In our new series, “Fitness Breakaway sponsored by Rocky Mountain Health Plans,” we will offer fitness and healthy living tips from the professionals on the Rapids’ staff. The first installment discusses the importance of eating well.
One of the first steps to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and improving your fitness is a proper diet, and the Colorado Rapids use nutrition as a way to help players stay at the top of their game. When speaking about a balanced, healthy diet, staff uses the analogy that any high-performance vehicle needs the proper fuel, and when you’re asking your body to put out a great effort, you have to put in the proper food.
Rapids Head Athletic Trainer Jaime Rojas is one of the people tasked with helping players eat right, whether it’s by ordering the food that the team eats on the road, or offering good examples when the team is at home at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. For example, the players train most mornings at 10 a.m., and follow their practice with a lunch at the stadium, provided by the club.
As Rojas notes, each individual is different, and with the number of calories that professional athletes burn, their diet can be different than most people. “What we’re trying to do with those post-practice lunches is show what a proper meal should look like,” says Rojas. “Everybody has different preferences, but we usually stick to chicken and fish for our proteins. We have pasta, rice and potatoes for carbohydrates, which the players need because they’re burning so many calories.”
“A variety of fruits and vegetables is also very important,” continues Rojas. “That’s to get vitamins, which help with digestion, metabolism, and overall health. We get all the right food groups, and make sure that they have the amounts that they need.”
Rojas also notes that with any proper diet, portion control and balance are important parts of the equation. Rather than eating three giant meals each day in order to get all the energy the players need, he encourages them to have smaller portions at those meals, but then snack throughout the day.
“You want to balance your meals and snacks so that you have energy throughout the day, and are getting everything your body needs,” says Rojas. “But if you’re snacking in between meals, it means being smart about portions.”
One difficulty that the Rapids often face is when the team is traveling to road matches. Sometimes long flights, at odd times during the day, can disrupt a player’s routine.
“We’re dealing with travel schedules, which can complicate things,” according to Rojas. “When we’re on the road, sometimes we don’t have meals at normal times, so we’ll provide energy bars, fruits and vegetables for them to eat between meals.”
Even while traveling, though, the goal remains to provide the proper nutrition throughout the day, for every player. And while everyone is unique, considering a balanced meal, with proteins, carbs, and fruits and vegetables, is a process that works for most, and especially for the Rapids players.