ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. – Notre Dame’s sports nutrition program is led by former college football player and training leader Alexa Appleman, who has worked with programs at the University of South Carolina and Ole Miss.
Appleman passed on to the Irish his love of food, sports and science.
“I loved the food so much,” Appleman said. “It’s such a language that everyone speaks.”
The program is broken down into five components, including meal coordination, nutrition for health, performance and return to play.
Allison: “If someone has an ACL injury that they are coming back from, what would be different about their diet or their routine than if they were healthy? »
Appleman: “As it’s a longer recovery process, you know, looking at those 9 to 12 months of not playing football, and slowly progressing to the process of being fully activated on the field. Unfortunately, when you don’t use your muscles as much, we start to atrophy and lose some of that mass. So we work with them on strategies to maintain that lean mass, rebuild it, and build it back healthy.
It’s a collaborative effort.
Appleman and his team meet regularly with the head of sports psychology, athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coach, team doctor and head coach Marcus Freeman to develop individual plans for each player .
“I think his biggest thing is just his ability to understand what we need and that everyone is different in some way,” quarterback Sam Hartman said. “You can get lost sometimes and 140 guys have done it, that’s what we eat and that’s what we do. She is just great at being flexible and understanding that every man has his own nutritional values and nutritional needs.
Each position group has different needs: Wide receivers consume an average of 3,500 to 4,500 calories per day, while linemen consume an average of 5,500 to 6,500 calories per day. Defensive tackle Howard Cross gained eight pounds of muscle in the program.
“I had a weight gain problem where I just couldn’t gain weight for reasons I don’t really know yet, but I finally figured out how to gain weight. And it was really simple,” Cross said. “It was like chocolate milk, or something stupid like that. But that only came from the simple fact that I talked to him and said, “Okay, maybe you should try this, this thing worked, maybe you should try this.” »
The 5th and final part of the nutritional plan: life skills.
Appleman and his team teach players how to plan and prepare their own meals and the response has been great.
“They were completely shocked,” Appleman said. “They were like, ‘Oh, my God, we can learn to cook.’ Like, “We didn’t know you could teach us how to do that.” And the guys love it. Just enter the kitchen and be with your teammates, competing with your teammates to see who can cook the best fish, the best chicken or the best side dishes.