Who doesn’t want to look like an athlete?

If only we could all put in full days at the gym. But it takes more than intense workouts to be in top shape. Proper nutrition plays as large a role as exercise for professional athletes. (As the saying goes, "Abs are made in the kitchen.) And the biggest difference between us and pro athletes is discipline at the dinner table. They work too hard to waste calories on salty or fatty foods.

The Daily Meal has put together a list of nine foods athletes should never eat. Some of them you've certainly heard before, but a few will surprise you. Take a look and see how your diet compares. I'll bet you've had at least one of them today.

Click here for more from The Daily Meal

Slideshow: Nine foods athletes should never eat

More from The Daily Meal:

Athletes' gameday diets

Five foods to boost your metabolism

Ten most pointless, empty-calorie salad ingredients

How to eat like a caveman

Full Story >>

Athletes, Food

A lot of people would love to lose 16 pounds. But not Brian Vickers. And certainly not in one day.

It happened at Dover a few years ago, Vickers says, but the memory greets him just about every time he prepares for a race. The driver of the #83 Red Bull Toyota calls what led to his drastic dehydration and weight loss "the perfect storm."

"It was over 100 degrees outside and my air and water bottle weren’t working," Vickers says.

He's not talking about air conditioning. There's no such thing in NASCAR. Vickers has a hose that goes into his helmet to help circulate fresh air. "It cools a few degrees," he says, "but it gets really hot in the cockpit."

Vickers regularly loses about five pounds during any given race, and that's with strict attention to nutrition and hydration. His preparation begins 48 hours in advance with plenty of water and electrolytes. Then he stops drinking two to three hours before a race so he doesn't have to use the bathroom while on the track.

"Once I start sweating during the race," he says, "I can start drinking more."

Vickers is part of a new generation of NASCAR drivers who take preparation to another level. He stays in top shape through adventure sports like surfing, kayaking, snowboarding and rock climbing. His sponsor, Red Bull, also has a training program. But one of his favorite ways to prepare is yoga.

"I love Bikram yoga," he says. "You're in this steamy room that’s 105 degrees. It’s an intense workout."

Proper exercise and nutrition are more important than ever to Vickers since he had his season cut short last year by blood clots in his legs and lungs. He prefers organic produce and often eats vegetarian meals. One of his favorite pre-race foods is sweet potatoes because of the long lasting energy they provide.

But despite all the improvements in safety and the lengths the drivers go to prepare these days, there’s simply nothing they can do about the heat.

"The engine runs at 240 degrees, and there’s nothing but a thin piece of sheet metal between it and me," Vickers says. "I've actually burned my feet pretty badly before."

Vickers is healthy again and back to his normal weight of 160 lbs. He hopes to stay there this season.

Full Story >>

Seve isn’t coming.

But that does not change the magnitude of the gesture, nor the impact.

It’s one thing to be honored through a dinner, but to be honored at the dinner is the greatest tribute. And that’s exactly what Phil Mickelson will be doing for Seve Ballesteros at the Champions Dinner Tuesday night at Augusta National.

Mickelson, winner of the 2010 Masters, gets to set the menu for the exclusive meal reserved only for those who have earned the green jacket. He’s using the opportunity to pay homage to his cancer-stricken mentor and friend.

"I just sent him an e-mail saying that if he were able to come and feeling healthy enough to be able to make this tournament, I would love to have the dinner be something that he would like, like a Spanish dish of paella or whatever he thought would be appropriate; I wanted to kind of honor him," Mickelson said at a press conference for the Masters in February.

Many winners use the dinner as a way to celebrate and share their roots. But it’s also a reminder to those present (and to the field) who currently holds the torch. Last year, 2009 winner Angel Cabrera did an Argentine asado of grilled meats like blood sausage and chorizo. Vijay Singh, who won the Masters in 2000, put on a spread of tom kah soup, panang curry, and rack of lamb with yellow kari sauce for the dinner in 2001.

But Mickelson isn't saying remember me. He's saying remember who won this event more than 30 years ago. Ballesteros made an impression on the young lefty in 1980 when he became the first European to win the Masters and, at the time, the youngest winner at 23 years old. It’s one of the first things Mickelson thinks of as he drives up Magnolia Lane.

“It reminds me of when I was a kid,” Mickelson said at the press conference. “It reminds me of when I was 10 years old watching Seve Ballesteros win in 1980 and saying to my mom, 'I want to win that tournament. I want to be like that and win this event.'"

Ballesteros would go on to repeat as Masters Champion three years later. His impact on Mickelson is clear within 50 yards of the green. It’s no coincidence that Lefty’s masterful touch with a wedge mimics the beautiful short game of Ballesteros. The two met early on in Mickelson’s career. Phil played his first PGA Tour event as a 17-year old high school student. It was at Torrey Pines, and Ballesteros was his partner during the practice round.

Their friendship grew and came to a fitting head at the 1995 Ryder Cup. It was Mickelson’s first for the U.S. and Ballesteros’ last for the Europeans. Mickelson and Jay Haas defeated Ballesteros and David Gilford on the second day of competition in a four-ball match.

Those memories resonate with Mickelson, and that's why he was shaken so deeply when he learned that Ballesteros was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2008. Several surgeries and multiple doses of chemotherapy have helped the 5-time major winner, but his road to recovery is still ongoing.

"Unfortunately I don't think he's going to be able to make it," Mickelson said. "Given some e-mails we've received, I don't think he's planning on attending. So our thoughts and prayers are going to be with him that evening."

And the Masters Club will have the food of Seve's nation on its plates. Mickelson is offering a mixed salad with sherry vinaigrette and olives, seafood paella, and an apple empanada for dessert.

Ballesteros might not be at the Champions Dinner in person, but Mickelson’s tribute will keep him very present on the minds of his fellow champions.

Full Story >>