In Focus: Eating Right
Nutrition Center to Provide Valuable Benefits for Student-Athletes
Part of the athletic department’s mission is to provide student-athletes with “the resources necessary to pursue championships, to graduate and to become productive citizens.”
LSU coaches and staff noticed a trend in college athletics that will help the department continue to carry out that mission – a nutrition center.
“We want to be able to give our student-athletes the opportunity to be successful in every facet while they are here – from academics all the way down to eating right,” said Eddie Nunez, senior associate athletic director for internal affairs and development.
For a while, the department spent time investigating the need of a nutrition center. The idea became a reality over the past seven months. The department took input from the department’s nutritionist, LSU campus dining coordinators and surveys from the student-athletes.
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Student-athletes already learn nutrition methods from Jamie Meeks, coordinator for sports nutrition for LSU athletics. Meeks teaches them how to properly fuel their body and meet their personal nutritional needs. Nunez said with the nutrition center in place, students would finally be able put that knowledge into practice.
“Instead of buying fast food at the end of the night, during lunch or between classes – student-athletes can get themselves something that will be better for them and give them the opportunity to replenish what they’ve lost in practice or weightlifting,” Nunez said.
Meeks said sports nutrition has grown tremendously over the past few years, and it has a positive effect on performance. She said student-athletes require a much higher amount of food and fluids due to the stress associated with their training and competition added to their academic load.
Meeks said student-athletes come into college with a small amount of nutritional knowledge. That lack of knowledge partnered with the change in lifestyle makes a nutrition center necessary.
“Many of these student-athletes arrive to college … with several misconceptions concerning diet and athletics,” Meeks said. “In addition, the lifestyle of a college athlete creates many challenges in meeting the nutritional demands their body requires.”
The nutrition center will have a chef who prepares balanced meals and will show students what to eat and also why they should eat certain foods.
Meeks said because college athletes’ nutrition needs are so unique, the nutrition center will have a qualified chef who understands the athletes’ lifestyle and the physical and mental stresses they face on a daily basis. The chef would be able to tailor the meal to the student-athletes to properly replenish them.
Meeks will work closely with the chef to create the best meals for athletes to compete and recover effectively. Students will not only be fed balanced meals, but there will be hands-on food and cooking demonstrations.
“This will give the student-athletes a chance to learn and practice different food preparation methods that they can utilize in their apartments and even after they graduate from LSU,” Meeks said.
Any student would be able to eat in the center, but student-athletes would have the opportunity to privately eat one meal a day, per NCAA rules.
Nunez said the department hopes the nutrition center, which is currently in the fundraising segment of the project, will be built within the next year if enough revenue is generated.
Former LSU defensive back and current NFL star Corey Webster donated $200,000 to the nutrition center in October. The amount of Webster’s donation is unheard of in college athletics, and it also increased awareness of the center around the community and country.
“We’re thankful for Corey, his foundation and what he was able to do,” Nunez said. “We look forward, hopefully, to other former student-athletes stepping up and following in his footsteps. If [others donate], this facility will be what LSU expects – the best facility in the country.”
The likely location for the center is behind the football operations building on the corner of Skip Bertman Drive and Nicholson Drive.
“As LSU Athletics’ registered dietitian, I truly believe that the nutrition center will be one of the most functional and beneficial facilities available to our LSU student-athletes,” Meeks said.