“Food for Thought” For Student Athletes

A virtual course designed to fuel student-athletes with knowledge on nutrition and mental health.

Funded by the NCAA “Innovations in Research Grant”, served at Tennessee Tech University (NCAA D-1), and developed by Anthony Paradis, MA, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS.

A full toolkit of resources for sports nutrition and mental wellness

Evaluation methods included to measure your impact

Video links on important topics

Integrated into a smart phone app for easy access for athletes

Background. Through an examination of college campuses nationwide, researchers have discovered that nutrition habits and food security are closely correlated to grade point average (Paul, Panton, & Marzigliano, 2008; Trockel, Barnes, & Egget, 2000), academic progress (Gallegos, Ramsey & Ong, 2014), and self-reported health condition (Patton-López, López-Cevallos, Cancel-Tirado, & Vazquez 2014). NCAA student-athletes may be at a higher risk from food insecurity due to the strenuous physical demands placed on their bodies and the need for more nutrients to sustain those demands (Thomas, Burke, & Erdman, 2016).

Along a similar vein, it has been well established by historic research that student-athletes experience stressors—such as demands on their time, pressures to perform, injuries, and physical exhaustion that might result in burnout—beyond those experienced by a typical college student (Sudano, Collins, & Miles, 2017). If these stressors are not managed in a healthy way, they could lead to instances of anxiety, depression, and even suicide (Armstrong, Burcin, Bjerke, & Early, 2015).

Aligned with NCAA’s Best Mental Health Practices, and to optimize our student-athletes’ performance, recovery, and holistic wellbeing, this “Food for Thought” program takes an integrated and intentional approach that includes training coupled with ongoing support for smart nutritional and mental health practices.

Video intro explaining the program to our athletes- you may want to make one for yours

We used a client management software built for dietitians called Healthie. It is an app, scheduler, messenger, dashboard, and has a feature called “programs” that allows you to drip information (slides, videos, handouts) to your athletes. The link is here: https://www.gethealthie.com/ if you want to check it out! Also– we were able to launch our pilot test of this course on our university’s course platform, “i-Learn” so please note that this program can be implemented on a variety of formats. Choose what makes the best sense for your situation and teams.

Toolkit– Resources to implement this course into your own athletics’ program.

Click here to get access to the course inside the Healthie app. See it from the eyes of the athletes and access/download all content within.

Module 1: Overview of Nutrition

Video- USDA Myplate overview

Module 2: Body Composition

Video- Body Composition

Module 3: Eating Disorders

Video- Eating Disorders

Module 4: Mindfulness and Coping with Stress

Video- Mindfulness and Coping with Stress

Module 5: Nutrition Supplements

Video- Nutrition Supplements

Module 6: Meal Planning and Budget

Video- Meal Planning and Budget

Module 7: Mental Health: Anxiety and Depression

Video- Mental Health: Anxiety and Depression

Module 8: Mental Health: Sleep

Video: Mental Health: Sleep

Module 9: Post-Grad Life Strategies

Video- Post- Grad Life Strategies

Module 10: Summary

Additional Tools for Sports Nutrition

Need more resources? I’ve created an entire model and toolkit for sports dietitians and directors who want to plan, implement, and evaluate a full sports nutrition program for their university or team which includes assessments, reports, handouts, and other useful tools for getting started and keeping up.

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