PARK CITY, UT - With the 2010 Olympics right around the corner, U.S. Ski Team and U.S. Snowboarding athletes are getting an important lesson from the U.S. Olympic Committee on how to eat for athletic success.
USOC sport dieticians will be in the kitchen at the Center of Excellence for a USSA developed and funded six-workshop series that runs through October in which athletes will learn the ingredients to meals that provide energy and promote health and recovery.
"We're having a cooking education series throughout the summer and the fall where we will run classes for teams on cooking education as well as for individual athletes who are here training over the summer," said USOC Sport Nutritionist Susie Parker-Simmons, who was formerly a USSA sport dietician. "What we're trying to do is optimize their nutritional status, optimize their performance and their recovery so they are ready for the Olympic Games."
The project was brought to fruition thanks to a joint collaboration between USSA Sport Science Director Troy Flanagan and Parker-Simmons, who saw the potential benefit of athletes develop excellent skills in preparing 'performance food' while at home and on the road. The idea to instruct the athletes was the brainchild of former USSA Sport Science director Andy Walshe.
"Already the athletes are completely engaged in the workshops. There is no doubt that this facility will directly enhance the quality of training," Flanagan said. "If athletes are appropriately fueled, the quality of training goes up, the long term fitness benefits are improved and ultimately performances are enhanced."
The Center's kitchen is equipped with three cooking stations which will enable Parker-Simmons and her team to teach up to 20 athletes at a time.
A member of the USOC team who will be helping athletes become better cooks is Adam Korzun, a USOC sport dietician who totes a culinary background that allows him to teach athletes how to make meals healthy and tasty.
"We show them we can do performance based meals that are also tasty," Korzun explained. "Some chefs can only do one or the other. We bring those two things together and that is what we want to do with the chef program is combine those two worlds and concentrate on what the athletes want and need."
According to Korzun, the focus will be to give athletes the tools of ingredient use, as opposed to a series of recipes, so that they can use healthy foods in a variety of their cooking, rather than being limited to a series of meals.
"We wanted to focus on teaching them ingredients and combinations that they can use. How to use brown rice rather than white rice when making a burrito, look for the whole wheat tortilla, lean chicken, mixing high fat and low fat cheeses," Korzun said.
For Korzun, the workshops are also a preview of what the chefs will be able to provide the athletes during their Olympic experience.
"We are giving them the right foods to fuel their performance and the right foods to recover. We can get them food on the hill so when they're out there for long training days we fuel them," Korzun said. "It's something that takes their mind off it so they can focus on training and competition and we'll make sure they always have a meal."
One lucky group of athletes got a preview of what the USOC will be offering at the Center.
"I never had any information on nutrition before. Having these chefs cook for us has taught me a lot about what to eat. I can do the same foods, but just make it so it's better for you," said the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team's Shane Cordeau.
Cordeau got first hand interaction with the nutrition program when he attended USSA's Rookie Camp - a three day orientation to the organization for new athletes.
In the midst of learning about their new teams, engaging in team building exercises and sharing group meals, the rookies were able to take in a lesson on how to cook for a long and healthy athletic career - a lesson Cordeau plans on using all the time.
"I'm going to take the lessons I learned from them and put them into my everyday life," Cordeau added.
Athletes begin learning to cook for their sports immediately as the cooking workshops begin this week at the Center of Excellence.