Fueling Championsby: AFM Editorial Staff
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Sophisticated nutritional and recovery practices and new NCAA food guidelines help Florida Stateís Katy Meassick keep Seminole
athletes fully fueled and ready for competition.
To build a championship program in the ultra-competitive FBS, every aspect of athletesí training, on and off the field, must be carefully addressed. That includes making sure that proper nutritional and workout recovery practices are being followed. At Florida State, that job falls to Sports Registered Dietician (RD) Katy Meassick.
As awareness about the importance of good nutrition has increased, more universities are turning to professionals like Meassick, who provide personalized nutritional and recovery advice to athletes. This year, she has the opportunity to be more effective in her role, as the NCAA has removed limitations on the number of meals and types of food universities could provide to student-athletes.
AFM recently asked Meassick about her role working with athletes at FSU, the importance of Muscle Milk products and the recent NCAA rule change.
AFM: What role does proper nutrition play in helping athletes perform at the highest level?
Meassick: Itís a game changer. It can make or break an athleteís performance. Many times athletes are struggling in the weight room or on the practice field and come in frustrated. We sit down and discover things like large gaps of time without eating, going a whole morning without drinking any water, or skipping their recovery nutrition due to time constraints. We take a look together and choose one thing to work on, that one change can make a huge difference.
How do good nutritional practices help athletes recover from practice or games?
Athletes are asked to put out high energy levels on back-to-back days or even multiple times a day. Good recovery nutrition practices are an integral part of being able to keep up those high demands as well as keeping your body healthy. We are there at every weight lifting session, conditioning session, and practice to ensure our student-athletes are recovering correctly. Most athletes are looking to make a body weight change. Nutrition post-workout (especially after lifting) is where those changes are promoted. We make shakes for the team specific to their energy needs, weight training goals, and current body weight. We work with the strength and conditioning staff as well as the position coach to fine-tune these goals.
Are nutritional programs for football players different from those of other sports?
Nutrition programs differ from sport to sport and position to position. The best idea is to look at the dynamics of the player and their position. The position dictates what nutrition practices are best for them. Nutrition practices vary greatly between sports. The energy demands are different so nutrition needs will also be different. We cannot give the same recommendations to basketball players as we do football players - we approach each sport with their specific needs.
What role do Muscle Milk products play in your nutrition programs for Seminole athletes, specifically football players? When is it most important for athletes to use Muscle Milk products?
We use Muscle Milk as our recovery drink post practices. We also combine powders and ready-to-drink shakes with fresh fruit for our post-weight lifting recovery. Due to the carbohydrate Ė protein ratio in Muscle Milk we also are able to utilize it pre-workout if an athlete missed a meal. We also use it as a quick, protein snack when the athletes are on-the-go and may not have enough time to stop for a meal. The ready-to-drink shakes are great, since they are shelf-stable and portable in backpacks trekked throughout campus. The 30-minute window post workout would be for an athlete to pick up a Muscle Milk Ė that is the window to make the gains and not to waste your workout. Additionally, in the NCAA we have bylaws to abide by and Muscle Milk is third-party verified by NSF and falls within the rules to be able to provide it to our athletes. Itís great to have a product that makes the strides to fit within our limits.
What should high school coaches and players be doing nutritionally to prepare athletes to succeed in college?
Help create good habits sooner. We would love to have athletes come in who are looking to recover after every workout and understand the importance. Coaches can help promote the importance of eating breakfast to their athletes. Many athletes come in only eating one or two meals a day. When we are trying to get them to eat five or six times a day, itís a hard transition at first. Additionally, coaches should promote half-time refueling during games. Itís hard to practice this with our athletes, but if they are already used to taking in some fuel during halftime then they will be more inclined to take it in at the next level. Finally, work with their athletic trainer to promote adequate hydration. Most of the time you can increase power output when in a fully hydrated state.
How has growing awareness of the importance of sound nutrition changed the eating habits of college athletes in the last decade?
It has created an awareness in each of the college athletes I have worked with - itís now on their radar. Itís nice to see college athletes looking to make themselves a better-rounded, healthier athlete. They are starting to understand that itís more than just using supplements. Itís about the timing of their meals and choosing higher quality foods. They are looking for guidance to perform at their peak and ways to keep it sustainable throughout their career and later on in life.
Is there any added pressure for you working with the defending National Champions?
This year is approached with the same intensity and attention as any other season. We want the team to perform at their highest level during every practice and every game, so our attention to detail regarding nutrition is as high as any other season.
In what ways do you teach athletes nutrition skills that will last beyond football and their time at FSU?
We work with the athletes on grocery shopping skills as well as simple cooking skills to promote more preparing and eating at home. We also educate them on general nutrition practices to promote overall health and prevention of future chronic diseases. Many athletes go out and eat for the convenience and we like to show them how convenient it is to cook tasty meals, and at the same time be more cost effective. But we also teach them how to make good decisions while eating out. Many times itís simple swaps to improve the quality of the meal and shedding light on preferred portion sizes at meals.
In what ways will the NCAAís de-regulations allow you to use your expertise as a Sports RD more effectively?
It has allowed us to close the gaps and fuel the athletes more effectively. Prior to the rule, we were confined to ďfruits, nuts and bagelsĒ. About two years ago, bagel spreads became permissible and increased the variety slightly. The deregulation has allowed us to actually implement the nutrient timing we preach to our athletes.
How has this rule change immediately impacted your position as a Sports RD and other members of your profession in the Collegiate and Professional Sports Dieticians Association?
This rule has allowed us to make an immediate impact within our athletic department and we are able to plan for the future more effectively. Over the summer, we completed renovations which included a sports nutrition suite. The suite has a snack window that is available to the student-athletes throughout the day to help close the large time gaps. We have additional plans to put in fueling stations in other areas to ensure all student-athletes are covered and able to participate in the expanded fueling. More universities are taking note of the Sports RD expertise and adding the position to the staff. Itís not just a food management position - the fueling stations are venues for the Sports RD to educate at the opportune times. As the need for more nutrition grows so will our department and our Athletic Department is committed to doing so.