Healthy eating habits (and gluten-free pasta) lift the Jacksonville Jaguars to success.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are a shining example of the relationship between nutrition and performance. In an New York Times sports section feature, nutrition specialist Anita Nall Richesson received recognition for her work with the NFL team.
Richesson, a former Olympic swimmer, has overhauled the Jaguars cafeteria in the past year. As a result, players have been forced to embrace a variety of healthy foods, and are regularly offered meals and snacks that are gluten-free!
“One day last week, the 5-foot-5 Nall Richesson, who is as slender as a carrot stick, bounded into the cafeteria to examine the lunch fare, including gluten-free pasta and a red sauce with no artificial preservatives. The cookie buffet is gone, and in its place are fruit and gluten-free snack bars.
‘In football I don’t think there’s been a light shone on nutrition,’ she added. ‘There’s a huge focus on weight, but the traditional thought process has been how big can you get in any way, shape or form.’”
The organization believes there is little coincidence between Richesson’s work and the teams vast improvement. The Jaguars currently lead their conference with a record of 7-5. Just one year ago, their season ended with a disappointing record of 7-9, the worst the entire division.
‘The challenge with these players is how can they fuel their bodies so they’re energetic and exuberant on the field without inviting the potential health hazards of what being big can bring.’
Richesson has worked individually with many on the Jaguars roster, teaching players how to maintain their healthy eating habits outside the team’s facilities. Her presence has even prompted players like Mercedes Lewis to not only rethink what they eat, but undergo food sensitivity testing.
“I would credit at least half my production to the work I’ve done with Anita on nutrition and Luke in the weight room,” Lewis said.
After discovering an intolerance to pineapple, Lewis eliminated the fruit from his diet. Since his diet overhaul, he has seen marked improvement in his performance on the field.
“I recover faster,” said Lewis, who is carrying 254 pounds on his 6-6 frame, down from 275 at the start of the season. “I’m running better. I have more energy. And I’m still strong. This is Week 14 of the season and I feel good. That is ridiculous.”
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