Competing and Continuing Education Drive the University of Nebraska Sports Nutrition Director

Competing and Continuing Education Drive the University of Nebraska Sports Nutrition Director

Lindsey Remmers was playing volleyball and majoring in nutrition at Winthrop University when she Lindsey Remmers Nebraskaasked a professor about career possibilities that combine sports and nutrition. “I asked him about jobs, and he said there’s nothing, really,” she recalls. Today, Remmers is Director of Sports Nutrition at the University of Nebraska.Nebraska

“I didn’t know it existed until I went online and randomly looked to see if Nebraska had a dietitian, and they did,” she said, adding that about a dozen schools had such positions in 2005 and more than 70 have them now. “It’s grown a lot.”

Remmers, who was a volunteer assistant responsible for meals and travel for the team in her fifth year at Winthrop, worked for James Harris at Nebraska, where he taught her the science of hydration and the role of nutrition in athletes’ recovery. Her job includes answering questions and giving brief talks at workouts, organizing meals for home and away games, providing one-on-one advice, leading a freshman orientation on sports nutrition, giving grocery store tours, and administrative tasks.

Although players miss their pizza and French fries, she says, they appreciate the positive impact on their performance. “It’s all for good – to make them leaner, stronger, faster,” Remmers says. “That’s the motivation for them – to become a better athlete. You’re going to get out what you put in. That goes for training and eating.”

Remmers maintains her own health by running, completing Tough Mudder obstacle races and preparing for a marathon. “I like to stay active,” she says. “When you have a race or competition, it gives you something to train for. It gives me a reason to exercise.” kiwi-packet-group2

She uses The Right Stuff to maintain her own hydration and encourages athletes to use it too.
I never do a long run without it and I find that I don’t have to drink as much water.

 

“The Right Stuff allows athletes go harder, longer,” she says. “When you’re dehydrated and fatigued, you’re at high risk for injury. I never do a long run without it and I find that I don’t have to drink as much water.”

Remmers hopes the Sports Dietitian field grows to provide a staff dietitian for every 100 athletes to provide more individualized programs. “There’s going to be a lot more specialized sports nutrition,” she says. “There’s all kinds of science coming out.”

Remmers has already seen dramatic changes in sports nutrition awareness since her college days. “We were starving during practice,” she says, recalling pleas to the coach for snacks. “You don’t think about bringing stuff and there was nothing there available. Now at Nebraska, we have fueling stations where they can grab a snack before practice if they need it.”

 

2010 and 2012 NCAA Football Champion University of Alabama: Nutrition is Critical to Athlete Success!

2010 and 2012 NCAA Football Champion University of Alabama: Nutrition is Critical to Athlete Success!

Amy BraggAmy Bragg was the eighth full-time college sports dietitian in the entire US when she was hired at Texas A&M in 2004, a position created when the Athletic Director came from the pioneer athletic-nutrition focused University of Nebraska. As the profession has mushroomed in the past decade, Bragg, who moved to the University of Alabama Alabama Univ ofin 2010 (Editors Note: In 2011 & 2012 Alabama was the College Football Champion), hopes to see nutrition awareness expand into other fields.

Nutrition is a big, broad concept, beyond sports nutrition,” she says. “It affects every person. It’s something I would like to see grow.”

Bragg credits her interest to a nutrition and foods course she took as a high school senior, taught by a dietitian who was ahead of her time on the subjects of herbs, recipes, and sustainability in the 1990s. “Nobody was really thinking of sustainability in the food supply back then,” Bragg recalls.

Bragg earned a degree in Finance from the University of Texas, where she supported the athletic program as a football hostess, and went on to earn a nutrition and foods degree at the University of Houston. She became a Clinical Dietitian at the Texas Medical Center in Houston in 2001 and also started consulting with athletes about nutrition before she joined Texas A&M. Bragg, one of the founders and past-president of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association (CPSDA), witnessed the early days of the athletic nutrition movement.

Athletic Nutrition Movement

“Back then we were just getting connected, creating a listserv, starting to talk, about a dozen of us networking, going to meetings, running into each other and sharing ideas, how to navigate challenges,” she recalls. “It was slow initially. The growth has really happened, I think, in the last three years. It’s really evolved.”

…when you manage the food supply you get better outcomes, when you manage nutrition rather than just react to it or treat issues medically. You get a much greater benefit for the athletes’ development and their long-term health.

“Those of us who have worked with Athletic Trainers and Strength Coaches for a while have been able to show…when you manage the food supply you get better outcomes, when you manage nutrition rather than just react to it or treat issues medically. You get a much greater benefit for the athletes’ development and their long-term health. It’s an important partnership with the other support staff. Parents and athletes value it. They value nutrition when you talk about it in a recruiting scenario and they value it when they come on campus.”

Athletes often overlook the importance of what they eat for their performance, Bragg says.

“Athletes don’t respond to lectures, and they don’t want to be forced to see a nutritionist,” she says. “They can’t see that they’ll get anything from it because they don’t have a weight problem. It shouldn’t be punitive. For every athlete, it should be about performance, it should be about health. They typically don’t eat well. Getting them to eat better keeps them on the field. You have to get them at the right time. Sometimes it’s when they’re injured. Sometimes they’re doing a rehab and you can affect them more – they’re more responsive. But really it’s for everyone.”

The nutrition plan includes The Right Stuff when needed to protect athletes’ hydration.

“There are occasions and specific athlete needs that require higher sodium intake,” Bragg says. “The Right Stuff is an effective add-on to whatever you’re doing for hydration. In the food plan, for some athletes, The Right Stuff becomes essential for them to perform well throughout an entire game. If you’ve ever had a full-body cramp, you’re responsive to anything that will keep that from happening again.  The Right Stuff is a powerful aid in prevention of cramps. [Editors Note: Studies show the formula also improves core thermoregulation, protecting the body from overheating and increases athletic endurance]

If you’ve ever had a full-body cramp, you’re responsive to anything that will keep that from happening again.

We try to have a full arsenal of things to get athletes through every situation, and The Right Stuff is an important part of that for us.”

Bragg hopes that the athletes’ nutrition education will impact the rest of their lives. “It’s part of their development and their performance and their lifelong health,” she says. “Athletes are going to go on and become parents, and they’re going to develop their children’s nutrition. We’re talking about the big picture.”

To learn more visit www.TheRightStuff-USA.com

Athletic Excellence in College Depends on Optimal Sports Nutrition

Randy Bird started a biology major at Virginia Tech because he planned to go to medical school, maybe becoming an orthopedic surgeon so he could stay connected to athletes in the sports that he loved. When prospects of a medical career lost their luster, he Randy Bird Hd Shotswitched to human nutrition, foods and exercise science to achieve the same goal.

Bird is Director of Sports Nutrition at the University of Virginia as well as the president of the 800+ member Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association (learn more about CPSDA at sportsrd.org), that serves colleges, pro teams, military and others.

“Back when I was starting at University of Kansas, in 2005, there were only 10 schools that had a full-time sports dietitian,” he says. “In the last nine years, we’ve gone from 10 to 45 schools, maybe close to 50 now,” including several schools with multiple staff members.

NCAA Lifted Food Restrictions at Universities

That growth likely will accelerate because the NCAA has lifted restrictions on food that universities can provide to athletes, scrapping regulations that once permitted bagels but not cream cheese or peanut butter.

That rule change should spark even more job growth because you need somebody who knows what they’re doing managing that food,” Bird says. “The profession was already growing. That new rule, or the removal of the old rule, really drives us forward even more.”

Some athletes imagined that the change would turn college into a cruise ship, with lavish buffets at every turn, but the reality involves strategic fueling that will be implemented differently at different colleges.

Randy Bird by BodPod“It’s going to be up to the school what they can afford to do and what’s best for their athletes,” Bird says. “In some situations, a school might be able to do a breakfast and lunch set up for athletes. For us, that’s not a viable option,” because of the logistics of classroom and practice locations.

“The athletes still have a meal plan, but we’re going to be using it more to provide the additional calories that our athletes need to make them whole, to repair the damage they’ve done from their workouts and to maintain their health.”  Improvements in nutrition can improve safety as well as health for the athletes.

“A big majority of injuries happen when the athletes are fatigued,” Bird says. “If they’re underfueled, they’re going to be spending a lot more of their games and practices in that fatigued state. If they’re underfueled, they’re not recovering as well so you’re going to be having more muscle injuries.

Fuel starts with food but includes appropriate supplementation, such as shakes to replenish calories and vitamins, and The Right Stuff to sustain hydration.

That’s where The Right Stuff comes in – to aid in hydration and replace the electrolytes during practice and games.

“We want to provide food as the baseline,” Bird says. “Food needs to be the majority of what our athletes are getting. However, there’s plenty of room still for supplementation too. That’s where The Right Stuff comes in – to aid in hydration and pre-loading and replacement of electrolytes lost during practice and games.”

Hydration is Critical for Collegiate Athletes’ Performance

Bird, who heard of The Right Stuff through the CPSDA, started using it at Kansas and brought it to Virginia, first for football, where the NASA-developed formula has eliminated the need for IVs during game halftimes and drastically reduced the number needed for practices.

“It has cut down on the amount of IVs we have to give,” Bird says. “To me, that’s tremendous. When I started working here, the first summer during training camp, we had IVs that we had to do just to make sure guys were hydrated when they were going out to that second practice.

“We’ve developed a strategy to help them hydrate. If they can come into the game hydrated and then maintain these hydration practices during the game, there’s no need for an IV. They’re not losing as much, and they’re replacing what they lose.”

Other sports, including lacrosse, soccer, and tennis, are also using The Right Stuff and have reported excellent results too, he says.

Each packet has nearly 1.8 grams of sodium in it, which is critical for those marathon runners and triathletes.  “A typical tennis player could easily sweat out five or six pounds of fluid,” Bird says, losing at least 2-3  grams of sodium. “Using The Right Stuff is an easy way to stay up with that electrolyte loss.”

Collegiate Sports Dietitians: Improving Sports Performance and Building Nutrition Awareness Across All Sports

Aaron CarbuhnAfter Aaron Carbuhn earned his master’s degrees in nutrition in 2008 and sport physiology in 2009 at Texas A&M, he moved to Houston and volunteered for 10 months at the University of Houston as a football assistant Strength and Conditioning coach and Sports Dietitian. A month after he took the job as sports nutritionist at the University of Kansas, Houston joined the fast-growing list of universities creating such positions.

“When I came out of school trying to find a collegiate Sports RD position, there were only 20 schools with a full-timer on staff,” he says, adding that the number has more than tripled. “My roles and responsibilities include assisting all of our sports teams with a multitude of nutrition needs – education, counseling, creating diet plans, team menu planning, and body composition testing.”

Carbuhn says, Athletes as well as schools are increasingly aware of nutrition’s key role in their academic, athletic, and personal lives.

Nutrition Awareness

“What’s the one thing that can affect all those parameters? Nutrition,” he says. “That needs to be addressed and improved in more collegiate athletic departments. When I was assisting as a Strength and Conditioning coach at the University of Houston, many athletes would ask questions about nutrition frequently.  I was definitely seeing that the need is there. There seems to be a lot of growth moving forward in the field of collegiate sports nutrition.”

Carbuhn first learned about The Right Stuff while volunteering as a Sports RD at Texas A&M under Amy Bragg. When he arrived at Kansas, The Right Stuff had already been introduced by his predecessor and current CPSDA (Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association) President Randy Bird. He set out to expand its use among more sport teams at Kansas.

The Right Stuff (hydration formula developed by NASA) is a vital thing

“It’s a vital thing,” he says. “You can’t just pound back a lot of salty foods in the middle of a practice or workout to help restore your electrolyte balance. I don’t believe that is going to sit too well in your stomach. The Right Stuff is available to all 16 sports. As a team approach, we use it primarily with our football and men’s and women’s basketball programs. For our remaining sports, we look provide it to particular athletes with difficulties in keeping a proper electrolyte balance, that can cause things like cramps, during training and competitive play.”

Carbuhn maintains his personal passion for strength training partly through lunchtime sessions in the weight room with coworkers.

“My love is in the weight room,” he says. “I still have the desire to improve my own athletic performance. To have the opportunity to use my knowledge in strength and conditioning as well as nutrition. I have been able to continue to physically develop further than I thought was possible at this stage of my life. I still love to write training programs and try different training modalities to keep it interesting and, of course, fun.”

The 6 Fundamentals of Athlete Fueling for Optimal Performance

The sports nutrition movement is accelerating so rapidly that Tiffany Byrd, Director of Sports Nutrition at the University of Oklahoma, considers herself a second-generation beneficiary of Tiffany Byrdpioneers like James Harris III, currently at the Philadelphia Eagles with prior stops at University of Nebraska and University of Oregon, and Amy Bragg at the University of Alabama.

Byrd, who won a national title as a gymnast at Alabama, transferred to Nebraska where she was on the receiving end of Harris’s cutting-edge sports nutrition program. “He had such an impact on my life – not only as an athlete,” she says. “Food was his tool, but he was about life – setting me up to make my impact on the world.”

When Byrd went back to Alabama to earn a master’s degree in sports nutrition, Harris, who had moved to the University of Oregon hired her as a summer intern. During this time, Alabama hired Bragg as its first Sports RD, and Byrd became her first intern when her summer stint ended at Oregon. After she attended the annual Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association (CPSDA) conference, she landed a job as Baylor University’s first full-time sports dietitian in 2012, then moved to launch the Oklahoma program in 2013.

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Hands-On Approach

“We opened the dining hall my first year,” she says. “If you are able to have a training table, you might as well use it as an education tool. It’s education to the athletes, the coaches, and even the administration. Day to day operations include providing a hands-on approach in working with athletes, with coaches, with administration, housing and food services, and even includes doing administrative tasks. It’s consistently being a presence and emphasizing to our athletes, coaches, and staff the importance of how to use food as fuel to gain a performance advantage.”

The learning curve involves top-tier athletes who may have eaten mostly fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, bacon, and pizza. Byrd emphasizes the importance of fueling for performance – using food as a tool to gain a benefit in performance by incorporating fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, while maintaining adequate hydration.

We strive daily to encourage our athletes to become not only better athletes, but healthier people.

“Food is very personal,” she says. “Most of the time we adopt our food habits from our parents or whoever raised us. Getting someone to change some of these behaviors can be challenging. We strive daily to encourage our athletes to become not only better athletes, but healthier people. It sets them up for life. OU is a three-, four-, five-year stop for them in this journey of life. You don’t ever get away from food. We hope that upon leaving Oklahoma, they have a good understanding and relationship with food. In doing so, we equip them to impact their families and future generations for the better long after their playing days are over.”

B.O.O.M.E.R.

Already, OU’s program reaches beyond the athletes. Other students and staff members in the athletics department can utilize Wagner Dining and benefit from the educational experiences. Byrd incorporated an acronym to help remind athletes of the fundamentals of nutrition while at OU: B.O.O.M.E.R.

  • Begin with Breakfast – emphasizes the most important meal of the day
  • Own your Protein – encourages adequate protein intake for muscle growth and development
  • Optimize Hydration – Hydration is vital, especially in the hot Oklahoma climate. “That’s where The Right Stuff comes into play,” she says. “It really helps us with hydration and it has been a huge asset for us here at OU.”
  • Must have fruits and vegetables – strive for all five colors daily for nutrients, vitamins, and minerals
  • Eat often – ideally every two or three hours
  • Rest and recover – “Nutrition plays a huge role,” Byrd says. “There’s a 30-minute window for recovering with carbohydrates and proteins to help replenish what was lost, to repair muscles broken down during practice and training.”

Her position has given Byrd a platform for providing nutrition education across the campus and beyond, including speaking engagements across the state, as well as an appreciated role with the athletes. She even has her own student interns, a reminder of her early start in the expanding profession.

“I pride myself on being the athlete’s OU mom,” she says. “Because of the support and encouragement provided to me by our Athletics Director Joe Castiglione and Head Football Coach (Coach Stoops), I’ve had opportunities to speak at different conventions in the state to help with the health in Oklahoma. It’s remarkable that this position has provided a platform that goes beyond our athletes and the University of Oklahoma but extends throughout the community, the state, into our OU alumni, and hopefully onto a national level.”

How Can You Perform Like The Collegiate and Pro Athletes While Competing In The Heat?

Becci Twombley grew up in the beach volleyball town of Manhattan Beach, Calif., and played volleyball at Pepperdine University, where she graduated in 1998 with a degree in athletic training and sports medicine. She married Dennis Twombley, a Pepperdine baseball player who was drafted by the New York Yankees, and they spent five years moving among minor league cities where she took coaching jobs.Becci Twombley

Becci became interested in the importance of nutrition for athletes and earned her Registered Dietitian certification in 2003. In the years before athletic organizations recognized the need for such a specialty, she was a pediatric and neonatal nutrition specialist in a hospital – using nutrition to help children’s bodies recover just as she now uses nutrition to help athletes’ bodies recover. “You’re doing the same thing – whether it’s an exhaustive training session or therapy, you’re trying to replace nutrients and help the body recover,” Becci says.

In 2007, UCLA hired her part-time to run its sports nutrition program, a position that grew into full-time. In 2009, Becci was a founding board member of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association (CPSDA), whose membership has grown from 20 to 65 full-time professional members (and over 800 in total) as awareness of the field accelerates. She is also a member of the Sports and Cardiovascular Nutritionists (SCAN) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Two years ago, she became Director of Sports Nutrition at the University of Southern California.

The athletes are really reliant on Sports Dietitians to make sure everything gets done the way it’s supposed to be done,” she says, adding that she emphasizes food first – milk, meat, vegetables, fruits, carbs, juices – and supplements as appropriate to provide balanced nutrition. For sweaty athletes, that’s The Right Stuff, says Becci, who rushes it to the practice field when coaches text that they are ready to practice.

The Right Stuff is Essential

shutterstock_39389809 FB hi“The Right Stuff is essential for football practice,” she says. “They all call it ‘the packet.’ I open it, mix it with water, and they drink it on the field,” she says. “The coaches notice it. The line coach has three guys that need it.” No-huddle offense means 95 to 115 plays per practice, compared to 70 in an ordinary offense, and the roster is down to 73 players, fewer than most schools. “Our guys are taking more snaps,” Becci says. “We really rely on The Right Stuff for that sort of thing.”

Sweating players in full pads can lose at least 1,000 milligrams of sodium an hour. The Right Stuff provides over 1700 milligrams in one packet, and instead of abrasive sodium chloride it’s sodium citrate, which is easier to digest and can help ease the buildup of free radicals that causes muscle fatigue, she says.

“It’s not just because they’re going to cramp,” Becci says. “We want to make sure their muscles are working efficiently. We’re minimizing any breakdown. Linemen need it most. They’re losing a ton of water, but they’re also losing a ton of salt. It’s imperative they have every asset they can.”

The Right Stuff is important for other athletes too, says Becci, who introduced the product when she became team nutritionist for the Major League Baseball Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim this season.

One of the first things I did when I got to the Angels was get The Right Stuff there too!

“One of the first things I did when I got to the Angels was get The Right Stuff there too” she says, adding that some players have not suffered their usual cramps since they started using it. “They have to make sure they’re just as fueled in the ninth inning as they were in the first. The catcher uses it. The pitchers are using it so they’re well hydrated all the way through.

One of the things I notice most with it is, in talking to the athletes, they feel as though they don’t become as lightheaded as the course of the game goes on. It’s because it has a significant amount of sodium in it and you’re reloading that sodium. You’re losing less water, and you’re retaining sodium.

The guys that use it have to use it every time. There’s no playing without it after you’ve felt the benefit.

This Sports Dietitian handles all those college athletes and still finds time to compete in Triathlons and Marathons

John TanguayMassachusetts native Jonathan Tanguay was in Colorado, waiting tables, hiking, and trying to figure out what to do with his undergraduate degree in zoology from Connecticut College, when he took a biochemistry course that bonded his various interests. He graduated from the master’s program in nutritional science at the University of New Hampshire, moved to Texas for a dietetic internship at the University of Houston, and found his dream during a month-long rotation at Texas A&M.

“I loved it,” Tanguay says. “That was what I wanted to do. That was the application of all the sports nutrition I had and the love of sport I had and getting involved in something with structure. Every day is unique.”

Tanguay, who was named Texas A&M’s Director of Performance Nutrition in 2010, has a full-time assistant who focuses on Olympic sports while he hands mostly football, baseball and basketball.

“My office is our football weight room,” he says. Four days a week, he works with football players in training, taking their weight, talking to them about fueling and nutrition, and making sure they get recovery smoothies after their workouts. In the afternoons, he works with baseball and basketball players before practice across campus, then returns for football practice and dinner in the new R.C. Slocum Nutrition Center, a dining hall for athletes.

Focus on Sports Nutrition in College

The NCAA’s recent announcement that it is lifting limits on food that schools can provide to athletes, effective Aug. 1, will accelerate a focus on sports nutrition that has swept through leading colleges in recent years, including most members of the Southeastern Conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big 12, Big 10 and others, Tanguay says.

“In the long run, it’s going to be something that’s really great for the student-athlete,” he says. “They’re bigger, they’re stronger, they’re burning a lot more calories, they’re working out and practicing – that requires more fuel. We were only allowed to feed the team as a team one meal a day outside of competition.”

The old rules left students using a scholarship stipend to buy campus meal plans, off-campus meals, or food to prepare in their apartments – with less-than-optimal attention to nutrition.

“This will allow us to provide them the food that will meet their unique nutritional needs, to help them develop as healthy athletes, and be good for their overall health,” Tanguay says, adding that the students come from a wide spectrum of food experience in their backgrounds.

“It’s definitely challenging,” he says. “You get kids from all walks of life. We’ve got Sports Dietitians here that can really help to be hands-on with the student-athletes and work to educate them about making better choices.” The education includes cooking demonstrations at the Nutrition Education Center and trips to the grocery to learn how to select, store, prepare, and cook food. “Some don’t get it at first, but for someone who’s trying to gain weight or lose weight or reduce their risk for injury, they start coming to me and taking advantage of these resources,” Tanguay says.

Not every approach works with every athlete, but The Right Stuff is a great tool we have from a hydration standpoint.

The Right Stuff is one of the resources. “We use it as part of our hydration protocol” he says. “It’s another tool we have in our belts. There’s a number of sports nutrition products on the market and a number of different approaches. Not every approach works with every athlete, but The Right Stuff is a great tool we have from a hydration standpoint. We use it with a number of different sports.”

Tanguay participates in Iron Mans, half-Iron Mans, and marathons – he set a personal record (PR) at this year’s Boston Marathon – and includes The Right Stuff in his personal regimen. “I start to build my carbohydrate and electrolyte intake a week before the race,” he says. “I’ve got a pre-race routine. For me, it’s been trial and error. I’ve come up with something that works for me. The Right Stuff is part of that.

“I’ve never really had an issue with cramping or GI issues during a race. I like The Right Stuff because it gives you everything you need in one package. Before it came out, we had been looking for something that fit the criteria, and it wasn’t on the market. It’s the volume of electrolytes in a small volume of fluid. This is a small, convenient way to get everything you need that we’ve found works.”