By Will Vandervort.
There used to be a time in athletics that the way to get a guy to put on some weight was to put him on a milkshake diet – three-scoops of ice cream and whole milk. If he was an offensive lineman on the football team, maybe it was a trip to Mac’s where three double cheeseburgers a day usually did the trick.
If a guy needed to shred a few pounds, you starved him and made him run the stadium steps twice a day. All of those nomadic ways worked, but how good were those methods? From a long-term standpoint – they are not good at all.
But thanks to education, gaining a competitive edge and some good ole common sense, a healthy diet has become part of the program at major colleges all over the United States.
“It’s an edge you have to have. It’s part of the program,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “We have a whole list in our approach. We want to have the total package. As we have all gotten educated over the years that is obviously one thing nobody used to pay attention too.”
Swinney started paying attention to it pretty early as a head coach. There were a few players on his team that needed to lose some weight and some that needed to gain weight. At the time, Dr. Loreto Jackson, Associate Athletic Director for Student Athlete Services, brought to the football program’s attention that there needed to be a full-time nutritionist on staff as part of the strength and conditioning program.
For a while, she helped in that capacity as she cleaned up some of the unhealthy habits the team was doing as a whole when it came to nutrition and getting a complete and balanced diet. She even took some cases on individually.
Though a health enthusiast herself, Dr. Jackson has no problems admitting she is not a trained nutritionist, but instead is a trained exercise physiologist. With her help and Swinney leading the way, Clemson hired Lisa Chan as the athletic department’s full-time nutritionist in October of 2012.
“It is a critical, critical edge as far as being competitively great that you have to have,” Swinney said.
Chan helps design and recommends optimal nutritional programs for student-athletes that help with performance, weight gain and weight loss. Her nutrition programs compliment the strength staffs’ training programs to enhance performance and body composition.
She also helps educate student-athletes on diet and nutrition choices away from the athletic district. In addition she plans menus, delivers and monitors the football training table and preseason meals.
When Chan first came on board, the players tried to fight her on everything when it came to their diet, but now—21 months later—her methods have helped players put on and take weight off in much healthier ways.
“Our guys have bought into that,” Swinney said. “In the beginning, our guys wanted to fight that, but now it’s cool to be nutritionally competent. They have to support each other in that regard.”
Being cool has allowed a guy like quarterback Cole Stoudt to go from 190-pounds his freshman year to 230 pounds this season.
“It’s different. I’m bigger. I had to make sure it was me for a second when I look in the mirror,” he joked. “When I came home my parents were shocked at how much I weighed and how much bigger I looked. It was kind of weird, but it was cool at the same time.”
Only eight months into the program, freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson has put on a healthy 20 pounds and is up to 204 pounds overall.
“Now that he is in college, he is getting all of this nutrition, he has all these people helping, he is bod podding – he is doing all this stuff,” Swinney said in regards to Watson’s weight. “That’s the culture we have. He is one of the guys that has bought into what he needed to do in order to build his body. He has done an excellent job.
“At 204 pounds, he does not even look like the same guy.”
Neither do guys like Kalon Davis, Tyrone Crowder and Spencer Region. All three guys weighed at or near 400 pounds when they got to Clemson, but as the dawn of 2014 season rises, all three guys sit at or around 330 pounds.
Swinney is especially proud of Region, who has had the hardest time in dealing with his weight. The 6-foot-4, Cullman Ala., native weighed 400 pounds when he first got to Clemson and in his first three years in the program he did not vary too far from it.
When the Tigers reported to training camp on Friday, Region weighed in at 333 pounds.
“I’m proud of him because he did what he has not done in three years and that is make a commitment and make a choice that he really wants it bad enough,” Swinney said. “There is nobody on this team I’m more proud of than Spencer Region.
“(Losing weight) is not easy to do. We all know how hard it is. We can probably all lose five pounds. It is hard to do. That guy was 400 pounds when he got here which was very disappointing when he got here, obviously. The difference between him and Crowder, Crowder came in here at 380. But within one year, and the commitment he had, he is where he needs to be. Spencer didn’t really buy into that and it took him some time, but it is better late than never – 333 pounds is the lightest he has ever been here.”
And it’s not just the weight Region has knocked off, but he has gained muscle mass, too.
“I think his bod pod is 250 pounds of muscle. He is just straight muscle from a composition standpoint,” Swinney said. “I’m proud of him. He almost has abs. It is unbelievable. He came in and didn’t have his shirt on and I think he had a two-pack.
“I’m proud of Spencer Region and hopefully that will transfer to the field. You know he had his best summer and that is something that will hopefully help him with his football career and finishing here, but also in life as he moves forward.”