Improving Nutrition Habits for High School, Collegiate and Professional Athletes

Improving Nutrition Habits for High School, Collegiate and Professional Athletes

Tavis PTavis Piattoly, who played football and other sports in high school, dropped 50 pounds in the summer after he graduated, before he enrolled in Louisiana State University as a pre-med student. Now he offers High School and other athletes the expert nutrition he wishes he would have known as a 17-year-old who got used to fast food before practice and Chinese buffet afterwards.

“I wish I’d had the knowledge then that I have now,” Piattoly says. “I wouldn’t have made such bad decisions. There was no one there to tell us.”

NO Saints croppedPiattoly switched his major to dietetics with an emphasis on sports nutrition and achieved his goal of working with the New Orleans Saints, for seven years. He’s worked 12 years with Tulane University and now operates his own My Sports Dietitian (www.mysportsd.com), an online education and software platform for athletes, parents, coaches, athletic trainers, and coaches that offers phone apps for tracking nutrition, one-on-one counseling for athletes, and a mentorship program for young sports nutrition students and practitioners.

Logo Tulane croppedSince he started at Tulane in 2003, Piattoly has seen rapid growth in staff Sports Dietitians in Division 1 schools, now totaling about 75. He believes the focus is spreading to the 8 million high school athletes and their parents who are seeking safer and more effective performance.

Focus on When and What You Eat

“You can change behavior more with a 14-year-old than a 28-year-old,” says Piattoly, who starts with a focus on when the athlete eats and then focuses on what they eat. “Now we know nutrition can give athletes a performance advantage if they time their intake correctly. High school athletes are underfueling their bodies to support their activity. Nutrition can make a good athlete great – or a great athlete good.”

Athletes who train five hours a day, maybe in two different sports, should eat about every three hours, he says. When Piattoly advises an athlete, he starts with a three-day food log to be sure they’re not energy-deprived – then starts replacing the breakfast doughnuts or toaster pastries with shakes, eggs, and oatmeal.

It all starts with timing. That’s the first nutritional strategy I employ.

“It all starts with timing,” he says. “That’s the first nutritional strategy I employ. If we can fix the ‘when,’ we can fix the ‘what.’ Ninety percent of the kids I work with are highly motivated. They realize nutrition is the piece they’ve been missing all along. Parents are a critical piece, especially Moms. Mom is usually the food provider for the athlete, or sometimes it’s a single dad.”

Piattoly helped a small-framed high school linebacker gain 50 pounds by his senior year and earn a college scholarship. He worked with a high school quarterback to add 20 pounds of lean muscle so he could attract college scouts.

“It’s all about teaching them to get enough calories to support what they’re trying to do,” he says. “It’s the missing component, it’s the secret weapon, it’s the component that leads to success in everything else.”

The food-first approach incorporates supplementation where appropriate, including The Right Stuff for heavy-sweating athletes and those susceptible to cramps. “In the New Orleans area, it’s really humid,” Piattoly says. “We use The Right Stuff with a lot of our athletes that are heavy sweaters. It’s good for any athlete. We get a lot of sodium in our diet, but when we sweat it out at accelerated rates, we need to replenish it. Our body needs it.”

Interest in nutrition is expanding to younger ages because it both helps prevent injury and enhances performance. “We’re going to see this field continue to expand throughout the collegiate level, high school, club teams,” Piattoly says. “It’s going to trickle down, just like athletic trainers did in the past”

NFL Lineman Shares His Secret for Fighting Chronic Cramps

Chance Warmack, the All-American guard on Alabama’s national championship team and first-round draft pick for the Tennessee Titans, Chance Warmack - Combine croppedknew he was a heavy sweater ever since his family moved from Detroit to Atlanta and he started playing youth football.

“I was aware that I used to sweat a lot when I was younger, but it wasn’t to the point that I needed to add electrolytes in my system,” he says. “I began to see a change in my body because I was doing a lot more activity at the high school level.”

He first felt the pain of intense cramps during his sophomore year.  “It was really hot, and I began to start cramping for the first time,” Warmack recalls. “I didn’t know what was causing them, how I could prevent them, or why they were happening to me. I began to understand what to do to prevent the problem of cramping. Back then, I didn’t know what I needed to put in my body to avoid those things.

Pedialyte®, formulated for children who have lost nutrients, helped more than other products, so he would stock up before practice on a hot Georgia day. Pedialyte was my saving grace at the time, but even that sometimes it didn’t come through for me,” Warmack says. “I would have days when I would be close to full body cramps. My body was locking up on me and I didn’t know what to do.”

 

Fighting the Cramps

In his senior year in High School, his grandfather, a physician, recommended a concoction that helped enough for Warmack to win a scholarship to the University of Alabama, but trainers there balked at depending on the time-consuming mix.

“I put that solution down,” he says. “I was introduced to salt tablets at that time in my life. I was 17 years old. Alabama’s training camps are very hard. I would leave training camp practice soaked with sweat. Salt tablets can only do so much. My body was taking so much sodium, and I couldn’t store it all. I would have to take 50 tablets at a time every day.”

It was convenient, it was efficient, and it was easy to use. The Right Stuff literally helped me get through college.

Finally, in his junior year at Alabama, his Nutritionist introduced Warmack to The Right Stuff. He took six packets a day, 2-3 times as much as other teammates. “There was nobody on the team that sweated as much as me,” he explains. “It was convenient, it was efficient, and it was easy to use. The Right Stuff literally helped me get through college. I’ve done everything – salt tablets, pickle juice, mustard, Gatorade, you name it. The Right Stuff gave me the opportunity to play and not worry about cramping. I could focus on football, not how much sodium I had taken.”

Chance Warmack - Titans helmet onWhen he went to the NFL with the Tennessee Titans, he was the only one who was taking The Right Stuff. “Every trainer has the way they want you to hydrate,” says Warmack, who “pre-games” with The Right Stuff and has two in his system when he steps onto the field. “I didn’t want to change what I was doing because it works so well for me. When you know what works for you, you don’t want to change it, especially when you’ve got proof that it works.”

“They tell me when you sweat you lose a lot of minerals. You’re burning fuel. When you use The Right Stuff, it’s putting everything back. You feel like it’s a boost for you. I’m happy I was able to be introduced to it. It was a blessing in my life. I can be the best player I can be.”