Dayna McCutchin Q&A Part III: "Buying in", radical changes, & the future
In the final part of our Q&A with Texas Tech head dietitian Dayna McCutchin, we discuss how genetics play into diet and results, what kind of changes she's seen since unlimited training table was allowed, and what the future holds for the future of Tech Nutrition...
With the level of detail you go into with each athlete on their diet, how much do genetics play into furthering that even another layer deeper, making things easier or harder based on how their body reacts to what you're trying to do?
"So, there are guys that genetically look awesome and are more apt to build lean body mass and maintain it whereas there are others that may have to try to eat perfectly and still struggle to put on the same amount of poundage. So, I say genetics play a good amount into it, but the attention as far as what we do for them, what we try to facilitate and encourage to do doesn't change whether it's easy or hard. We may have to monitor and pay much closer attention to a guy that's struggling more. Really, those guys that need to lean up and make lean body changes are the guys that really struggle the most because it's so hard for them to get in the calories they need and yet lose weight. It's a very fine line because we want them to be losing, but we have to monitor the rate at which they're losing, because if they're losing more than two pounds a week, they're likely losing muscle as well, so that's detrimental to what we're trying to do. We want to maintain that the best we can, so once again, the hands-on involvement and monitoring of that is very crucial in that regard."
Since you guys were able to start doing full-time, hands-on, no-limits training table in the last few years, have there been any instances of guys just making radical, eye-opening changes in their bodies because of how much control you can have over their nutrition?
"I've been shocked at how much more quickly we can make those changes now. Again, the culture, getting guys to buy in immediately has been huge for us versus when we started. Then it was battling every day to try to make them buy in and see it was important. We've had guys like John Picone and Travis Bruffy who have put on a significant amount of weight, and instead of trying to make this happen in two or three years, we've been able to make this happen immediately. A kid that's able to put on 20 pounds in two or three months is huge for us, and I think obviously the strength staff and sports medicine staff have also been huge in that, but just being able to provide those calories, give it when they need it and how they need it has been a game changer for us. You can't lie about that weight on paper. It's eye-opening when we go through and see, hey, three years ago we were losing X, Y, and Z amount of weight during spring ball, and now we may have a guy here or there that loses three or five pounds, but overall we're maintaining that weight so much better in the long run than trying to have all that weight put on before spring ball starts, adding seven or eight pounds, and then after spring ball we're back to square one to start the summer. Now, we're only down two or three pounds, so it's just really huge in the preservation of that mass we're trying to put on."
What kind of weight gain have you seen from Bruffy, as you mentioned? It's obviously not easy for an offensive lineman to come in and physically be ready to play right away like he did.
"He came in at 265 and was able to be at 305 when he started playing. That's incredible for us. It made a huge impact. We can't force feed him. Travis is directly responsible for his ability to gain that weight and be able to be successful with that. He's just a guy that came in, bought in, and he did the right things. We're very proud of him, and he's a prime example of someone doing it right. Talor Nunez came in as a quarterback, and he's on our D-line now. Those kinds of kids just came in and got the job done. Really, it's been incredible for us to have these resources and do that."
With offensive linemen, specifically with kids like Travis Bruffy who come in as big, long, lean athletes that you build into offensive linemen, are those kinds of guys the hardest to keep weight on when they've never been anywhere nearly as big as you want them to be?
"I'd say that two years ago they would've struggled a little bit more than now. It's at their fingertips now, and they can walk down a hall and get everything they need nutritionally. They get more financial support with extra aid in cost of attendance now, too, so I think once again, two years ago, they would've struggled a lot more, but now it's at their fingertips and located in the same building that they're in all the time. I think it's easier for them now. But yes, guys like Travis who are super lean, it's harder for them. You can ask Talor Nunez, too. These guys literally have to eat to the point of - We have a guy in Colt Garrett who's a walk on quarterback from Roosevelt that came in at maybe 175, and now he's sitting at a good 200. He said, 'I literally had to eat to the point where I can't eat anymore and always feel sick, but that's something I have to do. I know that's expected of me to do the things I need to do and be the size I need to be.' And he's a walk-on, he's done that with just the resources we've provided him and on his own, so I just find these guys are able to do it more effectively and maintain it easier than they ever have before because of these things we're able to provide them."
Now that you've made this next big step into full time training table where you're able to do whatever you want, what's the next evolution for you all? What's on the horizon for Texas Tech Nutrition?
"So, we had a meeting with the administration a few months ago, just talking about what's next and what we need. We're at the top of the nation in providing X, Y, and Z, and we talked about what we're lacking, what we need to improve on. I feel like that's an on-site training facility that we own and manage. I think our next evolutionary step is to have our own dining facility that we employ, that isn't catered in. If a guy wants pasta, he goes to a standalone pasta station and has it made live in front of him. If a kid wants a turkey burger, he's able to go in there and it's made live in front of him. I think that would be a game changer for us. We have wonderful vendors that provide things for us, but the ability for an athlete to walk over and utilize something when he needs it would be a huge game changer than us. That would allow us to rely less on supplementation and more on whole foods, which is our whole stance and approach to begin with. I think that's our next big step. We may even get away from an actual training table and be able to provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner as we see fit."
So is that something already in the works? Are the wheels in motion on that?
"I think that's in the works, but I think they've secured a location that can conveniently next to our academic center. I think it's important to Kirby and our staff that it's sort of a one stop shop for wellness for our athletes where they can fuel up, utilize a cooking lab, and at the same time they can walk next door and go to tutoring and get assistance with academics. I think it's going to evolve into where we're all providing 24 hour care and wellness for our athletes, which is huge and unbelievable in my opinion."