WHAT I DO: “The big thing with nutrition for us is that if you don’t prepare well, you don’t perform well. I’m like the student-athlete’s mom away from home. We take them to the grocery store, we teach them how to eat their meals, we plan all their meals, we travel, we talk about nutrition and their body composition, hydration testing; anything that will set them up for success on the field. You cannot out-train bad nutrition, so we focus on what you do pre, during, and post competition to make you be elite. You have to do things right off the field to do things right on the field.”
FROM A NUTRITION STANDPOINT, WHAT IS AVAILABLE TO STUDENT-ATHLETES AT SOUTH CAROLINA?
“It’s a great time at South Carolina for nutrition. We have five full-time dieticians and one nutrition performance coordinator. We are also hiring our own chef’s in-house. We have an executive chef, and then we have three sous chefs, and three new chefs. My big thing with food is that you have get involved with it. A lot of these athletes have never been exposed to certain types of food. We want the food to be fun, but also show them how it improves their performance. We’re doing cooking demonstrations with them.
“Every athlete has different goals and everything has to be individualized.
“We’re designing an app for the student-athletes so they can place an order on the app, and it will be ready whenever they set the time and they can pick it up. With these guys having such busy schedules, they may be across campus and in 15 to 20 minutes they’re going to be where they need to be and able to put their order in.”
“One of the new things we have is over at 650 Lincoln (Residence Hall) where most of our student-athletes live. They’re going to have access to a restaurant they can use their meal swipe, and they can get a nice dinner there. We’re making things located to where they are, giving them the food they need, making them excited about food, and doing things a little different.
“Nutrition is not just three to five years of college. It’s a lifetime. So, it’s teaching them healthy habits in college that they can take with them for the rest of their life.”
HOW DO YOU GET STUDENT-ATHLETES TO EAT THINGS THEY THINK THEY MAY NOT LIKE, SUCH AS BROCCOLLI?
“It’s all about the relationships with these student-athletes. If they trust you, and they understand that you have their best interests in mind, then they’re going to buy-in to what you’re trying to do for them.”
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT NUTRITION FOR STUDENT-ATHLETES?
“Healthy is expensive. That’s what they all think, but it’s really not. There are also misconceptions about when you need to eat. We make it convenient.”
“You can take football for example. Each position group has different needs in what their meals need to look like, what they’re timing needs to look like, and what their portions need to look like. A swimmer versus a golfer versus a cross country runner or a softball player – they’re all different. A swimmer needs to be very lean, but they burn a ton of calories. So how do we show them that calories aren’t just calories, it’s about what those calories need to be made up of.
“I think a lot of people think there’s just this dining hall, and that’s just where they go to get food. It’s really about recovery. Now that the (NCAA) feeding rules have changed, we can do so much more for them. For example, snacks can be hand-held options or it can be a chicken Caesar wrap or something like that.”