In today's paper I had a story taking a broad look at the sweeping changes the Washington State athletic department has seen in four years under Bill Moos. One area of WSU athletics that has seen a lot of growth is nutrition, which is featured in the article but I thought was worth highlighting again here on the blog because not much has been previously reported about it.
We'll take a look at how the Cougars are addressing the dietary needs of their athletes, after the jump.
Athletic nutrition is a murky area for most schools, especially because of seemingly arbitrary rules about what schools can and can't feed athletes before, after and during workouts and competitions. Peanut butter and jelly are the only acceptable spreads for the bagels that schools are allowed to provide, so tough luck for athletes who would prefer cream cheese or a hazelnut spread. Ensure is fine for women looking for a boost after their workout, but it better not be that Ensure with a little extra protein.
Until recently, this problem was exacerbated at WSU -- and still is at the vast majority of schools -- by the fact that the purchase of these foodstuffs and other supplements was left up to the individual sports. But when Moos hired Lindsay Brown as the school's first full-time sports dietician, he also centralized purchasing under her purview.
"There are not many athletic departments in the country that have a central nutrition budget, and it's based on how Bill Moos views this area," Brown told me. "He really supports the area, he is fully committed to providing resources to the area so that definitely helps to push the program forward to where it needs to be."
The NCAA is in the process of deregulating many of its food restrictions, and is allowing walk-ons to training table for the first time. WSU's training table experience is about to get a lot cooler with the hiring of two full-time chefs.
The athletes will also have access to smoothie bars near the weight rooms and refueling stations with over 20 items.
Here is the full text of the nutrition section in today's story, including some other things WSU is doing to put itself at the forefront of athletic cuisine.
Lindsay Brown arrived in Pullman in 2011 as the first full-time sports dietician in the school’s history. Prior to Brown’s arrival, the school had no volunteer program and the dietary supervision of approximately 450 athletes was the responsibility of one part-time employee.
Now, Brown oversees a dozen volunteers and her staff will soon grown sizably. With a sports nutrition department to supplement the school’s various strength and conditioning staffs, the Cougars have been able to more effectively take advantage of the time they put in the weight room.
“Just based off the two-and-one-half years of data that I have, I see an improvement with developing lean mass,” Brown said. “We really focus on maximizing muscle mass gains and so I have definitely seen an improvement and a change in how they put on muscle mass because they know what to eat; they’re investing more in rest and recovery.”
The effects of proper dietary counseling will be magnified in years to come with the NCAA recently indicating that there will be fewer restrictions placed on what schools can feed athletes, and how often.
The nutrition aspect of the athletic department has gotten leaner itself as the staff has taken steps to streamline a previously inefficient process.
“The supplement program was decentralized,” explained Brown of the problems greeting her arrival at WSU. “So our supplement program was split up between each sport. It didn’t really make sense for the department’s money to be split out between sports that maybe did not have the best knowledge of what to purchase.”
This year the athletic department centralized all purchasing of supplements and approved food items under Brown’s direction as part of a complete nutrition overhaul.
With the additional volunteers, Brown has set up “refueling stations” at all home competitions for every team.
“Refueling stations are basically supplements and food items that are appropriate pre-, during, and post- competition,” Brown said. “So athletes have things if they are hungry and need a quick pick-me-up before competition starts. At halftime, if they need some energy before the second half, they will have stuff available.”
Previously that was a luxury afforded only to the football team.
The Cougars will soon also add a pair of hub stations in the two weight rooms, a so-called Crimson Hub in the general weight room and a Gray Hub in the Football Operations Building.
These hubs – staffed by soon-to-be-hired part-time managers – will replace the glorified closet that currently serves as the supplement distribution area.
“It’s going to be a defined sports nutrition bar,” Brown said. “We’ll have a full smoothie station downstairs where athletes can get fresh smoothies post-workout, pre-workout, during the day if they are going between classes.”
The investments the Cougars are making in sports nutrition – they plan to soon have two full-time chefs for the training table – are part of a plan to put WSU on par with the elite foodie athletic departments.
By revamping the way WSU plans diets for its athletes, Moos hopes to give WSU a competitive edge. But he’s also giving his coaches a competitive edge, providing them with one more recruiting tool.
Prospective student athletes often meet with Brown, who explains how the education they receive extends outside the classroom, and into the kitchen.
“One thing he really emphasized was not just utilizing nutrition here while you’re an athlete but learning how to use it throughout your life,” Brown said. “We’re not just impacting one person, my goal is to impact their families and the people they will be around during their lifetime.”