Fueling Up

It's long overdue, but the Rebel football program now has a training table. Stage I is a mandatory breakfast every day.

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"It's amazing what good nutrition will do for your body," said Melinda Valliant, a professor of nutrition at Ole Miss and one of two certified sports nutritionists in the state of Mississippi. "I guarantee you, a proper diet for our athletes will improve their performance, not only on the field but in the classroom."

Valliant has been under contract with Ole Miss athletics for several years and is now overseeing the introduction of the first stages of a training table for football.

"We're starting out with breakfast," noted Valliant, who was watching as the team went through a buffet-style line that includes fruits, eggs, cereals, granola, an omelet bar, meats and juices. "The number one missed meal, especially among student-athletes, is breakfast, and it's the most important meal for them.

"When it's time for breakfast, your body has fasted for 8-10 hours and needs refueling. It gets your metabolism going and helps your body function properly. You're less sluggish and more alert when you eat a good breakfast.

"These guys are doing early morning workouts now and their bodies need fuel, not only for energy now but to allow their bodies to recover more rapidly and prepare for their afternoon workouts. Breakfast is critical. I tell them all the time, and now they are listening, that you can't put muscle on by eating twice a day, which is what most college kids do. They cite a lack of time for breakfast, but they have to be disciplined and make time."

Omelet Station
File Photo

The breakfast bar at Ole Miss, prepared by Aramark, who has the food contract with the university, is brought in to the banquet room at the Indoor Practice facility.

"It's very convenient for the players. They get finished with their 6:30 workout, shower and step down here for a good breakfast," explained Valliant. "There are no excuses now not to eat a healthy breakfast."

Educating players on the choices they make in the food they eat is also a vital part of the equation, Valliant says.

"We've made it real simple for them. We go by the stop light theory - green, yellow and red. Each food item on our buffet has a colored tag," she explained. "The green placards tell them they can eat all they want of that item. That's fruit, yogurt, oatmeal, wheat bread, cereal, roasted potatoes, things like that.

"The yellow foods like granola, turkey bacon and muffins, they need to limit to certain prescribed portions. The red foods - bacon and sausage - are for minimal consumption, if any at all for some of the players, depending on what they are trying to accomplish with their bodies."

The breakfast is mandatory and roughly half of the cost comes out of the player's monthly stipend. The school is allowed to pay for the rest.

"So far, the players have been very receptive to the program. They are starting to ask questions and educate themselves on proper nutrition," Valliant ended. "I haven't heard any grumbling. In a few weeks, you need to come back and ask them about it.

"I promise you they will be able to tell a difference in the way they feel and the way they perform."

Strength & Conditioning Coach Paul Jackson is a huge advocate of the new program.

"I think inadequate nutrition is one of the main issues I see on this team," said Jackson. "Put it this way, all the training in the world can't help you if you are not rested or fueled properly and if your body has not recovered before the next workout, you may as well not do it because you are getting very little benefit. Proper nutrition helps tremendously in the recovery process.

"To have a mandatory breakfast, to put it bluntly, is huge in terms of going hand-in-hand with what I do in strength and conditioning."

The plan is to implement more meals into the training table at Ole Miss. It's coming, but won't be immediate.

For now, step one is complete and functioning. The results will start showing up soon.

Breakfast, everyone?

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