UH taking steps forward with sports nutrition
The University has invested time and money into things like building the Fertitta Center and signing new coaches, but the school has also made additions to its lesser-known support staff.
One of those additions is Performance Nutritionist Dwight Allison, who has helped to ensure the student athletes of UH and their bodies are well-prepared for the demands of competition.
Twenty-five years ago, sports nutrition was almost nonexistent, Allison said. Until just a few years ago, a collegiate athletic program having dietitians and an organized system of sports nutritionists was a rare sight.
“Our catchphrase is nutrient timing,” Allison said. “We’re trying to get certain nutrients in their body at specific times.”
This nutrient timing is crucial to an athlete’s well-being, Allison said. Allison ensures that every athlete is consuming his team’s prescribed diet. These foods range from a simple granola bar to a full meal loaded with high antioxidant foods, complex carbohydrates and fruits.
Allison and his team of three dietitians have precise plans for each athlete for both offseason and active times.
The four-person team develops personalized routines for each athlete depending on the time of year and personal goals. Some things, however, stay the same for every player.
“We’re trying to incorporate any kinds of good quality, lower fat sources. That’s a key component,” Allison said. That means athletes may eat a lot of chicken, fish and eggs.
Allison has always been involved in sports. The Lubbock native attended Texas Tech, where he was a sprinter for the university’s track team. He graduated with a degree in nutritional sciences and added a master’s degree shortly after in the same program. He has been working in sports nutrition since 2000.
Allison is also a certified specialist in sports dietetics. Prior to joining the Cougar athletic program, he spent two years at Notre Dame in the same position.
Thanks to the program’s support and his experience, UH has a phenomenal nutrition program for its student athletes, including partnerships with HEB and Luby’s, Allison said.
Healthy and appropriate eating for student athletes can always be improved, Allison said. One way is by having alumni donate to help fund the program. That is where student athlete outreach to donors comes in.
“That’s why having a strong alumni base and support base and that stuff is hugely important. More people are willing to support us because success leads to more success,” Allison said.
One of the biggest challenges for Allison and his team is the transition of new athletes to the UH program because he has to “plate coach” them.
Changing from a lifestyle of hamburgers, french fries, chicken nuggets and soda to the important lean meats, vegetables and other crucial foods for athletes is the biggest step, Allison said.
Allison has all his athletes build their plate and bring it to him or one of his assistants. The professionals then evaluate the contents and determine a grade for how well the plate contains the imperative foods for success.
With this process, Allison hopes to bring the best out of the student athletes and keep them in shape year round.