Over a course of more than 20 years, a collaboration between UC Davis’ athletic teams and what has become the Sports Nutrition program has evolved in order to enhance student athletes performance.
Director of Sports Nutrition and nutrition senior lecturer Liz Applegate works with every Intercollegiate Athletics team at UC Davis, giving presentations and doing one-on-one counseling. Her program looks for ways to try to improve the athletes’ nutrition knowledge and help them realize what is best for their body and performance.
Some of the things Applegate and her student interns do include giving athletes tours of the Dining Commons, telling them what food they should eat more of and giving them handouts about pre-workout meals. This past summer, Applegate’s team created cooking videos that are available to the athletes via SmartSite.
“To me, one of the best recovery meals is an egg/veggie combination, and a lot of people don’t like to cook so we created a simple, fun video,” Applegate said.
The video led to the idea of the latest installment in the collaboration between the Sports Nutrition Program and the student athletes: a contest where each athletic team was invited to create a recipe for an ‘Aggie Performance Scramble.’
Eleven of the twenty ICA teams on campus participated in the contest. Men’s golf and women’s soccer teams tied for first place, while women’s basketball and men’s tennis came second and third, respectively.
The Sports Nutrition interns judged the contestants on creativity, simplicity and nutritional value. The four winners will have their scrambles featured at the Dining Commons on Feb. 4.
“I hope the scramble is used by the athletes because it is a great way to get in your veggies and protein,” said fifth-year nutrition science major Ashley Mulcahy, one of the interns who judged the entries, in an e-mail interview. “It’s quick, easy, and affordable. Reading over the entries was the best part of the Scramble contest. UC Davis has really creative athletes. All of the entries were amazing and unique and looked super tasty.”
As an intern, Mulcahy’s job has included creating handouts for the athletes on immunity and injury and on how nutrition plays a key role in prevention and recovery. Mulcahy has also made menus for the athletes that help them see what foods they should eat so they can balance their meals throughout the day in order to reach the right caloric intake for their goals.
“I think it’s a really great experience for both the interns and the athletes,” Mulcahy said. “Nutrition plays a key role in an athlete’s performance so being able to get hands-on experience as a student intern helps us practice skills we learn in classes as well as helping the athletes figure out ways to maximize their nutrition and overall performance.”
The interns know that the athletes have demanding schedules, as the athletes have to juggle both school and their sport, and Mulcahy enjoys being able to answer their questions that give the athletes an idea of what foods they can take to go, which menus and recipes, both vegetarian and vegan, are healthy and how to build lean muscle.
According to Applegate, the advice athletes receive depend a lot on which sport the athlete practices. Golfing, for example, is a slower-paced sport but golfers have to maintain extreme focus for a very long period of time and there is always travel involved. Swimmers, on the other hand, burn a lot of calories while competing. They work out early in the morning and often again in the afternoon, so they burn more calories than the golfers, but their competition is focused to a couple of events and often they have one in the morning, then time to recover, and finals in the afternoon.
“Golfers should have a light breakfast before they head out and should pack trail mix, water and dried fruit that they can eat every hour or so,” Applegate said. “The swimmers need a bigger pre-workout meal, and they have to pay attention to their recovery meal because they might be swimming later on that day.”
It is Applegate’s clear impression that the athletes listen to the advice they receive from the Sports Nutrition program. Many athletes have been competing at a high level for most of their lives and are in a framework where they know that what they eat makes a difference to their performance.
Applegate said she has spoken to some athletes who have received advice in high school that she completely disagreed with. One cross country runner had been told by a high school coach to skip breakfast, and he was not doing well because he was going by what his old coach had told him.
“I think we are very fortunate to have such an elite Sports Nutrition program here,” said men’s golf coach Cy Williams, in an e-mail interview. “They meet with us as a team and individually as well, and their knowledge and guidance are invaluable to our program. Nutrition is a critical element to an athlete’s training. [Applegate] and her staff have done a great job explaining exactly what to eat, how much to eat and how often to eat and drink during the day for optimal performance.”
For students who are not part of a UC Davis athletic team, there are still ways to gain knowledge from the sports nutrition program. Applegate recommends taking NUT 10, which is open to all students and provides basic knowledge about good nutrition. The Sports Nutrition program also runs a Twitter profile, @fuelingaggies, whose followers each week receive new nutritional advice.