Up a notch: Fuel up for fishing

Reading product labels and analyzing nutritional value is an important lesson that Tak Omori has learned from IMG Nutrition Consultant Natalia Garcia. David A. Brown

He used to carry soft drinks and junk food on his boat; now it's protein bars and homemade sports drinks. That's Takahiro Omori — a man who realizes that what he puts into his body affects what he pulls from the water.

Since enrolling in IMG Academies seven years ago, Tak has invested much time and effort in a broad range of physical and mental conditioning designed to optimize his performance and put him in contention to add another Bassmaster Classic trophy to his 2004 prize. Most important, he said, has been learning how to fuel his internal engine.

"Day in and day out, whatever you do, the basic thing is that you have to be healthy," Tak said. "Whatever you eat, that's what you are. I've learned so much from IMG because they take care of the world's top athletes."

To this end, Tak makes regular visits to Natalia Garcia, Head Nutritionist at IMG. From using visual aids to demonstrate good and bad meal choices, to explaining how the body metabolizes food, she's invested significant effort in raising Tak's awareness of, and appreciation for the profound effect that proper nutrition can have on his performance.

"I want Tak to know that his sport requires a lot of energy, and he needs to stay energized throughout the hours he's on the boat," Garcia said. "I know it's challenging for him to have certain foods on board, but in order to do his best, he needs to be snacking on the right foods throughout his day."

Hydration, Garcia said, is a crucial point that she's worked to instill upon the Bassmaster Elite Series pro. Particularly in warm, humid environments, athletes need to consume lots of electrolyte-filled beverages.

"Even though he doesn't have the time to drink and eat, he needs to make these priorities because these are the things that are going to make the difference," Garcia said.

By the way, here's the formula for that homemade sports drink: One 500-ml bottle 3/4 full of water, 1/4 juice and a pinch of salt. Tak thinks most sports drinks are too sweet, so he makes his own. As long as he gives his body what it needs, Garcia's pleased.

"My goal is to find alternatives (based on) what he feels comfortable with and to develop some meal plans that he can adjust to based on the food availability he has," Garcia said.

Essential to keeping Tak on track has been his education in U.S. grocery stores. His IMG nutritionists have actually accompanied him to Walmart so they could help him identify particular brands and products that he can find in most any city he visits.

Now that he's been at this for a while, he's downright picky about his sugar, sodium and the fat content of single serving bottled milk.

"For me, coming from Japan, there are always different labels, and I'm not used to American food," Tak said. "It's been confusing because I didn't know what to buy."

Tak's never lacked the drive to succeed, but now he's fueling up the right way.