Sports Nutrition: More than Just Feeding Athletes

By Laura Ragsdale

The pressure to perform well at the collegiate level is at the forefront of every athlete’s mind. However, something that seems to be the foundation of their performance, is properly fueling their bodies.

Director of Texas Tech University Sports Nutrition Program, Dayna McCutchin, said she was the school’s first registered dietitian when she was hired in January 2013.

“The program has completely evolved from when I started,” McCutchin said.

She said when she started dietitians were only allowed to provide athletes with fruits, nuts and bagels. All supplemental protein drinks and granola bars had to meet a certain caloric and protein requirement regulated by the NCAA.

According to the NCAA website, it lifted regulations during the 2014-15 academic school year on how much and how often Division I schools can feed athletes.

“That is basically the NCAA allowing institutions to provide the athletes what they need nutritionally,” McCutchin said.

She said athletes are demanding between two to three thousand calories daily.

“Before the deregulation, it was hard to meet their needs with only being able to provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” McCutchin said.

Today, athletic programs cannot give scholarship money to athletes and pay to feed them. So, nutrition programs take out a portion of athlete’s scholarship to help pay for annual costs of food.

“Now we are able to feed them unlimited meals incidental to participation, not to be replaced by monies allocated for a scholarship check,” McCutchin said.

McCutchin said that with the deregulations and freedom, the role of sports dietitians has expanded, even prompting some schools to hire more dietitians.

“You will now see colleges hiring two, three, four, even five dietitians to cater to every athlete,” McCutchin said. “Just like strength and conditioning, sports nutrition will continue to evolve.”

She said since then, athletic programs have invested in their facilities and Texas Tech has kept up with the changes.

According to the Texas Tech Sports Nutrition website, Texas Tech has invested more than one million dollars annually in feeding more than 400 student-athletes since the deregulation passed.

Casey Fleming, a senior human development and family studies major, assists with on-campus visits for prospective athletes.

“The competition at this level not only for athletes but, for college recruiting, as well,” Fleming said. “When they were in the planning stages, it became evident that this would be an essential recruiting tool.”

Fleming said when giving tours to prospective athletes, she always adds more emphasis on the nutrition program and facilities.

“Parents and athletes knowing there are facilities and services that will meet their needs is huge on a collegiate level but, specifically for Texas Tech,” Fleming said.

Fleming said the renovation of the fueling station is symbolic of the type of nutrition program Texas Tech has.

“The program has gone above and beyond just providing for the basic needs of athletes,” she said.

Fleming said the nutrition team has done a great job of building relationships with the athletes and have educated them how to make the right nutrition choices outside of the facilities.

According to the Texas Tech Sports Nutrition website, the program provides educations services for athletes including grocery store tours, cooking demos, personalized menus, supplement education, and information on budgeting money for nutritional items to help stretch their scholarship dollars.

Cody Wheeler, a kinesiology major, said he learned a lot from the nutrition program while on the football team.

“They would always say it is 70 percent diet and 30 percent conditioning,” Wheeler said. “They were right.”

Wheeler said every week they would have to weigh in and if they did not meet their weight gain they would have to eat extra, or if they gained too much weight they would have to do more conditioning.

“Everyone looks at football and college sports as just being athletic and conditioning, they never think about what it takes for fueling our bodies or what it takes to recover,” Wheeler said.

About JOUR 4350

JOUR 4350 is the multiplatform news delivery class, which is the capstone class for journalism majors within the College of Media & Communication.

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