You Are What You Eat – Even If You’re An Athlete

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The saying goes, “You are what you eat.” BYU Football players take that one step further: how you eat is how you play.

BYU Sports Dietician Rachel Higginson says, “Nutrition is so important because it’s just like training. You would never expect any athlete to go to a game without having practiced, and it’s the same thing with nutrition.”

Coaches understand how important it is that players are eating right. As players meet with Rachel and other dieticians, coaches like offensive coordinator Brandon Doman see the difference.

“Their body fat decreased significantly,” Doman says, “Their lean muscle mass, in correlation to that, is increasing, and we’re seeing healthier players. It has definitely been a positive.”

BYU Senior and Defensive Back for the Cougars, Preston Hadley, wanted to gain muscle and get back into shape following shoulder surgery. He met with the dieticians, who taught him the power of eating right.

Hadley says, “I noticed a significant change in just the amount of weight I gained, in my strength, and my overall energy level. I believe in the nutrition now. I wish I would’ve believed in it before my Senior year, but you know, for those behind me, I’d recommend it.”

Nutritionists help determine training schedules and menus for the football team, as well as teach athletes how to make sure they are staying healthy during practice. During the summer, some football players can lose up to 10 pounds of weight in one practice, all from losing water. Players need to immediately replace the water, carbs, and protein they lost. One of the best ways to do this, nutritionists say, is to drink chocolate milk!

“Chocolate milk hydrates, contains protein and carbs, and it tastes good. It’s a multi-purpose drink that satisfies nearly all post-practice needs. That’s why it’s such a great option.”

Football players and other athletes also have access to a new powerade protein shake that isn’t yet available in stores. The drink comes in Vanilla, Chocolate, and Strawberry, and is a big hit with the athletes so far.

The BYU Football team started taking advantage of sports nutritionists a few years ago, but the service isn’t exclusively for football players. BYU Athletics offers dieticians as a resource for all Cougar athletes. The new Athlete’s Nutrition Center opened in March and offers healthy snacks every day for athletes. This is one step towards the ultimate goal of dieticians and nutritionists – helping individuals develop healthy habits for life.

“I tell athletes to listen to what their body is telling them,” Higginson explains, “Are you hungry all the time? Do you feel like you’re going to explode? Your body is the best judge of what it needs. You just need to be in tune with it.”

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