The facilities at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida will soon be welcoming back an entire flock of players as the Cardinals’ Spring Training venue comes to life for 2011. Like last year, players should not only be expecting coaching on their baseball skills, but also a renewed team focus on the importance of nutrition as part of an athletic training program.
In 2010 the Cardinals implemented an organization-wide mandate to bring nutrition to the forefront of their baseball training program. Everything from team meals to vending machine options in the clubhouse was overhauled in support of this new focus on healthy food choices.
Towards the end of the 2010 season, I had the opportunity to meet with Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, Pete Prinzi, and visit with him about the specifics of the team’s nutrition program, including how the players felt about such drastic changes to their food supply.
Many thanks to Pete for giving us an inside look at how he helps the Cardinals maximize their performance through nutrition. What follows is part three of the transcript of our interview. You can read part two by clicking here.
Odds and Ends
Erika Lynn, I-70 Baseball: Earlier in the season, television audiences watched Albert Pujols pull nutrition bars out of his pocket during games. What were the bars?
Pete Prinzi: They were OH YEAH bars, his favorite, he eats them every game just like clock work.
I-70: I imagine there are many companies sending their products to the players/team hoping for such a promotion. With food and nutrition being a new focus, are players more conscious about what they are seen eating/drinking?
Prinzi: To a degree, I don’t think they are concerned with being seen with the wrong food, but more concerned with fueling their body to achieve the desired energy for performance.
I-70: What are pre-game meals for the Cardinals?
Prinzi: We provide mainly fast acting carbohydrates, but also some slow acting carbohydrates and lean meats.
I-70: Do they load carbohydrates?
Prinzi: Our starting pitchers will do a form of Carbohydrate loading.
I-70: During games, what foods/snacks are available to players to keep their energy up? We’ve seen the sunflower seeds and bubble gum. Is there more variety available to them during games, especially those extra inning games?
Prinzi: The seeds and gum are more traditional in nature. Certain fruits, bars, and shakes are utilized during our games.
I-70: Many young athletes are using protein powder from the health stores in an effort to gain muscle mass. Do Cardinals players use protein powders or nutrition supplements (powders/pills) to boost their diet intake?
Prinzi: We prefer a food first approach, but in certain cases we will supplement a player’s diet with protein powders or ready to drink shakes.
I-70: What is the view from a trainer or conditioning coach about protein powder?
Prinzi: It can be a useful tool, but not a necessity.
I-70: How much of your job has become MORE focused on nutrition this year as compared to previous years?
Prinzi: Not much more. I have always placed importance on nutrition ever since I started working for the Cardinals back in 1997 and was able to help Rick Ankiel go from 21% body fat down to 9%.
I-70: Wow! How did you help him achieve such amazing results?
Prinzi: Rick came to us at 19 and had a good amount of body fat and bad eating habits. He was eager to make a change in his habits and willing to follow my guidelines. A lot of hard work through training and diet yielded him the results he earned. Since then he has not looked back. To this day he is in excellent shape. It’s no accident though. He works incredibly hard.
And Now…. Just For Fun – Fans love to know fun facts about their favorite players:
I-70: What are some of the specific pre/post game food rituals of some of the Cardinals pitchers or position players?
Prinzi: Adam Wainwright has a specialty PB & J before every game.
I-70: Who is the most nutrition-conscious of the team (most careful about their diet)?
Prinzi: Chris Carpenter.
I-70: Who is the least careful about their nutrition?
Prinzi: Brendan Ryan.
Thanks again to Pete Prinzi! And if you would like to learn more about the specific principles of nutrition programs such as the one developed for the Cardinals by Sports Nutrition Consultant Dave Ellis you can visit http://www.fuelingtactics.com/