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Volleyball Nutrition

chuck_norris_total_gymIf Chuck Norris can have the Total Gym, an AVP star should at least get an ab machine!?!? Maybe I am biased, but beach volleyball players are the best conditioned athletes in the world. Try walking around in sand all day and tell me how you feel, nevermind running and jumping in it. I’m surprised an AVP star hasn’t hooked up with a workout video company or new ab machine.

My father was diagnosed with adult onset diabetes (Type II) when he was in his 40s. I believe his father also had Type II Diabetes, but during his generation it wasn’t understood or diagnosed as often. Because of my father’s diagnoses, it forced me to think about my eating habits, which is why I try to live a healthy lifestyle. I hope through my example, I influence the players I coach.

dara-torres_timeAt the University of Minnesota, the team follows the Zone Diet. The Zone Diet is basically about controlling three types of hormones generated by your diet: insulin, glucagon, and eicosanoids. The team had a great husband and wife chef team to provide a post-practice and pre-game Zone meal. While at the University of Minnesota following the Zone Diet, I felt great and became a true believer in the Zone Diet. There are many professional athletes, such as 41 year old Olympic swimmer, Dara Torres, that religiously live by the Zone Diet.

I am a big proponent of the Zone Diet. When I shop, my goals are low sugar content, good carbohydrates (try the high protein, low carb pastas), and low sodium. My grocery shopping certainly is not an exact science like the Zone Diet, but a basic guideline. And I do want to dismiss the rumor that eating healthy is expensive. I disagree. One less Starbucks Capuccino will certainly make-up for any extra you might pay for a higher quality food. Healthy food is medicine.

Here is another angle to look at nutrition. Knowledge is power. This may provide a different insight. At Georgia Southern University, I developed and implemented with the guidance of a nutritionist the following:

Georgia Southern University Volleyball Nutrition Guide

This is the Georgia Southern University Volleyball Nutrition Guide. Notice the word GUIDE. A guide only provides you with the basics of proper nutrition and it would not hurt you to do your own research online, in magazines, and from books. The basis of the guide comes from the USA Olympic Volleyball Team and AVP Tour. Additional research has come from nutrition books, magazines, internet, and a few books. We recommend you look into Shape Magazine, Self Magazine, Women’s Fitness, Runners World, ivillage.com, and books for a better understanding of proper nutrition for women.


You are ultimately responsible for the food you put into your body. What you eat will directly affect your output at the gym, on the court, and at tournaments. Food choices at school and at restaurants are critical. We recommend you bring your lunch to school and if you “have to” eat fast food, make it a healthy fast food restaurant (Subway, Quiznos, Moe’s). But just eating at these “healthier” fast food places is not enough, be sure to order healthy foods, not loaded down with mayo, bad oils, or fattening dressings. It is your choice to eat right at these places, make the right choice for yourself and your teammates.

Many times the meals consumed one or two days before a tournament can directly affect your performance. So make the right decisions for maximum performance!

Grocery Shopping

You are now the ones that do the food shopping and cooking. It is your responsibility to purchase healthy foods (more discussed below) and cook healthy meals. You will learn how to read the nutrition labels provided on foods and make wise choices accordingly (see nutrition label).

nutrition_labelWe also highly recommend keeping snack foods and finger foods such as nuts, grapes, bananas, etc. easily accessible. We often make food choices by convenience, so make those ‘convenient’ snacks healthy. You will be surprised how much and how often healthy snacks are eaten! If you ‘must’ buy bad foods, purchase them less frequently and in smaller quantities and make them a once a week treat, not something easily accessible everyday.

It is also your responsibility to be a good role model for teammates and make healthy lifestyle choices. Lead by example. On tournament road-trips, we will stop to eat at healthy fast food restaurants. Restaurants like McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, etc. have been clinically proven to cause obesity, heart disease, and cancers. Think of it this way: Do you smoke? We are certain you do not because of the negative health issues, so why go to places that cause negative health problems?

What to Eat

The same basic nutrition principles apply to both men and women. The major food groups include Complex Carbohydrates (WHOLE GRAIN breads – not white bread, SWEET Potatoes, not white baked or mashed potatoes, NO SUGARS), Vegetables (or Fibrous Carbohydrates such as leafy lettuce (not ICEBURG!), spinach, broccoli), Fruits (Berries are great!), Protein (Nuts, Fish, Poultry, Eggs, low-fat red meat and dairy), Healthy Fats (Olive Oil, Soy Oil).

Notice what should limited: SUGAR and SALT (we try to avoid as much processed sugar and salt as possible), Soft Drinks or Candy (loaded with SUGAR), Chips (loaded in fat and salt), Fried Foods (terrible…blah!), Butter (just fat), mayonnaise (puke), and we are sure there are TONS of other things we are missing. Just ask!


Another food item we are a big advocate are smoothies. Not store bought smoothies because they are loaded with processed sugars (all fruits contain natural sugar…in moderation is good for you). We make smoothies at home with ice, milk, fruits, and a protein mix (Whey or Soy protein). The protein mixes come in a powder and purchased in the grocery store or a health food store like GNC. A smoothie is a great after workout, after practice, or tournament day (it is also great for long car rides) food that quickly replenishes your muscles with needed nutrition. ALWAYS eat after working out or practice!!! Your body is like a car, if you run out of gas or deplete all your energy, you will not be able to function. Proper nutrition is just as important as working out.

For great smoothie recipe’s, see the Runner’s World article.

When to Eat

We are not done yet! Three large meals a day will make you fat, no matter what you eat OR one meal a day teaches your body to store fat and you will gain weight more easily. Ideally, you should eat 5 or 6 SMALLER meals a day. This keeps your metabolism up and you burn fat much much faster. Here is an idea of the meals:

Meal 1. NEVER SKIP Breakfast! We are a HUGE proponent of Oatmeal (it helps reduce cholesterol and helps shed fat). Have oatmeal with some protein (a couple egg whites or yogurt), and a piece of fruit. I often mix blueberries in with my oatmeal, mmm, mmm good!

Meal 2. Mid-morning snack. A low-sugar, low-fat granola bar or protein bar (read the labels) or a handful of nuts, and a banana. Keep the metabolism burning.

Meal 3. Lunch. A turkey sandwich on 100% WHOLE WHEAT BREAD with vegetables like spinach, tomatoes, onions, and carrots. Drink water with your meal too! Subway is not a bad alternative to homemade…get wheat bread.

Meal 4. Mid-afternoon snack. Maybe a couple tablespoons of natural peanut butter with celery. Or I always make myself a smoothie this time of day.

Meal 5. Dinner. Fish is GREAT!!!! Have a small Salmon or Tuna steak with a sweet potato and steamed broccoli. Eat more fish and limit lean red meat consumption to once, maybe twice a week.

Meal 6. After practice. Have a smaller smoothie. Light on the stomach and filled with good stuff!

Quantity of proteins, carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits, and fats varies, but I try to stick with well balanced proportions, such as a 25% protein, 40% carbs, 25% veggies/fruits, and 10% healthy fat for my main meals.

Also, drink LOTS OF WATER! Carry a water bottle around with you throughout the day. Water is key for hydration, digestion, healthy skin, and many many other benefits.

A Lifestyle Change

This Nutrition Guide should not be a temporary ‘diet’ that you abide by one day and not another. This should be an everyday lifestyle change that you choose to make. It will not be easy at first, but if you want to be the best, this is another piece of the puzzle. This diet will get you in shape (in shape does not mean less pounds on the scale. Scales are meaningless. Muscle weighs more than fat and we want lean muscle on you). In shape means that you will have a much fitter, much leaner, much stronger, much healthier body. We promise, you will feel better and you WILL look better too. We promise!

Ask questions and do your own research. This nutrition program is part of our team goal, to be the best conditioned athletes on the court!


  1. Out of the many protein sources out there, hemp protein is the ultimate. It comes from nutrition. Go to http://www.hempproteinguide.net/ for great information.

  2. Most agreeable. And I would be quick to emphasize ripping the refined sugars right out of your life. My opinion is that it is a weapon of mass destruction.

  3. great information thank you. I am curious about a program. there’s a workout program a great deal of others have been doing. i’ve been going throughlots of investigating on it and it appears that this is actually a great program. people say it really works. i’ve too been using it for about 2 weeks at this point and it is doing the job i see. what’s your opinion of it? you can see more info on it on this site. On this site should i remain on this workout as it’s working out seriously well.

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