Melissa Hehmann: 5 Best Meat Alternatives For Vegetarian Athletes

“Vegetarian athlete” was once unfairly considered to be an oxymoron by people who thought adapting to high-level training by packing on muscle was something only meat eaters could do. Thankfully, this characterization of vegetarian athletes has been virtually eliminated, and it is now difficult to find a sport that doesn’t feature a world-class vegetarian competitor.

Jim Stewart: 5 Things Every Competitive Shoot Needs To Do


As the head coach of Michigan State’s rifle team, Jim Stewart spends a ton of time at Lansing’s Demmer Center working with the athletes from the Michigan State Shooting Sports Club to prepare them for competition.

Because shooting is a club sport at MSU, Stewart prepares his shooters for events like the NRA Intercollegiate Rifle Club Championships – an event at which the Spartans won the national championship in 2012 – as opposed to the NCAA-sanctioned championships. In keeping with the club theme, he also works with several student-athletes that are less interested in the competitive aspects of shooting, and more focused on development and social interaction.
Regardless as to the level of an athlete’s dedication to the sport, if shooters truly wish to get better, there are some basic things they need to do if they want do well in competitions.

 1. Don’t blame your equipment

In an sport that relies so heavily on equipment, there can be a temptation to purchase the latest and greatest rifle in the hopes that it will automatically improve the quality of a shooter’s performance. However, Jim says this method of “buying points” doesn’t always work out the way the athlete intends.
“Usually kids won’t put the time and effort into practicing and getting better simply because they bought some high-dollar equipment,” Jim explained. “So I’ve seen kids with expensive equipment that can’t shoot for anything, and I see kids with mediocre equipment that are really pushing the limits of the equipment because they’re so good.”

2. Get a coach

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If you want to get better at anything, it’s logical to find someone better than you and learn from them. In the case of shooting sports, Jim says that finding someone to coach you may be the first step toward ultimately landing a scholarship to join the team of a top college or university. 
“If you start working with a coach, and you show any skill at all, your name will get passed around to a lot of coaches,” Jim said. “These coaches will pass you on to a state association coach. They have coaches that will coach the kids up and take them to different shoots and competitions around the country, and from there the kids will get noticed by coaches from some of the big schools. Coaches are good about moving shooters’ careers along.”

3. Figure out how dedicated you are

 Like most activities, the more time someone spends practicing with a rifle, the better they get at shooting. As Jim pointed out, someone deciding between competing at a school with a club program or a varsity program can come down to how much time they are willing to dedicate to mastering their craft and improving on several levels.
“At Michigan State, rifle is a club sport, so we have one organized practice each week, and the kids are encouraged to come in and practice on other days as much as possible,” Jim said. “If this were a club sport, it would become more of a job; we would shoot three times a week minimum and do other strength and conditioning drills on other days. Students have educational and social lives that are competing for their attention, and they need to decide how much time they are willing to part with to get better at a sport.”

4. Get in shape 

 To a casual observer, marksmanship relies exclusively on the sharpness of the shooter’s eye, coupled with basic hand-eye coordination. However, over the course of a shooting competition that can last well beyond an hour, Jim says the physical stamina of a competitor can come into play, and that can result in them being off target with shots that they would otherwise make.
“You need to be able to stabilize your body to maintain the same position with a calm demeanor and a low heart rate for a long period of time,” Jim said. “All of these things can be worked on with strength training and conditioning.  And you don’t really see any big, out-of-shape shooters at the highest levels. So, it’s an athletic sport in a different sense; the most athletic are those that can stay the most still.”

5. Compete regularly 

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how well someone shoots on the practice range if they can’t repeat the performance during a competition. When the pressure mounts, Jim says a lot of competitors get a bad case of nerves, and this wreaks havoc on their shooting. Unfortunately, the pressure that comes with a tournament will never go away, so shooters simply need to get used to it.
“Typically, the athletes that win are those that control their nerves and emotions better than anyone else,” Jim explained. “The way you overcome the pressure of the situation is simply by doing it. Eventually, you get to the point where you don’t even see or hear the crowds because you’re so comfortable in your environment. You’ll just realize you’ve done it lots of times and you can relax.”
Interested in Shooting?
Check out the Meijer State Games - Winter Games Shooting Information
Check out the Meijer State Games - Summer Games Shooting Information

The Meijer State Games of Michigan is a multi-sport, Olympic-style event(s) that welcome athletes regardless of age or ability level. The Games embody the values of participation, sportsmanship and healthy living.

Interested in our Summer Games?

Interested in our Winter Games?




Jeff Jackson: 5 Things That Will Help You Get Recruited For College Hockey


By the time Jeff Jackson left Michigan to become a professional hockey coach, he had already established himself as one of the most successful coaches of his generation at the college level. In ten seasons of coaching at Lake Superior State University, Jeff coached the Lakers to four NCAA Frozen Four appearances and three NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Championships, with Jeff leading the charge toward the last two championships as the head coach.
Since returning to the ranks of collegiate coaches, this time at Notre Dame, Jeff has continued his winning ways by guiding the Fighting Irish to multiple CCHA Championships and NCAA Frozen Four appearances.
Given all of Jeff’s coaching success, it comes as no surprise that he regularly hears from young hockey players that are intent on making it onto the ice for a top college hockey program. With that in mind, Jeff shared five things with us that hockey players should do if they ever want to tie on their skates and take the ice for a Frozen Four contender.

 1. Make Your Intentions Known


It’s a popular misconception that college athletic programs have unlimited time and resources to spend recruiting young talent. They don’t. Programs like Notre Dame tend to concentrate on recruiting a certain talent profile within a targeted region of the country. But if you live far away from the school of your choice, that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to remain off of its recruiting radar. According to Jeff, if you want to get recruited, sometimes all you have to do is ask.
“It never hurts for kids, if they have an interest in a school, to reach out and send a letter or an email to express an interest,” Jeff said. “In most cases, we go out and watch kids. Some of it is word of mouth, but sometimes we hear about a kid that’s a good player who has an interest in Notre Dame. That’s how we got Riley Sheahan who is now playing for the Detroit Red Wings; we heard that he had an interest in Notre Dame, so we went out and saw him play.”

2. Learn To Be A Playmaker At High Speed

 Developing skills during practice is all well and good, but unless you can execute during an actual hockey game, those skills are meaningless. Not only should aspiring hockey players play in as many truly competitive games as possible, but Jeff actually suggests limiting the space you have to play in while you practice. That way, you’ll force yourself to assess situations and react quickly, and this ability will make you a more reliable playmaker for your team.
“The game is really about mastering time and space, both offensively and defensively,” Jeff said. “At every level you move up, there’s less time and less space to make plays. You can work on your skills, but until you can do those things with pressure in competitive situations, then you can only incrementally improve. These things are developed over time. This is why kids need to try to do things at a high pace when they’re practicing and training.”

3. Make Yourself Strong


 Not only does the time and space on the ice shrink on every new level as a result of your opponent’s increased speed and skill, but it also decreases because your competition is physically larger as well. In order to compete with opponents for that decreased ice space, hockey players that truly wish to be competitive will have to get bigger and stronger in their own right. And in order to do this, lifting weights is absolutely necessary.
“Physical strength and explosive power are huge,” Jeff said. “When kids get to that age when they can start training their strength, they should. Some strength is natural and develops over time, but usually it can be developed with weights. Kids should focus on Olympic-type lifts like squats, cleans and deadlifts, and also things that focus on the hockey-type areas between the chest and the knees. A true 18-year-old freshman may end up competing with 24-year-old seniors, and if you’re 150 pounds trying to complete with a guy that weighs 230 pounds, that’s a challenge.”

 4. Learn To Stay In Shape Off The Ice

Let’s be honest; not everyone is blessed enough to grow up with a hockey rink in their backyard like Wayne Gretzky was. For most people, ice time comes with a financial cost, and even then, time on the ice is limited by a rink’s availability. Compounding the problem is the fact that hockey players need to have tremendous conditioning in order to get up and down the ice quickly while maintaining that speed throughout a shift. As Jeff will tell you, the best hockey players find a way to stay in shape even when ice access is limited.
“There are aerobic and anaerobic types of conditioning, and hockey players need to have both,” Jeff said. “A lot of conditioning can be done off the ice as long as you are willing to pay the price. There’s running, or there’s the treadmill. Hockey may be an anaerobic sport where things are done in short shifts, but you have to have an aerobic base first. It’s important to be in the top shape of your life to prepare for hockey season, but there’s maintenance done during the season and a lot of that is done off the ice. You can help yourself a lot by going at a high tempo in practice, but if you only go at three-quarters of your speed in practice, you’re not helping yourself very much.”

5. Get Used To Monitoring What You Eat


 If you’re still living at home with your parents, or even if you’re living on your own, you might be able to get away with eating whatever is put in front of you regardless as to how it may influence your body. At a top-tier NCAA program, this is not the case. So, if you’re not making disciplined dietary decisions right now, you should get used to it. Otherwise, it’s going to come as a rude awakening when the school nutritionist starts doling out the meal plans.
“When we have a specific player that may need to cut bodyfat, maintain their weight or even gain weight, that player is put on a specific type of diet, and that may be paired with supplements,” Jeff said. “We have things like the training table, which all the athletes attend, and we have pre-game meals and post-game meals that we all have together. So, we can track and monitor what a player eats and what they’re putting into their bodies as far as protein drinks and supplements go. It’s a big part of what we do, and we have people to monitor that for us that are professionals.”
Interested in Hockey?
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The Meijer State Games of Michigan is a multi-sport, Olympic-style event(s) that welcome athletes regardless of age or ability level. The Games embody the values of participation, sportsmanship and healthy living.


Interested in our Summer Games?

Interested in our Winter Games?


Maribel Alchin: 5 Foods Athletes Should Avoid


The two things that contribute to athletic success that athletes have no control over are natural size and talent. Aside from those two factors, success is derived from the proper mix of nutrition and training, and those two components relate directly to one another.
Maribel Alchin of the Meijer Healthy Living team is quick to explain that what you eat affects your athletic performance, and she advises that your diet should include whole grains, a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, low fat dairy, nuts, seeds and beans.  Eating a well-balanced diet can help you feel stronger, train harder and compete better. So it’s important to choose healthier ingredients to prepare your meals by replacing the not-so-healthy foods with ones that are more nutrient rich to maximize your performance.  With that being said, here is Maribel’s list of five foods that athletes should definitely avoid.

1. Refined/processed grains

When you need to slap a couple slices of bread together to make a sandwich, any old bread will do, right? Not necessarily.  White bread may be an attractive option for some people, especially given its relative cheapness, but Maribel says there are several better options available.
“Replace refined grains with whole grains, such as brown rice, oatmeal, ancient grains (like quinoa, amaranth, millet), whole grain pasta and cereal, sprouted grains, and whole wheat bread,” Maribel advised. “Whole grains are nutrition powerhouse foods for athletes that have more fiber, vitamins, and minerals than processed white grains.  They are packed with carbohydrates, which fuels your muscles and provides energy.”

2. Refined sugars


There is nothing inherently wrong with sugar; it’s a natural sweetener that makes just about everything taste better. The problem is created when people overindulge in the sweet stuff and receive it in highly concentrated forms. According to Maribel, there is a better way to indulge your sweet tooth, particularly if you’re an athlete.
“Refined sugars such as soda and candy also fuel muscles, but are nutrient poor choices and lack the vitamins you need to perform your best,” Maribel said. “Try eating some fruit if you’re looking for something sweet. Fruits are nature’s candy! They contain the electrolyte potassium, which helps prevent muscle cramps and restore electrolytes. Have a smoothie made with Greek yogurt and frozen berries within 15-60 minutes following practice or competition for a recovery snack to aid in muscle repair.”

 3. Solid fats


Far from being a source of empty calories, fat is actually an essential nutrient, and it acts as your body’s primary source of sustainable energy, and a means of storage for certain vitamins. With that being said, there are several forms of fat, and some of them are better for you than others.
“Solid fats contain more saturated fat and/or trans fat than oil,” Maribel explained. “Replace solid fats like butter with foods that contain monounsaturated fats like avocados, olive oil, walnuts, and polyunsaturated fats like corn oil, soybean oil, fish, nuts and seeds. Omega-3 fatty acids are another source of healthy fats that helps reduce inflammation. Fish oil, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, soybeans, and salmon are high in Omega-3 fatty acids.  Eating healthy fats will provide you energy, a sense of satiety and aid in vitamin absorption.”

 4. Caffeine


Caffeinated beverages have spawned huge industries around the world, including the creation of billion-dollar coffee, cola and energy drink companies. For athletes, caffeine can be a quick-fix that provides the boost necessary to either begin a workout, or to complete one. At the same time, Maribel insists that your standard workout beverage should be chosen more for its hydration potential, and less for its stimulating influence.
“Caffeine has a diuretic effect when consumed in large quantities, which could lead to poor hydration prior to and during exercise,” Maribel said. “In moderation, caffeine does not cause dehydration or electrolyte imbalance, but athletes should rely on non-caffeinated beverages for rapid hydration. If you are exercising for less than 60 minutes, water is a good choice to drink before, during, and after. For physical activity lasting longer than 60 minutes, sports drinks with 6-8% carbohydrates are a good option for replacing carbohydrates and electrolytes.”

5. New/untried foods


With so many foods touted as miraculous performance aids, there is always a temptation to try out something new on the day of a big game, tournament or race. However, Maribel says that athletes that opt to try some new or unique food item on the day of competition run the risk of having that food affect their performance in a negative way.
“New food on the day of an event is not a good idea,” Maribel insisted. “You may get an upset stomach or other gastrointestinal problems. Tried and true foods that are part of your day-to-day training diet are the safer bet. Try new sport foods during training sessions to determine which products work best for you before competition.” 



Maribel Alchin, MBA, RD, LDN, Meijer Healthy Living Advisor & Personal Chef


The Meijer State Games of Michigan is a multi-sport, Olympic-style event(s) that welcome athletes regardless of age or ability level. The Games embody the values of participation, sportsmanship and healthy living.


Interested in our Summer Games?

Interested in our Winter Games?