October is Sports Nutrition Month at MomsTEAM. We invited some old friends and some new ones to share their wisdom about nutrition and offer always on-the-go sports parents fresh ideas and choices for healthy, easy-to-make breakfasts, lunches, dinners and between-meal snacks for your active children.
Today we hear from youth sports coach Brad Taliancich:
MomsTEAM: Tell us a little about yourself and why you wanted to get into sports nutrition?
Taliancich: As a former NCAA Division I athlete in track & field, I tried my best to eat right and keep my body in top condition. But, as I got older, attended more classes and conferences, I realized I was not getting optimal nutrition. As I began to work with and coach athletes there was a common thread: they and their parents were always asking about nutrition. There is a lot of misinformation out there and I hoped to guide them to a better understanding of the basics.
MomsTEAM: What do recommend sports-active kids eat for breakfast?
Taliancich: Athletes know their body best but at times we need to help them realize how much they can handle before an event. Breakfast is an important way to fuel the body prior to competition and prepare it for a day of work. If your child knows that scarfing down cereal or heavier foods before your competition has made them or is going to make them sick, then they need to listen to their body. For younger athletes this is where parents have to help with breakfast. A quality breakfast should contain 200-500 calories in a carbohydrate-rich breakfast two to four hours prior to a competition or event (remember: school is an event too!). This will help the child have more energy to get through their practices or competition. It is a good strategy to have a pre-competition eating plan.
Here are some breakfast ideas:
- Whole wheat bagel or toast with peanut butter
- Meal replacement shakes made with water
- Smoothie with frozen fruit and milk
- Greek yogurt with fruit
- Oatmeal and scrambled eggs
Please be aware of the amount of time before competition should determine whether you would choose milk, oatmeal or "heavier" foods.
MomsTEAM: What are your top five foods for sports nutrition? A good balance of the groups below...
Taliancich: First and foremost we need to provide nutrient-dense foods. I suggest trying foods from these groups:
- Whole & Multi grains: high fiber content will help the gastrointestinal tract;
- Vegetables: 2.5 cups per day; be colorful, provide important phytochemicals and vitamins;
- Fruits: 1.5 cups per day. Bananas, apples, berries top the list;
- Milk/Dairy: provide protein and calcium but be aware of fat content;
- Meats & Beans: lean cuts of meats, kidney beans, white beans provide good sources of protein and zinc; and
- Fats/Oils: remember that a balanced diet is NOT fat-free. Choose fish, nuts (in moderation), avocados. "Good" fats provide for heart health & brain function.
MomsTEAM: Do you think youth and high school athletes need supplements? If yes, which ones?
Taliancich: Yes, youth & high school athletes need "compliments" to their healthy diet. I recommend a good multi-vitamin, especially containing adequate amounts of Vitamin D, C and zinc. Yes, vitamins are a "supplement." Make sure the products are SAFE and can be properly absorbed. Many supplements & vitamins are cheap and ineffective because the formulations do not allow the body to break them down and absorb them properly. Parents should do their research on these items and not purchase based on price alone.
MomsTEAM: What is the best snack to pack in a sports-active kid's school backpack or gym bag?
Taliancich: Student-athletes frequently have to "fuel" on the go. I can not tell you how many athletes I see in line at concession stands for sporting competitions. Unfortunately, it is rare to see "nutritious" items at these venues, so we must plan accordingly. So a snack pack would contain several items such as string cheese, fruit, cut-up veggies and a couple handfuls of nuts, as well as an adequate amount of water and low-cal sports drink. (Proper hydration is a complete topic by itself)
MomsTEAM: What is the most important thing about nutrition that every sports parent should know?
Taliancich: Parents need to realize that proper nutrition has a lot to do with their child's performance. Today, we see young athletes in specialized training programs, programs aimed at helping the athlete reach higher levels of competition and excellence, but still proper nutrition is neglected. Nutrition is fuel for the body and must be treated as such. A high performance vehicle does not perform well with low-grade fuel. Treat the body as a high performance machine.
MomsTEAM: How have you helped a young athlete?
Taliancich: Much of my coaching experience over the past 20 years has been with female athletes. It is unfortunate that so many young women feel the need to eat less in order to maintain their vision of a healthy body. I saw this with several high school athletes who were worried about eating "too much." Over the course of time I was able to educate them on the importance of a good diet with the proper amount of calories, show them how the calories were expended through training, and how it directly affected their performance. Once these young women began to eat breakfast (instead of skipping it), fueled their bodies throughout the day (instead of skimping on meals), they saw noticeable changes in their performances. Each athlete, who made a conscious effort to improve their diet and intake saw significant improvements in their performances. But communicating with them throughout the years after competition has shown that they saw the benefits over the long term and maintained healthier nutrition as they moved on to college and beyond.
Coach Brad Taliancich earned a Bachelor's in Education/Wellness from the University of New Orleans while competing as a Division I track & field athlete. He is a certified IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist, former track & field coach at Louise McGehee High School, University of New Orleans & Nicholls State University, and has worked with young athletes in Louisiana, Mississippi, Maryland and Texas as well as several former college & professional athletes. He currently helps train and condition local athletes as well as provide proper sports nutrition guidelines to individuals and families in the New Orleans area, coaching his five children, and awaiting the arrival of twins with his wife Christie. You can contact Coach Brad at Advocoach19@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter @adveauxcare or find him on Facebook through his personal page, Brad Taliancich and the Team Xcelerate page.