LARAMIE – Shae Carson was quick to point it out.
Carson, the first-year nutritionist for the University of Wyoming football team, saw true freshman offensive lineman Carlos Harrison walk to his table after getting lunch at UW’s training table inside the High Altitude Performance Center.
Carson told Harrison he needed more than one scoop of pasta on his plate.
That’s one of Carson’s many duties as the nutritionist for more than 100 football players. That’s a lot of people to track, but last year she was UW’s nutritionist for every sport other than football, which consisted of around 300 student-athletes.
“What aren’t my responsibilities?” Carson said with a laugh. “It really is amazing the support we’re able to provide for the athletes, and I feel like I kind of have my hands everywhere I possibly can.”
Some of her other job duties include:
n Being at every game and practice to provide pre- and post-game snacks and drinks to players to make sure they have the proper fuel in their bodies. She also does that at halftime of games. Carson said attending practice allows her to understand the physical demands of the sport, and to understand each athlete.
n Ordering team meals and snacks on the road.
n Conducting one-on-one meetings with players, which can include issues that vary from fueling to weight loss/gain and, heading into today’s game at Texas State, hydration, as temperatures at game time are expected to be around 100 degrees with 50% humidity.
n Body composition testing. “How their muscle mass changes throughout the season and their careers,” Carson said. “Making sure they stay healthy and the hard work they’re doing results in end points that we want them to reach.” Carson also said the body composition numbers are analyzed when the players are with the strength and conditioning staff, as well as on the field.
n Talking to recruits for about 30 minutes to describe what she does, and the emphasis UW places on nutrition.
“It is more than making sure they are eating what they need to eat, but why,” Carson said. “You cannot outwork a bad diet.”
Everyone is different
The rules of good nutrition may be universal for most, but when dealing with student-athletes, and, in particular, football players, the needs are often different.
For instance, UW junior defensive end Garrett Crall is listed at 6-foot-5 and 242 pounds. Crall works hard on the field, but also in terms of nutrition to maintain and, ultimately, put on good weight.
“During fall camp, he would spend Sunday afternoons between brunch and dinner meal prepping his supplemental meals for when he was not here,” Carson said. “He’s an example of a high-calorie guy to maintain his weight. He’s really bought in to nutrition, and is trying to get the other defensive ends to join him.”
Senior kicker Cooper Rothe doesn’t tax his body like most other players. Where Crall may consume more high-calorie carbohydrates to have enough energy to practice and play, Rothe eats more fruits and vegetables.
“A lot of times people think you always want to have more muscle and less body fat,” she said. “A lot of times you do, but definitely not always. Some athletes get fatter and get better. My job is to help them interpret the numbers and help us set realistic goals.”
Senior Cassh Maluia is a 6-foot, 248-pound outside linebacker who has dealt with thumb and elbow injuries the last two seasons that required surgery. Maluia said during fall camp this year is the best he’s felt physically since he arrived at UW in 2016.
A big factor in that has been nutrition.
“I’m eating a lot better than when I first got here,” he said. “I’m eating more greens. That has made a big difference for me.”
Carson said the buy-in on nutrition from veteran players has been vital to the entire team embracing it.
“I think building a culture of nutrition is important from Day 1,” she said. “I definitely look to the older guys to set that example. I get a lot of questions from the freshmen because they’ve not known any other way in the time they’ve been here.
“Moving forward, this year’s freshmen will become nutrition-focused sophomores, and then we keep building from class to class.”
Another way Carson is building that culture is to be seen and interact with the players, whether it be at practice, games or at the training table, making sure they are eating the right things.
“It is so important to build their trust, and being a source of support,” she said. “It makes it easier for them to ask me questions.”
The HAPC is only in its second full year of operation, and although the early results from everything – weight room, sports medicine, food and nutrition – are a big hit, the fruits of those labors won’t pay off all at once or right away.
“It is counterproductive to lift weights if you’re not eating the right things,” sixth-year coach Craig Bohl said. “It is counterproductive to have a multi-million-dollar training table if you don’t have the right items and educate the players about what to eat.
“The nutritional aspect of what we’re doing here is huge. This is a precursor of where we’re going.”
This year, Carson is involved with the head chef of the training table in creating menus. Carson came to UW from the University of Kentucky, and said a lot of schools often don’t have that kind of interaction between the nutritionist and food staff.
“At other training tables, you just go there for food. It is a lot more than that to me,” Carson said.
Carson said she has a “revolving list” of things she wants to continue to build at UW. One is a social media strategy to help educate athletes about nutrition.
“I’m really proud of a lot of things we’ve put in collectively as a department, and I do feel we are in a really good spot right now,” Carson said. “But the finish line is infinite.
“There’s always things we can do better. I’m very much an education person. I eat most meals with the players, but they do have to eat on their own at some point. I want them to know why they’re eating those things. You don’t stop eating until the day you die. I want them to have those skills when they finish being an athlete.
“I’m very happy where we are at, but I’m never satisfied.”