August 9, 2012
A look at Sports Nutrition
Football Camp: Behind The Scenes

Throughout preseason football camp, Assistant Director of Athletics Communications Rachel Perreault will take you on a behind-the-scenes look at different aspects of the football program that go beyond the practice field. In today’s second installment, she checks in with the Sports Nutrition staff.

Football camp is a busy time for the Sports Nutrition office. With over 170 mouths to feed, most of which weigh over 170 pounds, the football team is just one of four teams head nutritionist Jenny Schafer and her staff are taking care of this time of year. Also working to keep both soccer teams and the volleyball team healthy and hydrated, the sports nutrition staff is responsible for all three meals and every snack in between during these grueling, hot camp days.

It’s no easy task to keep this many male student-athletes happily fed and that’s why this menu is planned out and coordinated beginning in July. Schafer says she takes two to three weeks in the middle of the summer to put together a daily menu that provides healthy options for weight gain, weight loss and recovery, all while trying to keep spirits high.

Open to compliments and criticism, Schafer makes sure she can always be found at every meal to be in the know about likes and dislikes, while also building a relationship with the athletes so she doesn’t have to rely only on the leftovers to know that things like red meat and ice cream are fan favorites, but options like turkey bacon can really ruin a lot of mornings.

These long days aren’t only applicable to the players and coaching staff. Once camp arrives, the nutrition staff reports early in the morning, beginning the day at 6:30 a.m. to make sure the catered breakfast is ready to go for 7 a.m. Schafer aims to get the players’ energy up and get some good, but light, calories in them to start the day. Always mixing things up, pancakes, French toast, breakfast burritos, sausage and oatmeal are just a few of the options players can expect throughout the week.

Lunch is served from noon until 1 p.m. Rolling through at different times, players can pick up a boxed lunch that varies from barbeque to sub sandwiches to meals from Bull & Bones Brewhaus & Grill, just outside the locker room. Schafer and her staff are on hand during the handout, though, to make sure no one starts collecting lunches. Even during their midday meal, Schafer makes sure there are meals to assist in weight gain, while also providing lighter options, and she always includes the nutrition facts to assist the athletes in their selection process.

Snack buckets are located in each meeting room, and they are filled with salty snacks like pretzels, beef jerky and trail mix. Various energy bars are also included, as the nutrition staff aims to make the athletes thirsty to assure they are hydrating before hitting the field.

Dinner serves as a recovery meal for the players after practice. The objective is to get fluids back in them, while also providing them with a good meal. Schafer says this meal is ever-changing, as she is always trying to keep the options different to avoid making this daunting and unwanted.

The players head back into meetings after dinner and before they call it a night, the nutrition staff offers a midnight snack, though to most people, it’s more of a fourth meal. Even though this is another boxed lunch-type option, Schafer aims to get away from the typical cookie and chips side and offers things like chocolate milk, apple sauce and fresh fruit to go along with their sandwiches. Once the last meeting is let out, Schafer and her staff can head home around 10:30 p.m. and get some rest before going through the same thing the next day.

Luckily for the sports nutrition staff, camp is only three weeks long, and this isn’t how they have to go through the entire year. On a typical day, their schedule is much more low key, meeting with athletes to design a nutrition plan, managing the Nutrition Oasis, where all athletes can go to get things like recovery drinks, bagels and fresh fruit, and helping the teams plan out healthy meal choices for travel are all in a day’s work.

For updates on Virginia Tech football, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Football).

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