Notre Dame Football nutrition program helps players get ready for game day

NOW: Notre Dame Football nutrition program helps players get ready for game day

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. - The Notre Dame Sports Nutrition Program is run by Alexa Appleman, a former college soccer player and trained chef, who's worked with programs at the University of South Carolina and Ole Miss.

Appleman has brought her love of food, sports and science to the Irish.

"I just loved food so much," Appleman said. "It's just such a language that everybody speaks."

The program is broken down into five components, including meal coordination, nutrition for health, performance and return to play.

Allison: "If someone has an ACL injury, they're coming back from, what would be different in their diet or in their routine that would vary from if they were healthy?"

Appleman: “Since it is a longer recovery process, you know, looking at that 9-12 months of not playing football, and slowly progressing back into the process of being fully activated on the field. Unfortunately, when you don't use your muscle as much, right, we start to atrophy, and we'll lose some of that mass. So we work with them on strategies to maintain that lean mass and rebuilding it and rebuilding it healthy.”

It's a collaborative effort.

Appleman and her team meet regularly with the head of sports psychology, athletic trainers, the strength and conditioning coach, the team doctor and Head Coach Marcus Freeman to come up with individual plans for each player.

“I think her biggest thing is just her ability to kind of understand what we need and what everybody's, kind of different in a way,” said quarterback Sam Hartman. “You can sometimes get lost and 140 guys have, this is what we're eating and this what we're doing. She's just great at being flexible and understanding that each guy's got their own nutritional values, nutritional needs.”

Every position group has different needs: wide receivers average 3,500 to 4,500 calories per day, while linemen average 5,500 to 6,500 calories per day. Defensive tackle Howard Cross gained eight pounds of muscle on the program.

“I had a weight gain issue where I just couldn't gain any weight at all for reasons I still don't really know, but I finally figured out how to gain weight. And it was really simple,” said Cross. “It was like chocolate milk, or something stupid like that. But that only came from just me talking to her, and be like, ‘alright, like maybe you should try this, this stuff has been working, maybe should try this.’”

The 5th and final component to the nutrition plan: life skills.

Appleman and her team teach the players how to plan and prepare their own meals and the reaction has been awesome.

“They were completely shocked,” Appleman said. “They were like, ‘Oh, my God, we can learn how to cook.’ Like, ‘we didn't know that you can teach us how to do that.’ And the guys have been loving it. Just getting in the kitchen and being with their teammates, competing with their teammates to see who can cook the best fish or chicken or side dishes.”

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