Nutrition and health is a hot topic nowadays. For student-athletes, properly fueling themselves is vital because it plays a role in how they perform. University of Utah track and field member Mesa Weidle is delving into this topic.
Weidle is a kinesiology teaching major and she is minoring in nutrition. She has always been passionate about health-related issues, and it’s part of the reason why she choose to pursue nutrition as a minor.
“I’ve always wondered what the best options are to eat,” Weidle said. “So it helps me and then eventually [I’ll] help other people.”
Even though her teammates do not directly go to her for information about everything they should or should not be eating, they do often talk about recipes. She said that it can be hard as student-athletes to try and figure out what they should make to eat.
Track and field head coach Kyle Kepler believes the way the NCAA has changed its views and approaches to student-athletes’ dietary needs has helped the way athletes look at their own nutrition.
“As little as four or five years ago we couldn’t, wouldn’t, give them peanut butter for their bagel. We could give them the bagel, but not the spread [because] that was extra, that was too much,” Kepler said. “We have these fueling stations and they have changed the rules around [so] that we can give them as much extra food as we want.”
Weidle has learned what foods help her more than others and that her personal diet needs to incorporate more fruits and vegetables. That being said, she also knows her diet won’t ever be perfect. According to Weidle, it is nearly impossible to have a perfect diet because if something has both iron and calcium in it, the calcium can block the iron.
Kepler believes that issues arise only when a person doesn’t use available information in the right ways.
“If you try and go overboard with too much of anything — fad diets are an example of that where they are all protein and no fat or no carbs — that’s not good for the body,” Kepler said. “Balance is the key to everything. I think as long as the kids who have a nutrition minor are excited to learn more about it and want to apply it to their situation, I think it’s much more helpful than harmful.”
While Kepler knows that nutrition is a key part to any athlete’s health, he said it’s especially important for runners.
“In track, athletes, regardless of their event really, put their bodies through a lot. You get small muscle tears and fiber tears with each practice,” Kepler said. “The idea is to get them back, realigned and get them back to 100 percent by the time you go hard the next practice.”
Kepler sees Weidles’s nutrition minor as a benefit. He looks at nutrition as an evolving topic that can continue to grow as others study and learn about it.
“I think it’s one of those things that for a long time [was] … basic,” Kepler said. “Now it has taken a turn. It’s definitely much more than that. I think the power of knowledge can only help these athletes perform better and have a higher quality of life.”