In the last few years, it has become noteworthy that MLB stadium staffs have worked closely with concessions to develop “signature foods” that bring publicity to teams, players, stadiums. From Texas Rangers’ Boom Stick honoring Nelson Cruz to the recent spate of “foods” introduced preseason, the larger the better, the fattier the finer. It then falls to broadcast teams, MLB Network pundits and various online sites and social media to lovingly spread the word. How funny, these Dorito-coated-oversized-deep-fried treats are, say the voices.
Like state fair food, a novelty, certainly not recommended (or consumed) by reasonable humans.
Yet, ask the state fair concessions if folks do eat deep fried butter, and the answer is a resounding “YES.” People do order it, out of gluttony or bragging rights. Regardless, none of it is in the realm of nutrition you’d feed someone you care about, certainly not what you should feed a growing athlete.
And yet, how different are the eating habits of parents, coaches and players who spend considerable time at tournaments or at the fields? Sadly, the answer is not so much.
Check the menu at a concessions stand. Having been in that realm as parent/team/league volunteers, it’s no secret concessions managers, however well-meaning, typically source their selections from Sam’s Club or Costco. It’s how they keep costs down and give people “what they want.” It’s how the concessions stand raises money for the booster club or select facility, and it’s where families held hostage at facilities during weekends and double-headers dine. And it’s often where the players eat too.
Check CompleteAthlete’s nutritional guidelines, and you likely won’t find the concessions menu in our recommendations unless somebody’s mom (or dad) demanded something green.
What to Do
There are a few steps you can take as a Coach, Parent or Player to remedy this situation.
- Get a Gameplan Learn what’s great fuel, good fuel, okay fill-ups (for now) and avoid the rest. We have guidelines and blog posts on this here on Complete-Athlete. We also teach an entire section on this in our Performance Symposiums. Eating the right stuff takes a commitment by the entire family so prepare yourself for change … if your athlete’s future development is important.
- Prepare Food Beforehand If you look at any performance athlete, training guru or diet advisors’ web sites, books or updates, you will see they prepare meals beforehand, sometimes spending a large part of their Sundays making meals for the week ahead. This is because eating well takes time and effort. Even shopping correctly takes longer. You want your player to know ahead of time he has the food he needs for in-between games, so concessions aren’t an option or a necessity.
- Make Choices Not Mandates For players, remember we are talking about churning, burning, walking appetites that also happen to have teammates and peers who crave all the junk they can grab. We are changing behaviors here so be patient. And, as part of the CompleteAthlete training we are introducing this as part of them reaching their potential. We are empowering them as athletes to be their own best coach. This takes time, and eventually the light does turn on. Which is why we say making choices is preferable to issuing ultimatums. If anyone hears they “have to” do something, the natural reaction is to rebel and push back. It has become a chore instead of a choice. We show players the difference in our Mental Emotional training — choices are positive — as in I choose to change and be a better athlete … I want to be better.
We will in the next weeks outline specific meal plans and preparation you can take. In the meantime, remember to:
- Cut back on simple carbs from wheat and corn
- Reduce the sugars
- Try to source foods from the store perimeter where they have the veggies, butcher and whole foods.
- If you do pack a snack or meal, remember the power of fruits for quick energy, cut veggies (carrots, broccoli, celery) and the perfect standby, PBJ’s on whole wheat bread.
- And forget the energy drinks and sports drinks. Put a little sea salt in water (or get some Fiji) for mineral replacement and hydration.
And never concede health choices for marketing hype or cravings. Your life (and athletic/mental performance depends upon it.