Military men and women are used to taking orders. They might occasionally question the logic of a command. But they obey because, well, that’s what they do.
Scott Maher is in his first year as assistant athletic director for dietetics and sports performance at the U.S. Naval Academy.
While he doesn’t shout orders to players regarding what they should and shouldn’t eat, his strong suggestions are taken seriously.
In preseason training camp, he may notice a player’s tray doesn’t have enough vegetables on it. Or that a player may appear that he was out too late the night before. And he’ll let them know about it in no uncertain terms.
‘It’s All About Recovery’
Ken Niumatalolo is the head football coach at Navy. He said Maher is doing a fine job of convincing players that good nutrition will help them play better.
“There are a lot of dieticians out there, but this guy’s really good,” Niumatalolo told The Washington Post. “Just been really impressed with him.
“He’s organized. He’s detailed. He’s educating our guys. We’ve always lifted hard and run hard. But you just know it’s all about recovery.”
Maher was hired not only to make sure the players eat better. But also so they will recover better from the physical grind of practices and games.
A Daily Education Lesson
Maher is with the 160 Navy players all day every day during training camp. He monitors their diets and makes recommendations based on whether their goals are weight gain or maintenance.
But he can’t watch what each of them eats at every meal. Especially when they go back to their dorm.
“Nutrition is something that happens 24 hours a day and when I’m not around,” Maher said.
“I have to explain how it’s going to affect their performance. How it’s going to change their body composition. And just overall make them a better, stronger-performing athlete.”
A Challenge Worth Tackling
Adding to Maher’s challenge is where the players eat most of their meals –
Most major college football programs allow their nutrition staff to plan meals that are eaten in team dining halls. But that doesn’t happen at Navy. At least not yet.
Ford Higgins is Navy’s starting center. Here’s what he says. “It’s something that you wouldn’t know if you weren’t an expert.
“It’s something that’s going to be super beneficial for us. (We’re) excited to take advantage of him and his knowledge.”
Recommending Right Choices
At the end of the day, it’s up to Navy players to decide how closely they want to follow Maher’s advice.
“I’m not the food police,” Maher said. “I’m never going to tell a guy they can’t have something.”
But he will ask them if they think they are making the right choices. He’s trying to make them think about what’s best for them.
“You can focus on the healthiest food in the world, but they’re college kids. They’re going to eat what they want to eat.”
Staying Hydrated… and Sober
Of course, it’s not all about food. Mahler also reminds players how crucial it is to stay hydrated.
And how important it is to limit alcohol consumption. Mahler makes sure they know that drinking too much will negatively affect recovery times.
So far, the message seems to be getting through. The team knows certain habits may have to be changed to improve on last year’s 3-10 record.
“Whatever you put in your body is what you get out,” said senior linebacker Paul Carothers. “He’s really helped us with that.”
Nutritious Tips for Lunch
Many of us know we should eat more vegetables than we do. They are loaded with the nutrients we need for good health. And energy to get through the day.
But often it’s easier to grab a pre-made snack than it is to prepare a vegetable. Here are some ideas regarding how to easily replace the typical sandwich and bag of chips for lunch.
Dip differently. Instead of dipping chips into hummus or guacamole, try veggies instead. Raw carrots, green beans, snap peas, cucumbers and celery sticks are perfect for dipping.
Enhance rice and noodles. Lots of folks love rice bowls with noodles. There’s no reason why you can’t enhance the flavor by adding cut-up veggies including broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, etc.
Lose the bread. Yeah, sandwiches taste good. But you can lay those same turkey and cheese slices onto a bed of greens. Or turn the whole thing into a wrap.
Paging Herb. Maybe you only use herbs for seasoning or a garnish. But you can place entire herb leaves into salads and sauces to both improve the taste and add vitamins and antioxidants.
Veggie Additions. Chopped-up vegetables can be added to just about any salad, including tuna and other seafood salads, for extra nutrition and taste. Celery, carrots and avocado are among the veggies you may want to choose.
Even if you’re not a college football player and don’t have a professional nutritionist, you could use more vegetables in your diet, right?
Get started today on increasing the amount of veggies you consume. I assure you that you’ll notice a difference.