Magic at the Training Table, part II

In 1990, then Vanderbilt Athletics' Director Paul Hoolihan decided Vanderbilt needed a first-class training table to provide its student-athletes with the best possible nutrition. After a lengthy search, he hired executive chef Majid "Magic" Noori for the position.

Recently, I had a chance to visit with Coach Noori and witness up close just what goes into feeding Vanderbilt's teams.

In part one, Magic talked about his background and how he won the job over other applicants and about the science of food. Today, in part two, he talks about feeding certain players and Coach Bobby Johnson, among other things. In part three, we'll look at some of Magic's recipes and hear what some players and Coach Johnson have to say about the training table. I'll also reveal the favorite snack of a certain rookie NFL quarterback who credits Magic with helping him become the player he is today.

VM: In your soon to be released book, "Eating To Win With America's #1 Food Coach," you mention that eating the right food isn't all athletes must do for optimal performance.

MN: You are correct. Timing of the food eaten is important. Two hours prior to practice, players need to start getting hydrated and eat carbs. The best ratio of nutrients for athletes before practice is 65% carbs, 20% fat, and 15% protein. For games, it becomes 80-10-10. Right after the game, the players need to eat high protein foods to rebuild their mass. Missing meals and eating poorly are two of the worst things an athlete can do, and it will cause them to lack the required energy they need before they practice.

VM: What are some of the Vanderbilt football team's favorite foods?

MN: Steak and shrimp pasta are favorites of the football team. I serve many types of steaks from t-bone to filet to sirloin to rib eye. Sometimes when a player asks for a steak and it's not on the menu that night, I end up having to make a few dozen because other players will want one too. I don't mind doing it. I always tell them I can do that.

We also do some ethnic foods, but spices have to be toned down. Fajitas, beef kebab, and Irish stew with lamb are the ones the players like.

VM: What is Coach Bobby Johnson's favorite food?

MN: Coach Johnson is unbelievable. The way he eats, I'm jealous. He eats smart by consuming small portions. He loves salmon and grilled chicken. When he comes in the food line, and we are serving something else, I will say, "Coach I also have salmon," and he will always ask for some. I always cook the salmon with the skin on.

VM: Can you tell us about your work with Jay Cutler and what he liked to eat?

MN: Jay did everything I told him, and it paid off. He came to Vanderbilt weighing only 195 pounds (He is 6-4). He left here at 230 pounds and was a first round pick in the NFL Draft. Jay took his training table program as seriously as he took practice. He ate a high-protein breakfast every day plus a mid-morning snack. He ate a lot of fruit. He drank a lot of smoothies and milkshakes. One of his favorite foods to eat before working out was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Noori not only works with Vanderbilt athletes, he works with several professional athletes in the Nashville community past and present. Eddie George credits Magic with helping him become the great physical specimen he was with the Tennessee Titans. Other prominent players who sought his advice are Jevon Kearse, Keith Bullock, Eddie Robinson, and Kevin Dyson.

Titans Coach Jeff Fisher recognized Noori for helping with several Titans players According to Coach Fisher, "For several years, I have been seeking Magic's advice for giving the teams meals as well as suggesting dietary changes for specific players that needed to change their body's composition. With his assistance, the Tennessee Titans have made dramatic improvements in the quality of our training table."

Marquez Hall enjoys a meal. (VM/Howell Peiser)

All photos by Howell Peiser.

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