How Nutrition Transformed My Athletic Journey
I was about four years old the first time I was introduced to football. My brother, who is three years older than me, and his friends needed to beat up on a practice squad. So they would recruit me and my friends to be their opponents. The selling point, of course, was having the honor of hanging out with such cool older kids who were doing us a service by “making us tougher.” It’s true there are some physical advantages that a 7-year-old boy has over a 4-year-old boy. However, this did not distract me and my teammates from that sliver of hope that just maybe, maybe, with the right play drawn up, we could hit pay dirt and glory would be ours!
By the time I was a freshman in high school and my brother a senior, my friends and I had physically begun to catch up to my brother and his friends. Their only advantage was experience. Strength training, conditioning, and nutrition were discussed and furthermore encouraged amongst our small school’s coaching staff, but they were merely suggestions. A few kids who may not have been as athletically gifted as others heeded this advice in order to remain competitive against the luckier ones like me, who—despite a gangly 6'2" stature but a still-larger-than-most 180-pound frame. I leaned mostly on natural ability and genetics through high school and didn’t invest much in diet or exercise. It wasn’t until I began receiving scholarship offers from a few small Division II college football teams that I really had to start being mindful of how I could use the treatment of my body as a competitive advantage.
There are many important life qualities that can be learned from participation in sports, many of which I now use during a regular work week with the harvest crew, or on the ranch, and even at the dinner table with the family. Leadership, teamwork, toughness, focus, comradery. However, one of the more profound attributes came to me from my grandfather the summer between high school graduation and freshman year of college.
A summer strength and conditioning regimen was assigned to me by my new coaching staff. I was to follow this regimen and was expected to hit certain benchmarks before showing up for camp on campus. My grandpa took it upon himself to guide me in hitting these marks.
He himself was a natural athlete and physically gifted. But in his older years he became more technical and spent time researching exercise science and using data to guide his workouts. It wasn’t unusual for him to lift weights and run 6 miles all before I was even awake. He immediately became enthralled with the task of elevating my level of competitiveness beyond what I was born with.
In one of the barns on his farm, he had fashioned for himself a weight room, which became my summer time training facility. Every morning he would direct me through a lifting regimen that was nothing like what was used to, requiring me to exceed my belief in what I was physically and mentally capable of doing. More importantly, he and my grandma ensured I was eating meals that were nutritionally complementary to the coaches’ expected benchmarks, which included gaining muscle mass while becoming faster.
I had always looked up to Grandpa and had developed a blind trust in him. I did and ate whatever he told me to, and by the end of the summer I had shaved a tenth off my 40 time and increased all of my max weight lifts to the benchmarks required by my coaching staff. I had also increased my body weight from the gangly 180 pounds to 215 pounds. I couldn’t believe how big a role science played in achieving those goals.
Those tangible results still influence me today in my mid-thirties. I have learned (as I know many my age have) that natural ability and metabolism tend to lend less of a helping hand at this age. With two kids now, time for exercise is a rarity. However, eating is still one thing we all must do. What we choose to put into our bodies is one of the most impactful things we can do to achieve beneficial results.
My grandpa always told me, “You’re only going to get out of your body what you put into it.” Whether I am putting in long days on the road with the harvest crew or tackling tasks on the ranch, I have found myself continuously circling back to this statement. I’ve noticed myself cratering midday following the consumption of a “in a hurry” gas-station meal, whereas a mere handful of Wild Idea snack sticks would keep my engine running strong all day because of the nutritional density that meat from our large-landscape-roaming buffalo provide.
Modern society has trained adults to squeeze productivity out of every waking hour in a day. That may mean skipping the gym or a daily walk in order to make it to your young one’s soccer practice. What it doesn’t have to mean is sacrificing the nutritional quality of what you put on your dinner table. Our family has noticed consuming Wild Idea’s nutritionally dense buffalo products allows for smaller portions and more forgiveness on the exercise end of things. “You get out of your body what you put into it.” Choose wisely. I recommend choosing Wild Idea Buffalo!