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.

Diamond Dallas Page: 5 Reasons All Athletes Should Do Yoga-Based Workouts

Diamond Dallas Page is one of the most colorful and recognizable pro wrestling stars from one of the most popular eras in pro wrestling’s history. The three-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion also proved himself to be a master of branding as he invented and patented the diamond-cutter symbol that would later be used by professional athletes and music stars.
Remarkably, the in-ring segment of DDP’s wrestling career didn’t begin until he was 35, and in his early 40s he suffered a career threatening back injury. Fortunately, he turned to yoga and was able to return to the ring and enjoy his greatest period of success.
Since his retirement, Dallas has gone on to design a series of yoga-inspired workouts that are sold under the name “DDP YOGA,” and the popularity of the series has exploded. While answering our questions about his workout series, DDP offered us five reasons why all athletes should incorporate, if not DDP YOGA, at least some kind of yoga into their regular workout routines.

 1. It will increase your strength at any age

 Many parents and coaches are concerned about starting young athletes on resistance training workouts out of fear that such training will stunt an athlete’s growth. Dallas says that one of the benefits to yoga-based workouts like his is they can be modified as needed and performed by athletes in any age group. Athletes of all ages that do workouts like DDP YOGA will show obvious improvements in strength and, more importantly, no negative side effects.
“I’ve know kids three and four years of age doing DDP YOGA, and I’ve got an eight year old that’s really good at it,” Dallas said. “My eleven-year-old niece, Skylar, is really good at it, she competes at the highest level of jujitsu, and she hasn’t lost a tournament in I don’t know how long. She’s just so much stronger than the other girls even though she’s tiny, and if she gets you in a rear naked choke or a triangle, you’re finished. She has never been hurt, I’d be willing to bet that she never gets hurt, and what she’s doing is something that is going to make you stronger and not beat you up like other workouts will.”

2. You can do it anywhere

 Many athletes get frustrated and feel like they won’t be able to get a meaningful workout if they can’t get to the gym, the pool, the treadmill or the track simply because time and circumstances don’t allow it. Fortunately, yoga-based workouts like the kind available in DDP YOGA can be modified so that they can be performed no matter what your spatial limitations might be. And, since doing the exercises properly can elevate the heart rate to 140 beats per minute or more, there is an obvious cardiovascular benefit to the workouts as well.
“One of my old wrestling buddies, Stevie Richards, will whip out the workouts and do them right in the middle of the locker rooms at independent wrestling shows,” Dallas said. “When you’re on a plane, you feel the effects of gravity pulling on you and dehydrating you, but if I have a little room at the front of the plane, I can do a segment of my workouts with the dynamic resistance, and I’ll be getting a workout right on the plane while I’m also breaking up scar tissue. So it’s literally something you can get done no matter where you are.”

3. You can do it every day

One of the shortfalls of conventional weightlifting workouts is the necessary recovery period during which the muscles heal. This means that, out of necessity, hardcore weightlifters typically take days off between weight workouts before they return to train the same muscle groups again, and workouts longer than 45 minutes are almost pointless because the muscles have been pushed to the limit by that point. In the case of DDP, his yoga workouts can easily be performed to the continuing benefit of the athlete for several hours each day, every day of the week, so there are no built-in limitations on the amount of time you can spend working out.
“Back when I was wrestling, I would do my yoga workouts before I went out on TV. Those TV days I would do it for three hours a day. The workouts can be done seven days a week,” Dallas said. “You can’t lift weights for three hours a day, but you can do DDP YOGA for three hours a day. By the time I went out on TV, I was pumped and looking like I’d just left the weight room but I’d also warmed my tendons up, warmed my ligaments up, and even though I was in my mid 40s, I was bouncing around the ring like I was 24. And when I was wrestling, this basically was my cardio, too. It gets you crazy strong and flexible, and it replaces cardio.”

4. It will prevent injuries

 Most athletes stretch to some degree before or during workouts, and before or after competitions. Despite all of this stretching, athletes at every level experience career-shortening or career-ending injuries every day. According to DDP, this is because there is a fundamental distinction between stretching and yoga that often goes overlooked, but it makes all the difference in the world when it comes to injury prevention.
“Yoga is not just stretching,” Dallas explained. “I stretched my entire wrestling career, and then I blew my back out and I was done. Until I started stretching and strengthening my ligaments and my tendons, and not just my muscles, then it wasn’t going to be enough. That’s what a yoga program like DDP YOGA does for you. You feel like you’re lifting, but it also takes your body into a deep stretch, and that makes all the difference when it comes to injury prevention. Of the athletes that went down with injuries last weekend playing football, probably 60 percent of them wouldn’t have gotten injured if they were doing a yoga program like mine.”

5. It will help you recover from existing injuries


Flexibility is one of the most underrated advantages that an athlete can have. Not only does having great flexibility give you a greater range of motion than your stiff-bodied competitors, but it also increases the limits to which you can push your body without suffering a serious injury. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, adding flexibility to your body through a yoga program like DDP’s will also accelerate your recovery time once you’ve already sustained an injury.
“Look at Chris Jericho,” Dallas said. “He’d just had acupuncture because he’d herniated a disc in his back, and I called him and sent him the video of the disabled veteran I helped walk again ( He got back to me minutes later and told me he’d do whatever I wanted him to. He couldn’t wrestle; he couldn’t even sing. Three months later, the pain in his back was gone, and he could get back in the ring and back on stage. Indirectly, I put millions of dollars back in his pocket. When I got injured, my vertebrae in my spine were basically bone on bone. My DDP YOGA workouts lengthened my spine and built up all the muscles around it so that I could recover from the injury.”

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?

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Melissa Hehmann: 5 Supplements Athletes Should Take


When it comes to athletic performance, there are a number of factors that influence an athlete’s output. However, when you get right down to it, the components of performance that are within athletes’ control include the intensity and quality of training, and the nutritional value of what they put in their bodies… and the two are proportionally related.
Melissa says while a well-planned diet can fuel the energy and nutrient needs of most athletes, the high-demands of training can make it difficult for some. Supplementation can be beneficial to these individuals, but Melissa also cautions that athletes should consult with their physicians and dietitians that specialize in sports nutrition before starting supplementation.

 1. Multivitamins


 There is more to nutrition than essential proteins, fats and carbohydrates, and if you are an athlete involved in heavy training, there may be some gaps in terms of your food’s vitamin content that need to be filled. To fill these gaps, Melissa suggests the use of a multivitamin to help your body maintain its optimal performance level.

“A basic multivitamin that is age and gender appropriate may be a good start for athletes who wish to supplement their diets,” Melissa explained. “Vitamins have been under scrutiny lately as to their effectiveness, but they were never intended to be used to replace a healthy diet. A multivitamin is an inexpensive way for an athlete to complement a nutrient-dense diet.“

2. Vitamin D


While many vitamins can be obtained in abundance from a variety of food sources, vitamin D is acquired primarily through animal proteins, so getting enough of this fundamental nutrient can be challenging to athletes with a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, or who live in certain regions or climates.

“Vitamin D can be obtained from foods like salmon and eggs and from exposure to the sun, but it can be challenging to get enough, especially if you live in the northern half of the United States or are an indoor athlete,” Melissa said. “Vitamin D promotes bone health and immune function, both necessary for an athlete’s training regimen. The Institute of Medicine recommends no more than 4000 IU of Vitamin D daily in the form of supplements.”

3. Creatine

 If you’ve been in the weight room and seen a muscle-bound bodybuilder or athlete, chances are they’re taking a protein supplement. As far as legal supplements are concerned, creatine is one of the most popular and widely used supplements among athletes because of its ability to increase strength and explosiveness.

“Creatine is a naturally-occurring compound found in muscles and an important source of fuel for intense bursts of activity, which occurs in many sports,” Melissa said. “Most meat eaters consume adequate amounts of creatine in their diet. Supplementation has been shown to increase muscle strength and reduce recovery time, but isn’t recommended for young athletes. A physician should be consulted to determine if creatine is appropriate.”  

4. Fish Oil


 There are many reasons to consume fish, including the relative leanness of the protein contained therein. However, the most widely-publicized benefit of fish, in recent years, has been the presence of Omega 3 fatty acids within the oil of the fish. While some athletes may have an aversion to eating fish, Melissa says there are reasons to consume the oil of the fish in a supplemental form.

“Fish oil contains vital Omega-3 Fatty Acids that have been shown to reduce inflammation and boost lung function both during and after exercise,” Melissa explained. “Omega-3’s can be obtained by consuming foods like fatty fish, nuts, and seeds, but supplementation may be appropriate depending on the athlete.”

5. Beet Root Juice

 When it comes to beverage options and fitness, there are several drinks that compete for an athlete’s attention. These options include a variety of pre- and post-workout selections like energy drinks and protein drinks. However, Melissa says that one of the most beneficial drink options is something that most athletes are likely to overlook completely.

“Beet root juice, which is the same as Beet Juice, not only can help with an athlete’s hydration and electrolyte balance, but also provides naturally-occurring nitrates that quickly deliver oxygen to working muscles to promote increased stamina,” Melissa said. “These nitrates can also be found in celery, radishes, arugula, and parsley. “


Melissa Hehmann, RD, CDE, ACE-CPT – Healthy Living Advisor for Meijer


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?