What Athletes Eat

What Athletes Eat

“There are hungry nights,” University of Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier said in March 2014, as the Huskies were en route to the Final Four. “Some nights I go to bed starving.” Napier was answering a question about college athletes getting paid, still an unsolved, controversial matter in its own right, but this oft-repeated quote shined a light another issue: What athletes eat.

The NCAA’s rules to this point dictated that full-scholarship athletes were afforded one “training table” meal per day. The problem? There was only one daily, it was highly regulated, and didn’t apply to all student-athletes. As a result, many athletes would fend for themselves for a majority of meals. And most hungry 18–23 year-olds on a budget aren’t stopping for kale and quinoa between practice and class. In August 2014, the NCAA deregulated meals, a godsend for UT’s assistant athletics director and sports dietitian Amy Culp.

Her vision fueled a brand-new athletics dining hall, located on the sixth floor of DKR–Texas Memorial Stadium. “Let us feed all student-athletes real, whole food,” was her plea, and the new space can do just that for 550 Longhorn athletes at once. Now, in compliance with NCAA rules, all student-athletes regardless of scholarship receive a free dinner meal, and Culp wants to make sure it counts. She and her team of dietitians collaborate with strength and team coaches and trainers on nutrition plans, and one of her staff is at every meal to do what is called live-plate coaching: essentially helping student-athletes make healthy choices before and after games, practices, and weight training.

But her hardest challenge is breaking deep-seated eating habits.

“If they were already great eaters, how can we make them better? If they were poor eaters and they don’t want to change, it’s ‘Well why should I?’ Culp says. “We have to meet them where they are, but hopefully by the time they leave here, they know how to be healthy eaters.”


Lindsey Stephens

Sport: Softball

Position: Outfielder

CALORIES PER DAY: 2,000–2,400

“In tournaments every weekend in between games you’d get a hot dog, a Snickers bar and a Gatorade and go play. Freshman year you figure out you’re not gonna survive if you eat like that. It’s definitely being more aware that you have to get nutrients to perform on the level college athletes perform on.”


Taylor Doyle

Sport: Football

Position: Offensive lineman

CALORIES PER DAY: 4,500–5,000

“A big part of playing college football is time management. Some days you don’t have enough time between classes, meetings, and practice to eat a healthy meal or spend as much time as you want to. It’s the first to go when you’re juggling classes and athletics. It’s critical to eat well even when it’s not convenient.”


Connor Lammert

Sport: Forward

Position: Men’s basketball

CALORIES PER DAY: 4,300–5,500

“One thing I always do, no matter what the dessert is, I have to get a bite of it. That’s a superstition I have. If they don’t have dessert, that’s ok, but even if it’s ice cream, I have to take a little bite of it.”


Tasija Karosas

Sport: Women’s swimming

Position: Middle distance backstroke/freestyle

CALORIES PER DAY: 2,300–2,800

“I’m a nutrition major and I’ve learned the importance of choosing different foods that are really good for you. When I have a meet or hard practice coming up, I need to make sure I get a really good chunk of carbs — a heavy grain like pasta or quinoa.”

What Athletes Eat

Abby Smith

Sport: Soccer

Position: Goalkeeper

CALORIES PER DAY: 2,000–2,300

“I’m not superstitious , but pizza or something like that, it’s not the best thing to be eating. I’ll see athletes eating a bunch of bready things and cheese — that looks gross.”


Josh Sawyer

Sport: Baseball

Position: Pitcher

CALORIES PER DAY: 2,500–3,000

“I eat until I’m comfortable. I don’t stuff myself. I got accustomed to vegetables as a freshman. I wouldn’t sniff a vegetable in high school.”


Chloe Collins

Sport: Volleyball

Position: Setter

CALORIES PER DAY: 2,300–2,700

“One time I ate Chipotle before practice. It totally screwed me over. Nutrition-wise I didn’t do what I was supposed to do. You have to stick on top of nutrition and the recovery process. It will catch up to you.”


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