Freeney pushing others to find right diet

MIAMI (AP) _ Dwight Freeney decries the use of performance-enhancing drugs by anyone, especially athletes. <br/><br/>Instead, he believes a proper diet can help them accomplish the same goals. <br/><br/>Freeney,

Saturday, February 3rd 2007, 4:18 pm

By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) _ Dwight Freeney decries the use of performance-enhancing drugs by anyone, especially athletes.

Instead, he believes a proper diet can help them accomplish the same goals.

Freeney, a three-time Pro Bowl defensive end with the Indianapolis Colts, wants athletes and non-athletes alike to learn more about their bodies, their digestive systems and how foods affect everyone differently.

``It's just about eating the right foods,'' he said. ``And it's not just for pro athletes. It's for everyone. It's called dietary re-engineering.``'

Freeney isn't talking about some trendy diet or something that would violate NFL rules. People just need to figure out what normal foods work best for them and stick to it.

At 6-foot-1, 268 pounds, a small defensive lineman by NFL standards, Freeney needs every advantage he can get.

He'll likely face the usual litany of double and triple-team blocking assignments in Sunday's Super Bowl against the Chicago Bears, and he'll undoubtedly use a variety of spin moves and that blazing speed to get past much bigger opponents.

Not everyone thought he could reach this point.

When the Colts took Freeney in the first round of the 2002 draft, most people thought he wasn't big enough to hold up in the league.

He's proved them all wrong.

This season, Freeney fought through nagging shoulder and leg injuries to start all 16 games, and since breaking into the starting lineup midway through his rookie season, he's sat out only six times _ some of them meaningless late-season games when the Colts rested their starters.

What he's done on the field is enough to impress opponents.

``He uses a combination of speed and strength and really uses his leverage,'' Bears tackle John Tait said. ``He can make game-changing plays. I think anyone who plays the Colts has to have a plan for Dwight.''

What he's done off the field, however, has made him a better player.

At Syracuse University, Freeney struggled with dehydration, which caused cramping during games. He tried salt tablets, different diets, anything to prevent it. Nothing worked, and the answers seemed more befuddling than the problem itself.

When he joined the Colts, Freeney had his blood tested and found there was an unusual culprit _ bananas.

``I was eating more bananas because they told me the sodium and potassium would help keep me hydrated,'' he said. ``What I found out was that they were dehydrating my system. We found that my body didn't recognize the bananas as something healthy so it was protecting my system as if my body was fighting a virus.''

Freeney cut the bananas out and the cramping has gone away.

The lesson, he believes, is that other people likely have similar problems with foods, and there's nothing in the NFL rules that prevents athletes from not eating certain foods.

But Freeney now believes that instead of risking playing time or health with banned substances such as steroids or Human Growth Hormone, everyone, athlete or not, can improve their performance by learning more about their own body and what foods help them perform at a high level _ and those that don't.

``On a regular diet, you're supposed to eat protein and carbs and it's supposed to fit everybody,'' he said. ``But one thing may work better for someone else than for you. It's all to maximize your performance so at least I know my body is well-tuned when I play on Sunday.''

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