We caught up with Leslie Bonci, MPH, RDN, CSSD, LDN, to see how she helped fuel the Kansas City Chiefs to a Super Bowl Championship. Bonci is a member of our Sports Nutrition Advisory Panel, an adjunct instructor at the University of Pittsburgh, and she owns her own nutrition consulting company.
Bonci has been working with professional football players for 32 years, so she’s seen the role of nutrition shift from an afterthought to front and center in recent years.
“The role and function of food for fuel, performance, and body composition goals has exploded,” Bonci says, “and with it, the presence of training tables and fueling bars at training and gameday facilities to provide players easy access to nutritious options.”
Dairy plays an integral role in player nutrition – and the players love the taste – from the white and chocolate milk available for meals and post-practice refueling to yogurt, cheese boards, smoothies and pizza.
“Mac & cheese and pizza are always a big hit with the players,” says Bonci. “So are smoothies made with milk and yogurt as well as whey protein powder [which is made from milk]!”
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way snacks were presented for players – everything had to be pre-packaged this year, explained Bonci. But that didn’t stop her from making sure yogurt, string cheese, cubed cheese, trail mix and more were available.
“It has been a pleasure to help grow a program, be part of the performance team and play a role in helping these guys to strategize, optimize and realize their goals on and off the field of play,” says Bonci. “They have respect for each other, support each other and give not only on game days, but also give back to their communities.”
Looking for tips for your own athletic endeavors? Bonci advises:
- Be consistent! Think about your fueling every day, not just on game day.
- Treat your body with respect, not neglect. Fuel and hydrate well, get enough sleep, take the time to work on body goals outside of your sport’s season. Your food and fluid are your internal equipment to help you thrive and strive in your sport.
- Prepare or repair. As athletes, your body is always in a state of either prepare for practice, workouts and competition; or repair so you can do it all over again.
- Put in the work, not only for practice or the weight room, but at the dinner table. What, when and how much you eat and drink should enhance, not detract, from body goals and performance. Strategize, optimize, and realize.