Lavonte David is our poster child as the guy that meets his energy needs. He came here weighing 208 pounds and is now up to 225. He's a guy that can't afford to lose weight because he burns so much energy on the practice field and every Saturday that he's absolutely religious about every meal he eats and every calorie he counts. Before every practice and every half of every game, he makes sure he drinks his nutritional shakes and eats his bananas so he has the protein and the carbohydrates to maintain the highest level of his performance ... practice in and practice out, game in and game out ... he has his routine right down to the minute and the intake. He's phenomenal."
Principle 2: Hydration, Hydration
"When you keep food intake high, hydration is a no-brainer for most athletes, but this is one principle where Yoshi Hardrick really comes to mind because he had never been conscientious about what kind of calories he put into his body before he got here. From college level to high school level on down, you see so many athletes drinking high-sugared, nutrient-less liquids, giving them a lot of empty calories. When Yoshi simply switched from sugary drinks to water, Propel and sugar-free lemonade, it was a big step for him to keep his calories in check and manage his weight. He came here with high body fat and low regimen. James Dobson would tell you his movement and mobility were terrible because he had so much extra weight. It took him a year to figure out how to eat and cut out the excess calories. If you would walk through the line and sit down with him at the Training Table today, he knows exactly what he needs to eat and drink."
Principle 3: Time Nutrient Refuels
"It's all about nutrient timing. Every day, while the media waits in the Hawks for practice to get over, they see all the tables filled with nutrients and shakes and energy bars and gels and drinks. Some drink them 30 minutes before practice, some 15 minutes before. They all know how and when to put the right things in their bodies to help them practice at the highest possible level. The nutrients help eliminate some of the stress on their bodies. They all have their routines, and they're almost all different. It's simply a matter of what works best for you. Jamal Turner knows what to take in and when to refuel so he doesn't cramp up. We have about 10 guys who require very high calorie drinks to refuel. Taylor Martinez dropped a lot of weight as the season wore on last year, and it really affected his performance. This year, he's been very steady and very conscientious. He's doing everything he can to optimize performance."
Principle 4: Eat a Balanced Diet
"Eating a balanced and varied diet is not as easy as people think it is. Almost everyone who comes in here is not a very good fruit and vegetable eater. Fruits and vegetables are some of the most important nutrient-dense foods they can eat to help them perform. It can be some of the most important food you put in your body, and when they don't, you're doing yourself a disservice. Alfonzo Dennard comes to mind with this principle. Every meal Fonzo eats now, he makes sure he has enough fruits and vegetables. He keeps track of everything, and so do we. Our team hotel people have seen huge increases in the amounts of salads and vegetables we order. It really is all about balance."
Principle 5: Eat More Frequently
"Every day, we preach about eating more consistently, and the better description for that is eating more frequently. We encourage all of our athletes to eat more often, so they can avoid binging. A lot of kids grow up eating just one or two big, huge meals every day, and sometimes that meal or two are the only ones they have. So they're so hungry, they can hardly stop. That's a good point for Thanksgiving, right? Well, the habit we preach is to break those meals up to five or six throughout the day, so they can fuel up and avoid the big binge."
Hingst, a guy with definite discipline in his own food intake and daily conditioning sessions, looked across his desk when he described binging and hunger and reaching that point when certain people don't know when to stop putting food in their mouth anytime, let alone on Thanksgiving.
I admit feeling a sense of guilt when Hingst looked me straight in the eye and made that statement, so I've made a vow to myself. On what may be the biggest binge day of the year, I'm changing things up a bit this Thanksgiving. Now that I know vegetables are a must at every meal, I think I'll ask for some carrot cake instead of that extra slice of pumpkin pie.
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