MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–With football season in full swing, nutrition is an important aspect of the game that is often overlooked.
For West Virginia, it is something that the Mountaineers are focusing on a little more this season.
“We hired (Director of Sports Nutrition) Taylor (Lile); she’s our new sports nutrition lady,” WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said on Thursday afternoon. “She’s doing a heck of a job, she’s in the back all the time, she sits in my meetings, she’s at practice. Twenty-four seven, she’s in charge of the food we feed our kids. The new training table in the back is just spectacular. It’s a multi-million-dollar deal, and they did a heck of a job on it. She’s in charge of the menus and everything, and she claims that she picks out fruit better than anybody. I can’t disagree with her; she’s doing a heck of a job.”
This season the Mountaineers have a newly renovated training table area that the players are enjoying. So with the expertise of Lile, the football team feeds the entire team four meals a day to make sure their bodies can keep up with the workload.
This wasn’t always the case.
“We’ve come a long way – we used to not be able to feed them,” Holgorsen said. “Now, we can feed them whatever we want. It’s a big commitment – and this is all NCAA driven, obviously – but it’s a big commitment from our administration. It’s expensive when you’re feeding 120 growing men. It’s been great.”
If the players are doing well from a nutritional standpoint, the coaches get better performances out of them.
“The end game is you want that food to go in their system,” Holgorsen added. “Eating and sleeping are the keys to recovering and getting back on the field as healthy as you can possibly get.”
Controlling what the athletes eat all season is inevitable. However, allowing them to have four meals a day during camp, helps limit the unhealthy foods they eat.
“When you get into the routine of us giving them one meal a day, then what are you going to do?” Holgorsen said. “They’re going to go do that. We try to educate them to the point of what’s good and what’s bad. I remember days of when kids would fall out at practice. I’d be like, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ They’re like, ‘I’m starving.’ They’d rush from class, and they’d get over here and go into meetings, then go outside and practice, and they’d fall out because there’s nothing in their system. We really couldn’t give them snacks and stuff, it’s ridiculous. We’re asking them to go out there for three hours and sweat and run and all that stuff, and they don’t have fuel in their body.”
During the season, the strength staff tries to help limit fatigue by providing snacks.
“(Assistant Athletic Director for Strength and Conditioning) Mike (Joseph) has a snack for them every day before a meeting,” Holgorsen said. “There’s never that excuse ever again. We have protein shakes, we have all the snacks down there, and we feed them sandwiches. That’s not going to happen. But you’re never going to prevent those kids from eating a late-night McDonalds or pizza or something like that. It’s better than nothing. We can’t give them three meals a day year ’round.”
Even though Holgorsen and his staff cannot tell how the nutritional aspect affects the game, it doesn’t appear to be hurting it.
“I don’t know how you can measure it,” he said. “It’s just one of those things where, if it’s working and there are no issues, then it’s thumbs up. Mike (Joseph) weighs them in and out like twice a day. So, if a guy is dropping weight, then we’re going to catch it pretty quickly. What’s the number one reason why they drop weight? It’s the intake. We measure how much energy they are exerting with the GPS’s and how much they are running. We can measure if they are working hard, or if they aren’t working hard. The science on the GPS aspect of it is unbelievable.”
If there appears to be a problem with the football players losing weight, Lile attempts to nix it right away.
“If they are dropping weight, then that means the intake isn’t what it needs to be,” Holgorsen said. “We catch it, and we make them drink four Gatorades, or whatever, and we take them into the dining hall, and one of the strength coaches will sit with them or Taylor (Lile) will sit with them and say, ‘Eat this’, and you aren’t moving until you eat it. It’s like growing up as a kid, and you don’t eat your peas, then you have to sit there until you eat your peas.”
Photo Credit: Shanna Rose, BGS