Dave Ellis, RD, CSCS, PBSCCS Advisory Board Member, Colorado Springs CO

Dave Ellis is an accomplished Sports Dietitian and President of Sports Alliance, which provides consulting services to athletics and the food industry.  Dave has earned a reputation as a pioneer and leader in the field of applied sports nutrition and is celebrating his 25th year of practice athletics in 2006.   As the Director of Performance Nutrition support services at the collegiate level (20 years combined – Nebraska and Wisconsin Universities), Ellis orchestrated the most highly evolved performance nutrition and body composition support service models in the country.  Dave also Chairs the Nutrition, Metabolism & Body Composition Special Interest Group of the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) and is an advisor to the Professional Baseball Strength & Conditioning Coaches Society (PBSCCS) Advisory Board, USADA and the Taylor Hooton Foundation.

The first step discussed revealed how stress reduction through natural sources of vitamin A, C, and E could be accomplished in the metabolic mix of proper athletic nutrition.  Also presented were the philosophies behind fueling tactics.  In nutrition you have to think about the meals at home and on the road, and be involved with keeping a team or your athlete fueled throughout the year.  It becomes a tactical experience of management.

Fueling tactics is a three-step system.  Every time we write a menu, whether we’re eating at home or on the road, these three steps are accomplished with regard to the food items offered at the meal.   Before moving to step two be sure to review the information presented in step one.  Fueling tactics is all about supporting the athletes through the rigors of the day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month training.  If the athletes have less down time due to illness, better energy levels and faster rates of recovery, they will have the potential to outwork the competition.  Smart work, and more of it.


Carbohydrate Nutritional Principle to Live By

There is no doubt of the preferential role that carbohydrates play as high energy foods for hard working muscles and that storage forms of carbohydrate in our muscle are limited when compared to body stores of fat.  Outworking the competition starts at practice and carbohydrates are going to play a critical role in helping you with the quality of your workouts.  You don’t just try to eat right the day of competition.  In fact, we make it a rule to not try anything new just before a competition.

To help make sure that we have enough carbohydrate to do work and then recover from that work we teach our athletes, “When building meals before and after activity try to eat about half the food on your plate from a variety of carbohydrates.”

This principal should not be compromised when the quality of  performance counts.  But when an athlete is not working out, on off days or during breaks between seasons, do they need to eat the same way as they do on an active day when the quality of their performance is being monitored?  The answer is no.  Something has to give to lower the athlete’s calorie intake to correspond with their lower calorie output. We teach our athletes to reduce their total carbohydrate intake at meals when not active so we can give fat a chance to contribute as an energy source to a greater degree. Fat is best suited to keep pace with energy demands when idling about on inactive days.  If we eat half the foods on our plate from carbohydrates on inactive days our bodies will preferentially burn the carbohydrate over fat even though fat could have predominantly met our energy needs of an idle day of

just hanging out until our next practice.


Third Choice Carbohydrates Hidden Problems

The metabolic mix changes.  The carbohydrates we ask our athletes to reduce from their intake on inactive days are the fast digesting ones, classified in the accompanying chart as “Third Choice Carbs.” These are low fiber or high sugar foods that send your blood sugar soaring which, if done frequently on inactive days, can result in some very unhealthy consequences starting with body fat accumulation and later in life even increase the incidence of diabetes and heart disease.


Because most carbohydrates are by nature are low in fat and food labels focus on fat, many Americans have fallen prey to the idea that grazing on low fat-high carbohydrate foods between meals, then eating high carbohydrate meals every day, is the way to go.  In reality they have left themselves exercise dependent to significantly mobilize their own fat stores for energy.  This is one of the reasons why Americans are eating less fat than ever and yet are fatter than ever.  We want our athletes to learn how to eat slower digesting carbohydrates that we classify as “Best or Second Choice” first when building a meal and let the “Third Choice” carbs into the mix when the demand for energy is at its highest – before and after activity.  When we turn the thermostat up at practice or on game day do not compromise your carbohydrate intake.  If at the start of the preseason the athlete is overweight and you have to compromise your calorie intake to manage weight to maintain take this approach:

– keep your carbohydrate intake low all day on off days (maybe 1-2 small servings of best or second choice carbohydrate with each meal.)

-early in the work week (Monday and Tuesday) increase carbohydrate intake to half the foods on your plate or tray at the post workout meal only.

– from mid-week on gradually increase the carbohydrate intake at the pre activity meal up to half the foods.

– be liberal with your carbohydrate intake at all meals and snacks 24 hours prior to competition.


When athletes are up-tight on game day they deplete carbohydrate at a faster pace than normal, so limiting carbs before, during or after competition is not advised.  Never take it upon yourself to cut calories in season from carbohydrates on active days until you discuss the situation with your nutritionist, coaches or trainers.  If they agree it is necessary then at least they will understand you may be dragging early and mid-week until you get your carbohydrate intake back up for the ensuing weekend training, competition or any physical testing.  If you take care of business in the off season in regard to major changes in your body composition, like gaining muscle or losing body fat, you won’t have to do anything in season that will compromise your ability to compete at practice.

To summarize, we have more latitude to eat “Third Choice Carbs” at meals before and after activity. This is not to say you can never have an ice cream cone after dinner on an inactive day, or that you can’t have a piece of hard candy late in the afternoon when you are feeling fatigued on an idle day.  Moderation and small amounts are the keys to remember with “Third Choice Carbs.” on inactive days.  Just promise me that on inactive days you will not live off of high sugar cereals, bagels, pretzels and soft drinks

with the idea they would not make you fat because they have low fat grams on the label.  Be sure to watch for the third and final step in proper fueling tactics for the athlete.


Article provided by Performance Conditioning Baseball/Softball the Official Publication of the Professional Baseball Strength and Conditioning Coaches Society



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