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.”

NFL Lineman Shares His Secret for Fighting Chronic Cramps

Chance Warmack, the All-American guard on Alabama’s national championship team and first-round draft pick for the Tennessee Titans, Chance Warmack - Combine croppedknew he was a heavy sweater ever since his family moved from Detroit to Atlanta and he started playing youth football.

“I was aware that I used to sweat a lot when I was younger, but it wasn’t to the point that I needed to add electrolytes in my system,” he says. “I began to see a change in my body because I was doing a lot more activity at the high school level.”

He first felt the pain of intense cramps during his sophomore year.  “It was really hot, and I began to start cramping for the first time,” Warmack recalls. “I didn’t know what was causing them, how I could prevent them, or why they were happening to me. I began to understand what to do to prevent the problem of cramping. Back then, I didn’t know what I needed to put in my body to avoid those things.

Pedialyte®, formulated for children who have lost nutrients, helped more than other products, so he would stock up before practice on a hot Georgia day. Pedialyte was my saving grace at the time, but even that sometimes it didn’t come through for me,” Warmack says. “I would have days when I would be close to full body cramps. My body was locking up on me and I didn’t know what to do.”

 

Fighting the Cramps

In his senior year in High School, his grandfather, a physician, recommended a concoction that helped enough for Warmack to win a scholarship to the University of Alabama, but trainers there balked at depending on the time-consuming mix.

“I put that solution down,” he says. “I was introduced to salt tablets at that time in my life. I was 17 years old. Alabama’s training camps are very hard. I would leave training camp practice soaked with sweat. Salt tablets can only do so much. My body was taking so much sodium, and I couldn’t store it all. I would have to take 50 tablets at a time every day.”

It was convenient, it was efficient, and it was easy to use. The Right Stuff literally helped me get through college.

Finally, in his junior year at Alabama, his Nutritionist introduced Warmack to The Right Stuff. He took six packets a day, 2-3 times as much as other teammates. “There was nobody on the team that sweated as much as me,” he explains. “It was convenient, it was efficient, and it was easy to use. The Right Stuff literally helped me get through college. I’ve done everything – salt tablets, pickle juice, mustard, Gatorade, you name it. The Right Stuff gave me the opportunity to play and not worry about cramping. I could focus on football, not how much sodium I had taken.”

Chance Warmack - Titans helmet onWhen he went to the NFL with the Tennessee Titans, he was the only one who was taking The Right Stuff. “Every trainer has the way they want you to hydrate,” says Warmack, who “pre-games” with The Right Stuff and has two in his system when he steps onto the field. “I didn’t want to change what I was doing because it works so well for me. When you know what works for you, you don’t want to change it, especially when you’ve got proof that it works.”

“They tell me when you sweat you lose a lot of minerals. You’re burning fuel. When you use The Right Stuff, it’s putting everything back. You feel like it’s a boost for you. I’m happy I was able to be introduced to it. It was a blessing in my life. I can be the best player I can be.”

The Right Stuff Introduces our Newest Athlete Advocate – Chance Warmack of the Tennessee Titans

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NFL Tennessee Titans’ first-round draft pick and University of Alabama All-American, Chance Warmack has been relying on The Right Stuff® (from Wellness Brands Inc.) since his junior year when the electrolyte drink additive energized him during a game in the Florida Gators’ Swamp.

“It was so humid, and I was really concerned as to how I would sustain,” he recalls. “The Right Stuff really helps me make it through all four quarters. I noticed it helps me to relax more and gives me an extra boost during long plays and drives.”

Warmack, who signed a four-year, $12.2 million contract with the Titans in July, still depends on The Right Stuff for his pro career as an NFL Offensive Guard. He becomes the latest Athlete Advocate for the NASA-developed formula joining Walter Dix (Olympic Medal-winning Sprinter), Michael McDowell (NASCAR), Brent Morel (MLB), Megan Whiteside (Former World Snowboard Champion), Craig Evans (Pro Triathlete) among others.

“While preparing for the NFL draft combine, I continued to use The Right Stuff, and it worked wonders in assisting my preparation,” he says. “I would sweat a lot during practices and workouts, and more so while playing in games. I began using The Right Stuff and not only did it hydrate me but it also decreased the chances of my getting cramps.

“Now that I’m a professional for the Tennessee Titans, The Right Stuff is not only my exclusive product for hydration, but it is the absolute best out there.”

The Right Stuff formula, developed by NASA scientistDr. John Greenleaf and licensed to Wellness Brands Inc. of Boulder, Colo., was created to combat the severe symptoms of dehydration astronauts experience upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

The sugar-free, liquid concentrate – when added to water – delivers significantly more electrolytes, replacing the amount lost through sweat from heat or rigorous exercise lasting over an hour.

“The Right Stuff is serious hydration for serious athletes,” says Wellness Brands CEO David Belaga, adding that the no-nonsense performance aid is not a substitute for other sports drinks used by ordinary exercisers.

It’s now available and being used here on Earth by professional, college, high school and Olympic athletes as well as industrial workers, military personnel and firefighters who perform hot, strenuous tasks. “The Right Stuff is the best product out there for energy boost and hydration,” Warmack says. “I highly recommend everyone give it a shot when participating in competitive sports – college, pro and Olympic – for training and game day.”

Based on numerous published studies, the formula is far superior for 1) combating dehydration symptoms (cramps, headaches, muscle fatigue, light-headedness etc.) and 2) improving core thermal regulation which means it helps protect the body from overheating, as well as 3) increasing endurance by over 20 percent more than any other NASA-tested formula.

“Also, it is a great aid for jet lag, altitude sickness and even for relief from the effects of excessive alcohol consumption,” Belaga says.

Boulder, Colorado based Wellness Brands Inc., introduced The Right Stuff® in 2009 upon receipt of the exclusive NASA license. The NASA-developed hydration technology is marketed throughout the US and internationally.the-right-stuff-football-advocates-chance-warmack-1