So I’ve been meaning to write this blog since 2 weeks after the internship had started. I have been crazy busy though, so that did not happen.. and well, I guess now I can write about the full experience as a whole.
I cannot say enough how great this experience was for me and how blessed I am that God gave me this opportunity. My dad flew in Friday and on Saturday my dad, Matt, and I moved everything out of my apartment, had breakfast, and then we left.
I can now say that I am so happy to be home. However, on Saturday, while I was so excited to see my family and friends in WV, half of my heart was still in Oklahoma. Tulsa, Oklahoma was the first place I was truly on my own 14.5 hours away from home and not knowing a single person when I moved here. It’s a place where I fell in love with sports nutrition and God solidified with me that this is what I am supposed to be doing for His glory.. I have been called to Sports Dietetics. However, the most unexpected thing that happened when I was in Tulsa was that I fell in love. Going home was very bittersweet for me.
So what did I do 12 hours a day during my sports nutrition internship? During my time at TU we were on 3 different schedules.
The first schedule was the summer training and conditioning schedule. During this schedule my roommate LaReine and I would roll out of bed at 4:00 A.M., get dressed, throw our hair in a bun, throw down breakfast and get to TU at 5:00 A.M.
LaReine left 2.5 weeks after I got to Tulsa. She had already been at TU for a month and she showed me the swing of things before she left and we watched way too many Friends episodes.
LaReine, Matt, and I would set up breakfast for the football team before heading out to go to the warm out on the field where we met up with the Sports RD Annie to hydrate the players.
Set up included cereals, oatmeal, waffles, bagels, fresh fruit, granola bars, yogurt, etc. All of these were available to make a balanced breakfast for the players. Especially if a few of the players did not like what was catered a balanced breakfast of carbs and protein (and fruit!) could still be made with these options. Plus these football players eat A LOT.. I’m talking some need 4,000 calories A LOT. After that the football team would have a lift in the weight room and one of us would go grab the breakfast from where Annie catered it from that morning.
We also made 1,000 PB&J’s and cut up fresh fruit on the regular. If anyone asks how Matt and I got together we always say we fell in love over making PB&J’s – How many people can say that?
Some other regular duties were..
- Making protein shakes after other team’s workouts
- Doing recovery after the football players lift (a supplement that replenishes both carbohydrate and protein)
- Dring the day when we had down time we had time to work out and use the awesome facility at TU. I learned a lot about lifting from LaReine and Matt while I was at TU.
- Sam’s Club trips (People always asked why we were buying so much food.. every single time)
- Taking snacks to the locker room
I feel like there should be some type of disclaimer when you do a sports nutrition internship at a smaller school.. You must know how to balance multiple objects on carts and dollies.
Matt and I joked that the internship would make a great video game.
Football camp started which was a completely different schedule. Football camp is exhausting for everyone that is involved, not only the athletes. Football camp is when 2-a-days start and weighing at breakfast and dinner to make sure that the players are eating enough and staying hydrated and not dropping weight like crazy. It is HOT in Oklahoma and thanks to football camp I had a nice tan when I returned to WV. During half time breaks of practice snacks were offered to the players such as fruit snacks, fruit cups, and fresh fruit. You may think- fruit snacks – that’s not “healthy.” Sports dietetics is a completely different ball game. Throw out the norm and definitely throw out that 0.8 grams protein per kg. These snacks are used because they provide a quick release of carbohydrate for energy.
I laugh because some people do not realize that Sports RD’s have to attend the practices of the teams that they work closely with. How else are they going to help the athletes? Their practices are typically when they do not feel like eating and drinking.. The sports RD is there saying here you NEED to drink/eat this. Something else provided during the practice is what is called “Salt” which is Gatorade with salt and potassium chloride. This replenishes them with what is lost threw their sweat.
During football camp at first the meals are done at the dining hall which Annie coordinated the meals for the dining hall so that they provided plenty of good options for the football team. The rest of the meals Annie has catered. I did not realize how Sports Dietetics was so similar to food service because you are provided with a budget and have to serve a certain number of people while still providing a nutrient dense meal that the players will actually like.
I also got to sit in on a few one-on-ones and throw in my two cents.
Coaches can mandate their athletes to meet with the Sports RD if they have gained too much weight and it is effecting their performance, for example. However athletes can also schedule appointments with her on their own just for learning more about nutrition in general, or weight gain/weight loss.
She normally covers protein, carb, fruit/veggie – basics of sports nutrition.. However, if the athlete has had experience with a meal plan before she may ask more broad questions.
For example, one athlete had a trainer do a meal plan/workout plan prior to coming to TU. However, the athlete had gained weight after coming to TU and was seeking Annie’s guidance.
She used the plate method 3 larger meals with 3 snacks.. focusing on snacks filled with protein for weight loss. One thing that she emphasized was including carbohydrate at meals. The athlete was a football player and the diet that the trainer had him on did not include carbohydrates. She explained to him that this was okay for the certain time period because the trainer was doing it for weight loss. However, the player would not be able to sustain the lifts and practices there at TU without carbohydrates.
The third schedule was my last week at TU when school had started back up. I will say that I have a new appreciation for college athletes because the football team had lift that morning, went to class, then had practice, and some even had class after practice. I do not know if I could do that. This is one of the reasons why the role of the Sports RD is so important. Athletes skipping meals could lead to weight loss and a decrease in their performance. Some of the athletes do not have breaks in their schedule. The weight room was always was stocked with fruit, pb&j’s and the option of a protein shake. For those who had class after practice we made sure that they were provided with a muscle milk, pb&j, something to take with them. No this is not ideal but sometimes life is not ideal and something is better than nothing!
This experience taught me so much about sports nutrition. Yes I was tired every day but I loved every second of it. This experience caused me to be a much more confident person. At TU, 90% of the football players were the nicest people. However, there was the 10% that were not the nicest. There was an incident that occurred and Annie was proud of the way that I handled it. I am thankful for all of Annie’s constructive criticism and advice. I know that sometimes my downfall is that I’m too sweet and need to be more firm. Working with athletes is different than working with any other population in Dietetics. Through this experience I learned how to better communicate with them and to be more sure of myself and my abilities.
TU had the nicest coaches, strength staff and of course Sports RD (Hi Annie!). I truly miss everyone there.
So what is next?! While my dream job is to be a sports dietitian one day, that time may not be now. I am thankful to be back in WV with my family and friends and hope to find a job here for now. Praying and trusting in God’s plan for my life one step at a time..
Master’s Degree accomplished..
Special thanks to the Coffee House on Cherry Street for fueling my studying with iced latte’s and gluten-free cookies.
.. now for the RD exam!
Interested in Sports Dietetics? I would be happy to talk to you more in detail about my experience. 🙂