Nutrition plays vital role in the lives of student athletes

“Why would you ingest chemicals that do not aid in strengthening your body physically, mentally, or spiritually? For mouth pleasure?” said Derek Knotts, a full-time assistant athletic trainer at Seton Hill University (SHU) when talking about nutrition. Knotts is employed by Excela Health, but works exclusively with SHU student athletes.

Knotts is an expert in his field, having graduated with a bachelor of science degree in athletic training from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, and went on to receive a master of science degree in athletic training from West Virginia University.

A Gatorade protein shake that is provided to student athletes after a workout in SHU's athletic training facilities. Specific sports teams at SHU are participating in the Gatorade agreement, which provides electrolyte replenishment products. Photo courtesy by Emily Gilles

A Gatorade protein shake that is provided to student athletes after a workout in SHU’s athletic training facilities. Specific sports teams at SHU are participating in the Gatorade agreement, which provides electrolyte replenishment products. Photo courtesy by Emily Gilles

“My background is specific to nutrition it involves General Nutrition and Advanced Nutrition specific to athletes in undergrad,” said Knotts. “I also have a constant desire to learn about the area through sources I follow in the athletic training, physician, and fitness fields.”

“It is very important for athletes to hydrate and eat well,” said Knotts, who also works with athletes to hydrate on a daily basis. “Arguably it is the most important aspect of being an athlete, and it is crazy that it isn’t discussed more by professionals in the medical field.”

“With my condition, hydration is even more important,” said Abby Malsch, a senior student athlete who has a rare medical condition called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS. “While regular athletes can get away with being slightly dehydrated and just feeling physically a little down, it’s vital for me to keep hydrated in order to be able to keep from passing out,” said Malsch.

“A lot of athletes take it for granted how easily it is to blow off diet and hydration, but I don’t really have that option,” said Malsch. “I think POTS really just puts things in perspective in terms of how important it is to always drink water, whether you’re thirsty or not.”

SHU athletics has an agreement with Gatorade where they give the school free products based on the amount of supplies SHU buys from them.

“Future benefits from that simply means more free product,” said Knotts, who helps in the supply process. “Such has recovery shakes, pre-workout, energy chews, energy bars, coolers, towels and so on.”

“As of now, we aren’t invested in the Gatorade deal,” said Rick Hall, Head Coach of volleyball for the Griffins. “I receive a budget for the team travel that includes all aspects of the team travel. I can disseminate the money however it is needed. That is where the money comes from for our team to eat, and things like the Gatorade agreement.”

With all these supplement products, it is vital that they remain legal under the National Collegiate Athletic Association laws.

“Gatorade makes a safe and effective shake which is legal under the NCAA Drug Policy,” said Knotts.

All Gatorade products are provided to SHU with a partial sponsorship if products are purchased. The Gatorade agreement is just one way that SHU has moved forward in athletics in providing athlete nutrition and hydration. Photo courtesy by Emily Gilles

All Gatorade products are provided to SHU with a partial sponsorship if products are purchased. The Gatorade agreement is just one way that SHU has moved forward in athletics in providing athlete nutrition and hydration. Photo courtesy by Emily Gilles

Senior defensive specialist for the Lady Griffins, Lauren Teed said, “I personally love the Gatorade line of products, because I know if I slack in hydration it won’t be the end of the world.”

“They’re sometimes a little too sugary for me, so I usually water them down for games, but overall I think that they really fuel college athletes,” said Teed who received PSAC West Defensive Athlete of the Year for the second time in her career.

“It’s so hard to keep drinking, when all you do is drink water all day,” said Caylene McKinney, a junior volleyball outside hitter majoring in exercise science with a concentration in health and fitness. “You shouldn’t drink pop or coffee and include that in your liquid consumption because those dehydrate you, but it’s so hard to force so much water when you’re constantly sweating it out.”

McKinney added that cramping up is an uncomfortable side effect whenever you lack the proper amount of fluids in your body.

“Breaks for water are absolutely important,” said Hall, who gives an average of four water breaks per each two hour practice.
“Hydration is a very important part of training, production, and assisting with stamina.”

“The easiest way that I get water outside of practice is by carrying around a water bottle,” said Malsch, as she showed me her Britta water bottle. “If you have it constantly at your side, you don’t really think about drinking it, you just do it. It’s easy to make it a habit, and it’s a good habit to have.”

Keeping hydrated is not only all about drinking water, however.

“It is important to hydrate well because your body is composed mostly of water, and as athletes perform they sweat out this water,” said Knotts, as he held up a package of electrolyte pills for the athletes. “Athletes also sweat out electrolytes, which help to store water. This is why it is important not only to re-hydrate with water, but also electrolytes either in food or drink form.”

The women's volleyball team celebrates a good game as well as good hydration. Photo courtesy by D.Clark/Setonian

The women’s volleyball team celebrates a good game as well as good hydration. Photo courtesy by D.Clark/Setonian

Knotts also recommended for athletes to eat healthy foods that are naturally higher in water content. This can consist of fruits such as watermelon, oranges, and even grapes. By doing so, your body will not only satisfy its hunger but also quench its thirst.

As for the women’s volleyball team they can expect pre and post meals or snacks to be implemented into the program when they are practicing and playing games.

“After my research I believe that pre and post meals may assist in the athlete’s production and stamina,” said Hall, who takes the health of his athletes very seriously. “Hydration is always important, especially when the athletes are playing and practicing outside in the heat or inside without air conditioning.”

“It is very difficult though for collegiate athletes to receive proper nutrition. Often, the food and drink products that are known to be best for sustained fuel during activity and post-workout recovery are expensive,” said Knotts. “Athletes just need to be educated accurately on how to ball on a budget.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *