Ole Miss Sports Nutrition Fueling Student-Athletes For Success
Oxford, MS—Before the Ole Miss football team boarded the bus to Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Frank Newell and his graduate assistances were up at dawn preparing more than a hundred peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the Rebels.
“We want our team to have the opportunity to have something to eat at all times, so they’re not hitting a brick wall in the 3rd quarter,” said Newell, sports nutritionist for the Health & Sports Performance Center at the University of Mississippi. After a laugh, Newell said, “Yeah, we tend to make a lot of sandwiches before a game.”
Created in 2013, the Health & Sports Performance Center helps student-athletes achieve optimal performance using the best practices in sport and health. The Center focuses on a number of areas such as sports medicine, strength and conditioning, and physical therapy.
Another important element to the Center is its attention to sport nutrition.
“We are focused on creating an environment that engages the student-athlete,” said Dr. Melinda Valliant, co-director of the Health & Sports Performance Center and associate professor of nutrition & hospitality management. “We make sure whole foods are available for our athletes, as well as educating them on diet. Their knowledge on nutrition is essential to speed, recovery, and health maintenance. Rebels must eat to compete.”
To help with nutrition, the athletics department has five fueling stations (also known as Grab-n-Go’s) located throughout its facilities. The stations are packed with fruits, nuts, and liquids for the athletes to take advantage of. There is also the Grill at 1810 located in the Manning Center where Newell helps guide the menu.
“In terms of football, we like to give them victory meals on Mondays. These meals are heavier than usual, more comforting. Fried catfish, hush puppies, that kind of stuff. But there has to be a balance,” Newell said. “Deeper in the week and closer to the game, we begin tailoring the Grill’s menu for performance. Higher carbs and leaner protein sources like pasta or grilled chicken.”
In 2007, Ole Miss Athletics began contracting with the nutrition and hospitality management department to provide nutrition services to athletes. In 2013, the Health & Sports Performance Center was officially approved by the IHL. Now, the Health & Sports Performance Center employs two registered dietitians, as well as a number of graduate assistants to ensure student-athletes are on a proper diet of protein, carbohydrates, calories, and liquids for hydration.
“From the coaching staff to the athletes, we hope we’re changing everyone’s mindset on the importance of nutritious food and how we can use it to play better and harder,” Valliant said.
With the continued success of athletics at University of Mississippi, the Sports Nutrition team hopes to keep growing and educating its student-athletes on the importance of a healthy diet.
“During the week, it’s the coaches’ job to take the energy out of our athletes,” said Newell. “But it’s our job to put it back in.”