Charles Noé Abouo, basketball player – writer: eat well to play better

It’s amazing how a simple conversation can change the course of a life. It’s 2008: In Utah, rookie Charles Noé Abouo wolfs down a burger, fries and hot chocolate in the heart of the Brigham Young University campus. A stranger walks past him and calls out to him: “You shouldn’t eat that an hour before you go to practice!” » This man, Ron Hager, would later become one of his teachers. “I was annoyed, of course”smiles the main interested party, fourteen years later. “But at least it was the first time I wondered about what I ate. » From this advice was born a real passion, materialized by the publication of a 270-page book dedicated to food.

From back and forth at McDonald’s to four years of writing about nutrition

Thus, following the example of Hervé Touré, author of several essays on the media, Charles Noé Abouo (33 years old) is now to be classified in the meager category of basketball players – writers. Four years of work allowed him to bring the book to life Eat Well, Play Better: Food Fundamentals » (translatable as “Eat well, play better: the fundamentals of nutrition), written in English and which is intended as a compilation of advice for athletes. “It took me so long because I didn’t know how to write a book”, he laughs. From a personal point of view, this aspiration to write stems from a habit of youth. The Ivorian thus grew up with several works written by sportsmen like The All-Pro Diet by Tony Gonzalez or Run Fast, Eat Slow by Elyse Kopecky and Shalane Flanagan. “Eat Well, Play Better is a book I wish I had read when I was younger”he tells us. “The goal was to write something practical that could help athletes who don’t really know how to eat well, who don’t know their body, who need a base. They can find good habits there. » The final rendering is quite convincing, pleasant to read and rather instructive.

A typical shopping basket by Charles Noé Abouo

Charles Noé Abouo begins by describing his own relationship to food, largely influenced by his expatriation to Chicago at the age of 7. “Two hours after our arrival, we stopped for our first American lunch in the city center”he wrote. “I remember the smell of hot fries coming out of the air vents at McDonald’s. That afternoon, I got lost in the tunnels of the playground and received my Hercules toy included in the children’s menu. I was delighted. My first experience at McDo was better than anything I could imagine. I felt like an American. » The advertisements will then direct him towards new taste discoveries, all as delicious as they are harmful in the long term for his health. At 17, in his senior year at Logan High School, his breakfast consists of a bowl of cinnamon cereal, accompanied by a glass of Gatorade. Then, for noon, “a trip to McDo was no longer one of [ses] childhood dreams but one of his routine lunches”. Until the intervention of Ron Hager, therefore.

The arrival in Europe, a new vision of nutrition

At that time, his hamburger in hand, the Portel winger wondered above all what he would do better to eat instead. “Since I was already very serious in basketball, I was interested in anything that could help me play better”, he recalls. Thus, he begins to follow Professor Hager’s course on chronic diseases but struggles at first to grasp its interest. “All I wanted at the time was to accumulate information to help me get in better shape, improve my defensive qualities and score more baskets. So when he started talking about chronic illnesses, I couldn’t relate. I wish I had discovered the secret sooner: the poor eating habits that can lead to long-term health problems are the same ones that can immediately contribute to poor athletic performance. » So he pulls the yarn from the ball and “Discover lots of interesting things” : the basics of food, nutrition, the functioning of the human body, anatomy, etc. Many of his courses at Brigham Young became, in fact, dedicated to the question. “It was extremely interesting for a young 19-year-old athlete who doesn’t have the best lifestyle. I learned a lot of things that I was then able to apply, in practice, during my professional career. »

Since 2020, Abouo has been enjoying the heyday of Portel (photo: Christophe Canet)

A career as a basketball player from which he was also able to benefit to continue to enrich his knowledge. An African who grew up in America, Charles Noé Abouo discovered a third continent, Europe, first through two seasons in Spain, before settling in France in 2016. The revelation of major cultural differences… “In the United States, there are a lot of bad influences when it comes to food: you can easily fall into bad habits and that’s normal, because everyone does it. In Europe, we eat much more balanced. When you talk about eating well, it’s normal here, whereas in the United States… I learned a lot of my best practices in Europe. » Consequently, in addition to the language barrier, his work is not necessarily intended for the French public, insofar as a number of hammered credos seem more obvious on this side of the Atlantic, like the one of its major principles, repeated throughout the chapters: always favor whole, natural foods over processed products. His book obviously also contains a lot of more advanced notions, based on micronutrients, macronutrients, vitamins and minerals, or speeches about the properties of different types of food. The stellar winger also describes his habits as an athlete approaching a match: a substantial and balanced dinner the day before, a good night’s sleep, plenty of water during the day, a lunch provided with carbohydrates but lighter in terms of proteins and lipids, a snack three hours before the in-between time, fruit in the locker room… Is it a particularly targeted, and therefore restricted, readership target? “The goal is not necessarily to sell as many books as possible”he assures. “It’s more of a personal project, to be able to share what I know with interested people, because I was often asked questions. »

From Qatar to Betclic ÉLITE, eating well to play in the best leagues?

Chicken kedjenou, an Ivorian dish

An accomplished cook, Charles Noé Abouo also offers his 35 favorite recipes, from starters to desserts, from breakfast to dinner, from smoothies to soups. Everything goes: its oatmeal and banana pancakes, its 1,001 ways to cook rice, its favorite soup (with butternut), its sardine salad, its combination of chickpeas – curry – spinach, its chicken kedjenou (a Ivorian dish), its almond cake, etc. And if quinoa is not exactly the basis of your diet, don’t worry! “Burgers and ice cream are still part of my life, but Big Macs and Klondike Popsicles aren’t. At one point, I still thought it was harmful, but in fact, nothing is bad, there are just bad ingredients. You can have healthy food and enjoy it. You can eat pizza and feel great. For example, I know a bakery that makes organic sourdough bread: I make my pizza dough from their sourdough dough, I add tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, vegetables and it’s very, very good. » This relationship with the traders of Portel is a perfect example of the new routines of the former winger from Denain, Fos-Provence and Blois. In Eat Well, Play Betterhe expands on his shopping habits. “Thanks to France, I make an effort to eat local”he points out. “When you operate in short-circuit, it often costs you less as well! You also know the producer, his way of working, it’s all good! »

How far are the McDonald’s from Chicago

From a purely basketball point of view, there would also be many things to say about Abouo. At a time when Qatar is making headlines for the opening of the FIFA World Cup, he is one of the few residents of Betclic ELITE to have passed through the small emirate, in 2015/16 , notably winning the trophy for best defender in the championship during his time at Al-Khor (25.8 points at 42%, 12.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.7 steals). It was then that he was spotted by Jean-Christophe Prat (one more…), thus opening the doors of the Hainaut club for what looks like, a posteriori, a major turning point in his career. Even if he very quickly became familiar with the world’s gratin, playing in a World Cup from the age of 20 in 2010, the native of Abidjan thus presents a progression that commands respect, from the little-known leagues of Egypt or Saudi Arabia to the French first division, where he settled at the table of the best two way players (a player capable of shining in attack and defense, editor’s note), after having discovered him at more than 30 years old. An ascent correlated to his eating habits? “It impacted my career and my health from a positive point of view”he shouts. “When I saw the difference, it became a passion and a fixed point to be successful on the pitch. »

Other books in the making…

Linked to the ESSM Le Portel until 2024, Charles Noé Abouo does not imagine, however, a future as a nutritionist once he hangs up his sneakers. On the other hand, the winner of the 2018 Pro B playoffs (with Fos) would see himself taking up the pen again in order to write other books. “I have other topics in mind, such as overall performance. Food is a part of performance, which certainly worries me more than others, but it is a set of many things. There are other aspects of my experience that I would like to share. Personally, it inspired and motivated me to read testimonials from other athletes, so why not do the same on my side? » So that his good word can continue to benefit some of the greatest figures in the sport, he whose first work has already landed in the hands of Brandon Davies, former best center of the EuroLeague, or Jimmer Fredette, ex-super star academic, two of his friends from Brigham Young. Two people who first saw him prepare for training by swallowing industrial hamburgers rather than vegetables from the orchards of the Côte d’Opale. Another life…

Charles Noé Abouo’s book is available for sale, in e-book or in paper version, on the Amazon platform

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November 21, 2022 at 7:00 am

It’s amazing how a simple conversation can change the course of a life. It’s 2008: In Utah, rookie Charles Noé Abouo wolfs down a burger, fries and hot chocolate in the heart of the Brigham Young University campus. A stranger walks past him and calls out to him: “You shouldn’t eat this an hour before you go to practice…

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