Student athletes must carefully plan meals

Adrienne Burch

Maintaining the body of a Division I athlete is no simple task.

Amy Bragg is the director of performance nutrition for University of Alabama athletics. She works with over 650 athletes across 18 sports to help them manage their diets to meet collegiate athletic expectations.

Bragg pays attention to every detail of an athlete’s diet, from making recommended grocery lists for athletes to planning what they eat while traveling.

“Playing a sport is so demanding that it often leaves athletes with less time to get access to food,” Bragg said. “I think it is harder for [athletes] to have a good diet.”

Bragg said one of the biggest things she does is educate athletes.

“We help them know the key parts of the day that they need to eat, and what they need to eat at these times,” she said.

Bragg said writing something down on paper may be hard for athletes to follow, but she prefers to work more on spoken guidelines.

“We just try to set good goals for our athletes,” she said. “If you write something on paper it’s very hard for them to follow.”

Bragg also works with Bama Dining to manage the training table meals that athletes eat on a daily basis, primarily in Bryant Dining Hall.

Natalia Maynetto, a UA women’s tennis player, said Bragg really helped her get in a routine with her eating habits.

“She has helped make sure I get a good solid amount of carbs every day and reminded me to eat smaller meals all throughout the day,” Maynetto said.

Maynetto said she thinks eating healthy is 50 percent of the work as a college athlete.

“If you don’t feel good and have the energy sources you need, playing a sport at the level we do is almost impossible,” she said.

Maynetto said she has to avoid eating sweets and drinking anything besides water.

“Unlike your typical college student, I have to avoid unhealthy snacks and last minute meals like pizza,” she said. “My diet is definitely different than other students.”

The new $9 million, 37,000 square-foot University of Alabama weight room has a state-of-the-art nutrition center athletes can use to fill their dietary needs.

This nutrition center provides athletes with fruits, nuts and other dietary supplements before and after their workouts.

Jonathan Bowling, associate athletic director of compliance, said there are specific NCAA regulations for food and nutrition that they must follow when feeding athletes in the weight room.

“There are certain times when you can feed athletes and specific regulated amounts,” Bowling said. “There are also a lot of tiny rules you have to be aware of.”

Bowling said there are limits on the amount of protein and types of vitamin supplements. An example would be that they cannot serve bagels with any sort of topping like cream cheese because this would exceed the amount the NCAA allows.

“The rules are to make sure we don’t give athletes whatever they want whenever they want it,” he said. “We just can’t give it to them all the time.”