Insight into the Lakers winning formula

Ellen Coleman serves as the Sports Nutrition Consultant for the LakersThe Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics have battled to a 2-2 tie in the 2010 NBA Finals. As the teams prepare for a crucial Game 5, much discussion will focus on game strategy and player performance.  What is often overlooked is the dietary and hydration awareness involved with competing at the highest levels of athletics. Research indicates that NBA players can lose up to 10 pounds of sweat during an average game.  This does not factor in the level of perspiration lost during practice and conditioning efforts. 

Ellen Coleman serves as the Sports Nutrition Consultant for the Lakers, Los Angeles Angels and Anaheim Ducks.  Ms. Coleman provided iFolloSports with a unique perspective into the nutritional guidelines of the defending NBA Champions.  She also offered insight into the habits of Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom.

The Lakers place special emphasis on the areas of training and preparation.  A strong nutritional approach is endorsed by coach Phil Jackson, longtime athletic trainer Gary Vitti and director of athletic performance/player development Chip Schaefer.

“They are very lucky to have Phil Jackson, who is very keen on eating healthfully, as is Gary Vitti and Chip Schaefer. It's not just about performance, they want them to be healthy 20 years from now, which is very refreshing,” said Coleman.

Coleman strongly believes that a player's eating and drinking habits have a tremendous impact on their level of performance.  An NBA player generally lives by a schedule of morning practices, a break in the afternoon and a game in the evening.  It is recommended that a player eats every three hours and hydrates throughout the entire day. In many cases, the biggest feast of the day takes place after the conclusion of a game.  This is the point when a body possesses the greatest need for replenishment.

While executing this task is relatively easy during home games, the assignment becomes a bit more challenging on the road or when the team embarks on an overnight flight.

“Traveling is harder because you don't have the same options.  It's trickier on the road; they're basically relying on the snack bar at the training center, the hotel or fast food,” said Coleman.

“Boston has a wide variety of places, in terms of cuisine, just like LA.  In big cities it is easier for them to find food that they like.  The kicker is when time is short, they are hungry and they go to a fast food joint.  They are then going to have to make a healthier fast food decision,” later explained Coleman.

Despite the craziness of life in the NBA, Coleman believes in one very golden rule of nutrition. The way a player begins the day is absolutely essential.

“Starting adequately hydrated and staying hydrated is one of the key things you can do to preserve athletic performance.”

Since this is sometimes easier said than done, Coleman is enamored with the Gatorade G Series of products, the latest addition to the massive sports drink market.

“With the Gatorade Prime 01 Pre-Game Fuel, you've got carbohydrates, B vitamins and liquid.  If a person is hungry, but they don't want to eat before they workout, this is a perfect solution.”  Coleman added, “If an athlete is running late for practice and they haven't had breakfast yet, this is perfect.”

Since hydration and replenishment is so important, Coleman highly advocates the use of Gatorade Perform 02 during conditioning and Gatorade Recover 03 when the body is in need of muscle recovery.

“The only reason I have an affiliation with Gatorade is because of the scientific research supporting the value of their product,” exclaims Coleman.

Through Coleman's long association with the Lakers, she has developed an insight into the nutritional efforts of the team, including the starting backcourt.

“Kobe [Bryant] does a really good job of eating continuously throughout the day. The other thing is, he is not particularly picky, which is good. This is a guy who gets the calories and fluid in, but is more focused on strategy. Other players are more into nutrition, like Derek Fisher. I have admired that man (Fisher) for years.”

Regarding forward Lamar Odom's infamous sweet tooth, Coleman feels that her consultation can only go so far.  

“I am an educator and these guys are adults. I can't say that candy has either hurt or helped his performance.  What can I say about Lamar?”

Ellen Coleman strongly believes that her position should focus on athletes' needs, both today and in the future.  

“My role is trying to help the guys eat healthier, so in the long term they don't get heart disease or cancer. In the short term, they can improve their athletic performance so that they can perform well, recover from training and competition and continue to come back and play hard,” explained Coleman.