Former Leafs conditioning coach stresses proper nutrition in address to Lakeshore students


By Bernd Franke, The Tribune
PORT COLBORNE - Turns out, mom was right all along: You’re not eating right if you skip breakfast and scrimp on vegetables.

Making sure to drink plenty of water each day and getting a good night’s sleep is equally important, just like she said.

While a balanced diet, proper hydration and needed rest should go without saying, Matt Nichol finds he has to say it repeatedly. Even the professional athletes the one-time Toronto Maple Leafs strength and conditioning coach works with nowadays as a personal trainer have to be reminded that supplements are just that — supplements to the nutrients they should already be getting in their food.

“Before you worry about spending $50 on a bottle of pills, think about what you’re eating,” said Nichol, who called supplementing something that isn’t there in the first place “like putting spoilers and racing wheels on a car when there’s no gas in the tank.”

[singlepic id=32 w=240 h=180 float=left]Nichol addressed student athletes about proper training and conditioning during a Tuesday visit to Lakeshore Catholic High School. Though he is vice-president of product development for Biosteel Sports Supplements, his presentation didn’t include a sales pitch.

In fact, the personal trainer told Lakeshore students and some from Denis Morris that he won’t even begin discussing supplements with his clients until he after gets a five-day “food diary” of what they eat.

“Real food is better than supplements all the time, that’s why proper nutrition is important to athletes in their training.”

Nichol, who was invited to speak at Lakeshore by vice-prinicipal Andrew Boon, his one-time teammate on the McGill University football team, said supplements sometimes are necessary.

“Before games, some people can’t digest food. They just can’t keep it down,” he said in an interview afterwards.

Supplements can also be beneficial to athletes who are more comfortable on the field competing that they are in the kitchen making meals.

“I live by myself. There’s only so many ways I know how to prepare vegetables so I take a multivitamin to get what I’m missing in my food.”

In his talk Nichol, who has a masters degree in kinesiology from York University, told students training is a means to end, with getting into top condition the ultimate goal.

Boon found that to be an important point and one he hopes the student athletes won’t forget.

“What students are interested most when their in the weight room is how much they can bench press,” said Boon, who uses visits to weight training classes as a “teaching moment” to point out they shouldn’t get hung up on numbers.

“It’s not the training, it’s what you do with the training that’s important,” Nichol said in agreement.

Lakeshore’s desire to emphasize the proper nutrition and training for its student athletes prompted Tuesday’s visit.

“We always want to have our kids hear it from the best. We want our kids to be aware of what products they are putting into their bodies.”

Nichol concurred, saying while many student athletes already use supplements to enhance their training “we want to make sure they do the right thing.”