Competing in tournaments taught me about nutrition. The morning of a contest I woke up with my buddies for a fast- food breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, toast, juice, and milk. Then we rushed to registration only to learn we wouldn't be competing until noon. We watched for awhile and by 2:00 in the afternoon we realized we would not contend until 5:00 p.m.

Our blood sugar and energy levels dropped, and some of us were so burned out from pre-contest anxiety, dehydration, and low blood sugar that we considered sleeping instead of competing. Some claim that proper nutrition is simply eating three square meals a day from the four food groups. It's not that simple, but it is easy. Eating correctly may not be the magic bullet, but if you don't eat right, you have less chance to reach your goals. Because of genetic variations, individuals are biochemically different. If I had a tournament tomorrow, I would wake up to a breakfast of several pancakes, a small serving of scrambled egg-whites, toast, with juice and milk. I would eat a piece of fruit or an energy bar every two hours to stabilize my blood sugar. For variety I may have a bowl of cereal and skim milk for breakfast followed by an energy bar at two hour intervals throughout the day. When it was game time, I'd be ready.

The last snack before your competition should be something that will fuel your muscles but not stick to your stomach. Lots of competitors use carbohydrate drinks and energy bars. They stoke up on bars and drinks before their contest, drink them between matches to help sustain their power, and enjoy them afterward to replace depleted glucose stores and lost nutrients. Whether competing in a day-long tournament, getting in a hard workout, or simply working out with your buddy, energy bars and drinks might improve your performance. Most contain easily-digestedcarbohydrates, and they fit conveniently into your gym bag.

With regard to supplements on a day to day basis you can't go wrong with a simple multi-vitamin. But the latest research shows that antioxidants from fruits and vegetables have been shown to neutralize free radicals which harm our bodies. The good news is that antioxidant supplements appear to work just as well. I take anti-oxidant supplements daily. With my first meal I take a multivitamin with beta-carotene, two hundred international units of vitamin E, and five hundred milligrams of vitamin C. If I don't get enough protein from meat I drink a meal replacement milkshake. I take another five hundred milligrams of vitamin C at dinner.

KEY VITAMINS: According to the November, 1994 issue of Prevention magazine, other key vitamins include:

Niacin - Raises High Density Lipoprotein (good cholesterol).
Folic Acid - Lowers cancer risk.
Vitamin B6, B12 - Lowers heart disease risk.
Vitamin D - Aids calcium absorption.
Copper - Helps keep your heart healthy.
Magnesium - Helps to lower blood pressure.
Zinc - Aids in imeune function and wound healing.
Chromium - Helps our cells absorb blood sugar for energy.
Selenium, Vitamin E, C, Betacarotene - Antioxidants to prevent cancer and heart disease.
Calcium - Prevents osteoporosis.
Fish oil - Prevents heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.
Psyllium - A laxative.