Page 2 of 2 Previous

Continued: Justin Morneau is making healthier decisions at the plate

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: June 19, 2012 - 7:27 AM

The visiting clubhouse at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., is a sugar lover's paradise, with big glass jars filled with every type of candy imaginable, from Twizzlers to Twix to M&M's.

Justin Morneau -- who cut gluten, dairy and sugar from his diet last winter after going through food allergy testing -- had no problem avoiding Candy Row, when the Twins visited the Rays two months ago. But after the series finale, the real temptation came as workers dished out a catered spread of ribs and macaroni and cheese.

That used to be one of Morneau's favorite meals.

"It was difficult," he said. "But I knew I'd feel like absolute garbage after eating it. I knew my body wouldn't be recovering because it's trying to break down food I shouldn't be eating, so I was better off avoiding it."

Morneau, 31, isn't allergic to gluten, dairy and sugar, but he learned his body is sensitive to those foods. He began avoiding them, hoping to stay healthier after going through four surgeries last year and suffering another season-ending concussion.

After losing 20 pounds before spring training, Morneau knew it would be tougher during the season -- finding ways to eat healthy on the road and facing skeptics who wondered if this skinny guy could still hit for power.

Morneau hasn't returned to All-Star form, but he has been healthier, save for a 15-day stretch on the disabled list because of a sore left wrist. He's batting .238 but has 10 home runs, one triple and 11 doubles, giving him a .470 slugging percentage, not far below his .497 career mark.

"It's not like I'm down 20 pounds of muscle," he said. "I think it's mostly the extra fat that puts pressure on your knees and back. I'm lifting the same weights. I feel strong, and I actually feel lighter on my feet."

Delivery service

When Morneau arrives at PNC Park in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, he'll find a cardboard box waiting at his locker. Inside, packed in dry ice, he'll see his day's meals made by a chef from Target Field and shipped overnight.

"It's pretty much just lean proteins, rice, almost any vegetable or fruit," Morneau said. "It's pretty much the way everyone should eat. No greasy foods, no fatty foods, or all the rest of that stuff."

While slowly recovering from his latest concussion last fall, Morneau went through a series of medical tests, looking for answers. He wondered how his diet might be affecting his recoveries, so he took the ALCAT (antigen leukocyte cellular antibody test) to see if he had food allergies.

He stopped eating gluten -- a protein found in foods processed from wheat -- and cut dairy and sugar with a plan to gradually re-phase them into his diet. In December, he weighed 242 pounds, and by spring training, he was about 10 pounds under his usual 233-pound playing weight.

Carrie Peterson, a University of Minnesota sports nutritionist, said it was important for Morneau to find healthy substitutes to fill the void in his diet. Now, he's getting a double benefit of cutting foods that are bad for him and adding foods such as fruits and vegetables that do him good.

"Most of those foods are pretty high in phytochemicals and antioxidants, so that also helps reduce any form of inflammation," Peterson said.

Peterson has done consulting work for the Timberwolves, Wild, Vikings and Lynx. Told about Morneau's case, she said this doesn't mean every athlete should eat the way he does, fearing parents might get the wrong idea.

"First and foremost, Justin has a diagnosed intolerance, so he has to work around some things," she said. "But you can't make blanket statements that if I cut all these things out, then I can be a better athlete. I'm a firm believer that all food fits into a healthy diet, even Doritos and cookies, periodically. That's part of being human."

The swing's the thing

Morneau showed up at spring training notably thinner and didn't hit a home run in his first 37 exhibition at-bats. Some wondered if his power-hitting days were over.

"Your swing has nothing to do with strength," Morneau said. "You can take a body builder, and they're not going to be able to hit a ball out of the infield. It's mechanics, it's technique, and then it's actually how hard you hit the ball, and where you hit the ball on the bat.

"Not that I would ever compare myself to Ted Williams, but you look at the [red] seat at Fenway Park where he hit that ball [502] feet, and they didn't have weightlifting or anything like that when he played."

Morneau quieted the doubters during the season's second week, when he smashed three homers in a three-game span at Yankee Stadium.

"Those home runs in New York will stay in people's minds," Twins hitting coach Joe Vavra said. "And more importantly, his mind, so he knows he can do that. It's all confidence and trust."

Morneau ranks third on the team in home runs behind Trevor Plouffe (14) and Josh Willingham (13). But according to ESPN Home Run Tracker, Morneau has the Twins' two longest homers of the season -- a 439-foot shot at Yankee Stadium on April 16, and a 451-foot blast at Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field on May 24.

Morneau was primarily the designated hitter early in the season, but he has started 23 of the Twins' past 27 games at first base. He credits the diet for helping him become a full-time first baseman again.

"I've done a ton of reading on it, so I could talk for hours about it," he said. "Half the people look at you like you're crazy, and half the people are interested and wonder how they would do if they tried it."

  • related content

  • Chart: Morneau's past three seasons

    Monday June 18, 2012

    MORNEAU'S PAST THREE SEASONSYear Games Avg. HR RBI OBP SLG2010 81 .345 18 56 .437 .618Comment: Justin Morneau was an...

  • Mauer, Capps should be back playing soon

    Tuesday June 19, 2012

    The injuries are not believed to be serious.

  • Twins-Pittsburgh series preview

    Monday June 18, 2012

    A THREE-GAME SERIES AT PNC PARKLH Scott Diamond (5-2, 2.13 ERA) vs. RH Kevin Correia (2-6, 4.43)Tuesday, 6:05 p.m. •...

  • Justin Morneau (33) is congratulated by Josh Willingham

  • TWINS MORNEAU'S DIET

    Up next: Three-game series at Pittsburgh, beginning 6:05 tonight • 

    TV: FSN (1500-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tennessee 7:25 PM
Jacksonville
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Atlanta 127 FINAL
Cleveland 98
Phoenix 111 FINAL
Charlotte 106
Dallas 117 FINAL
Detroit 106
Utah 105 FINAL
Miami 87
Orlando 92 FINAL
Boston 109
Brooklyn 89 FINAL
Toronto 105
Memphis 117 FINAL
San Antonio 116
Milwaukee 97 FINAL
Portland 104
Houston 115 FINAL
Denver 111
Indiana 100 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Ottawa 2 FINAL
New Jersey 0
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 2
Dallas 2 FINAL
Vancouver 0
Langston 65 FINAL
North Texas 78
Delaware State 72 FINAL
St Francis-NY 64
James Madison 72 FINAL
Ball State 52
SIU Edwardsville 65 FINAL
Campbell 70
St Francis-PA 67 FINAL
Duquesne 52
North Florida 77 FINAL
Florida State 93
Catawba 69 FINAL
George Mason 99
Ferrum 48 FINAL
High Point 106
Hampton 55 FINAL
Illinois 73
Gardner-Webb 65 FINAL
Jacksonville 68
Longwood 60 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 71
Arkansas State 69 FINAL
Miss State 55
Tennessee 72 FINAL
NC State 83
NC A&T 55 FINAL
Ohio State 97
Manhattan 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 65
Robert Morris 57 FINAL
Toledo 83
Char Southern 58 FINAL
Wofford 64
Kennesaw St 90 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
Barber-Scotia 52 FINAL
NC Central 108
Detroit 70 FINAL
UCF 75
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 73
TX A&M-CC 73 FINAL
Denver 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 61 FINAL
Houston 56
UT Martin 54 FINAL
Illinois State 64
Milligan 76 FINAL
Louisiana 115
Abilene Christian 44 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 83
USC Upstate 73 FINAL
Memphis 83
Alcorn State 56 FINAL
Murray State 94
Central Mich 80 FINAL
Northwestern 67
Georgia State 54 FINAL
Old Dominion 58
TX-Pan American 69 FINAL
Saint Louis 75
Ill-Chicago 46 FINAL
SMU 67
Texas State 60 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 66
SC State 39 FINAL
Texas Tech 101
Missouri State 70 FINAL
Tulsa 74
Chicago State 60 FINAL
Western Ky 75
Morehead State 50 FINAL
Green Bay 66
Northern Colorado 82 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 92
Winthrop 62 FINAL
Auburn 80
New Mexico St 55 FINAL
Baylor 66
San Diego St 62 FINAL
Cincinnati 71
Eastern Mich 46 FINAL
Michigan State 66
Loyola Marymount 58 FINAL
Stanford 67
Incarnate Word 82 FINAL
Grand Canyon 80
Northeastern 58 FINAL
Cal Poly 60
Central Arkansas 55 FINAL
New Mexico 76
Howard 45 FINAL
Pepperdine 53
Portland 73 FINAL
UNLV 75
CS-Northridge 56 FINAL
Oregon 79
Grambling St 38 FINAL
Washington 86
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Western Carolina 79 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 66
(21) Miss State 66 FINAL
Louisiana 51
(25) DePaul 109 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 84
Liberty 64 FINAL
NC State 67
Elon 77 FINAL
Campbell 51
Akron 73 FINAL
UCF 64
Richmond 77 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 67
Montana 70 FINAL
Seattle 64
(7) Stanford 46 FINAL
Chattanooga 54
Florida A&M 69 FINAL
Southern U 80
Oklahoma 72 FINAL
(13) Duke 92
Savannah State 56 FINAL
Auburn 62
Northern Colorado 43 FINAL
South Florida 84
Youngstown St 73 FINAL
Robert Morris 65
Siena 75 FINAL
Sacred Heart 65
Vermont 63 FINAL
St Francis-NY 61
(1) South Carolina 69 FINAL
Hampton 49
Fla Gulf Coast 91 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 46
Texas Southern 92 FINAL
Houston Baptist 80
Northwestern 88 FINAL
UNLV 84
NC A&T 70 FINAL
Appalachian St 72
NC Central 52 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 67
Drexel 50 FINAL
Quinnipiac 74
Cincinnati 52 FINAL
Northern Ky 66
Alabama State 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 77
Morehead St 69 FINAL
USC Upstate 75
Arkansas State 59 FINAL
Kent State 44
American Univ 60 FINAL
Manhattan 52
UNC Greensboro 60 FINAL
St Bonaventure 78
Arkansas-Monticello 56 FINAL
Northwestern St 61
Prairie View 70 FINAL
Sam Houston St 51
McNeese State 59 FINAL
(3) Texas 76
Yale 90 FINAL
Wagner 65
Oakland 61 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 54
Eastern Kentucky 62 FINAL
Alabama A&M 56
SIU-Edwardsville 47 FINAL
Northern Ill 69
McMurry 25 FINAL
TX-Arlington 82
Portland 65 FINAL
Eastern Washington 72
North Texas 42 FINAL
San Francisco 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Do you like the Ervin Santana signing by the Twins?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close