Dayna McCutchin Q&A Part II: Educating athletes and tailoring nutrition
The importance of nutrition in collegiate athletics has taken huge steps forward over the last few years, and Texas Tech is certainly one of the schools trying to be at the forefront in fueling their athletes properly.
So, we sat down with Head Dietitian Dayna McCutchin to get a better idea of just what goes into making sure all Red Raider student athletes are performing at their peak with what they eat and how they eat it.
In Part II, we discuss how they educate athletes to make right choices and what exactly goes into tailoring the diet plan of individuals.
How hard is it to get your young athletes, particularly those that are stepping foot on campus the first time as an 18 or 19 year old, to understand - or accept - what they need to be doing to make sure they're fueling and preparing their bodies in the right way?
"That first time when they come in is huge for us. When I first started, it was hard, because they were kind of used to doing whatever they did. The strength coaches managed it the best they could, but they had a whole other job they needed to do. It was more difficult then. Now, I feel like we've created a culture where they just know that these are the things we expect out of you. It's just like going to class, just like doing treatment, going to a lift. Nutrition is a part of your day that we capitalize on. If they miss a meal, it's the same punishment as if they miss class or a workout, so that's really just a cultural standard that's been set by our coaching staff, which is very supportive of us and helpful to us to meet those goals and prove it's that important, that each day can make that big of an impact."
"So, that initial one-on-one time when we give them their meal plans, set the expectations, know that we'll be monitoring them daily, it's huge for use and really important to reach them then. They're notorious for coming in three or four years later and saying, 'I'm trying for Pro Day. I'm training for the Draft and I need to get draft.' So I let them know that instead of doing that three or four years from now, lets do it now so that you're ready to go, ready to know exactly what you need to do, because these things are going to be expected out of you in your professional career."
With finals going on right now and most athletes preparing to go home for a few weeks before the first summer session begins, is this the hardest time to stop anyone from falling off the wagon with their diet? Do you just have to cross your fingers and hope for the best?
"We do, and we talk to them about things like, 'Hey, here's a big grocery list. While you're home with mom and dad, capitalize on purchasing these foods and them helping you out with these particular items.' What's actually really nice is that it's a huge recovery period for them. So while, yes, they're going to be lifting and doing some workouts on their own, but they're not going to be burning as many calories, so it's a huge time for us to get ahead on weight gains. Our biggest battle, I'd say 60 to 80 percent depending on the team, our challenge is maintaining lean body mass and really just gaining weight. We get a lot of athletes we have to develop quickly here, so nutrition, strength and conditioning, and sports medicine are crucial in allowing that to happen."
"So, we educate them, send them with tools and materials on their way out, but more than anything this is a huge time for them to recover, recharge, and get some time away. It's really, really important for not only their mental health but their physical health as well. Anytime over the break they can call me with a question about, 'Hey, do I need to be doing this?' So, they have all those materials right at the touch of their hands on their Teamworks app so they don't ever have to wonder or worry if they're doing the right things."
Is football the one sport on campus with the biggest variance in how you tailor nutrition? It just seems like it would be since there are so many different positions, so many different body types and weight goals.
"Absolutely. So, obviously a kicker isn't going to be burning nearly as many calories on the field as a lineman or someone running a bunch of routes back to back to back, whether that's on the offensive or defensive side. Our DBs and receivers are covering a whole lot of ground. That being said, sometimes with our linemen we put GPS data or heart rate monitoring data on them, and our linemen are surprisingly burning - you know, they have so much mass, so much body weight to move around that they're burning very close to the same as the guys running tons and tons and tons of routes and covering tons of ground. So, there are huge variances in calories being burned. That being said, a kicker is going to train just as hard with a workout tailored to him in the weight room with their coaching staff as that lineman does."
"So, that's where the beauty of doing one-on-one tailored nutrition comes in. I get to know that. I get to physically, hands on get to see that this is the training their doing in the weight room today. How can I adapt? What are we giving them recovery-wise to make sure we facilitate that recovery? This is what we're doing out at practice, and I'm monitoring it any way we can so I can physically see that okay, he got a ton of reps today so I can make sure to adapt and get him more calories or more things post-practice to make sure we're hitting his needs. That's the beauty of it and being so hands on. You're getting to see it for yourself, as you're not sitting around in an office trying to guess. You get to physically be in the trenches and see this each and every day."