Q&A with Allison Maurer

Q: What exactly does a sports dietitian do?

Maurer: “I’m responsible for performance nutrition for the University of Tennessee student-athletes. I conduct team and individual nutrition sessions, grocery-shopping tours, and operate our nutrition area called the “fueling station”. I also conduct body composition testing for various sports teams and educate athletes on how to fuel to improve body composition. “

Q: What are some of the best foods and drinks to consume before a practice or workout?

Maurer:  Water of course.  Most kids don’t actually need a sports drink before a practice unless they are in extreme heat and humidity.  However, if they do choose a sports drink, right before, during and after is fine.  Drinking sports drinks all day is not necessary or healthy for that matter.  Sticking to foods that are high in carbs and low in fat is important before exercise as well.  Going through the drive thru on the way to a practice is not conducive to good performance and can cause stomach upset, cramping, diarrhea, etc.

Q: What’s best to eat and drink to recover after a workout?

Maurer: “Getting a protein and carbohydrate combination within 30-45 minutes is important.  Examples are chocolate milk, PBJ, string cheese and an apple. A bowl of cereal or a turkey and cheese sandwich are all good examples.  Water for recovery is also very important so don’t forget that.

Q: What do you recommend for game day meals?

Maurer: “Eating a meal high in carbs, moderate in protein and low in fat is the best for pre-game.  You should eat that meal 3-4 hours before game time to allow for proper digestion.  Some examples include grilled chicken, pasta and a vegetable; spaghetti with meatballs and a salad; deli meat and cheese sandwich, grapes, granola bar and milk.”

Q: What are some specific foods to avoid?

Maurer: “Fried foods, high sugar foods (juices, pastries, candy, cookies, etc.), French fries, etc.”

Q: Obviously hydration is important for any athlete. In the NBA Finals a few years ago we saw where LeBron James had to leave a game because he experienced leg cramps, which have been associated with improper hydration. How can a healthy diet help young athletes prevent injury?

Maurer: “Maintaining a healthy diet is important because it can help with mental focus and improve many different aspects of performance including recovery, speed, strength, stamina, etc. When your nutrition is at its best, your body performs at its best and decreases the risk of injury.”

Q: What are your key tips for any athlete looking to perform at a peak level?

Maurer: “Eat breakfast and eat consistently during the day. Skipping meals will lead to decreased performance, decreased metabolism, and an increase in body fat. Drinking water all day is also important to help perform at your best.”

In addition to working with student-athletes, Allison also teaches two undergraduate classes. She is a board certified specialist in sports dietics, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, and is the Vice President for the Collegiate and Professionals Sports Dietitians Association (CPSDA). She also serves on the board of advisors for momsTEAM, an organization that strives to keep kids safe and healthy in sports. Follow Allison on Twitter: @BigOrangeFuel