Nutrition


Dr. Melinda Wells Valliant
Assistant Professor in Nutrition
Sports Dietitian






Katie Kirby

Sports Dietitian

Athlete Nutrition Assessment & Screening
Each new student-athlete who joins an Ole Miss athletic team will be screened to obtain nutrition and diet histories and current practices. This will be done for entering freshmen and transfer students. Nutrition assessments may also be done during preseason physicals for current Ole Miss student-athletes. The Ole Miss sports dietitian will conduct a thorough nutrition assessment on student-athletes determined to be at nutritional risk. Ole Miss student-athletes can meet with the sports dietitian for follow-up counseling if there are any issues that are cause for concern. Baseline body composition measurements may be taken in order to identify student-athletes who may be nutritionally at-risk and ensure proper action is taken.

Individual Nutrition Education & Counseling
Because each student-athlete has different needs, one-on-one sessions with the sports dietitian will be available. Ole Miss student-athletes have the opportunity to receive individualized nutrition education and counseling and personalized meal plans. The Ole Miss sports dietitian will assess student-athletes dietary intake and provide recommendations to assist with reducing nutrition-related health or performance issues. The sports dietitian works with Ole Miss student-athletes on a number of topics: weight loss, gain or maintenance goals; injury nutrition; chronic fatigue; supplement use; medical nutrition therapy for athletes with diabetes mellitus, celiac disease, anemia, allergies/intolerances, etc.; disordered eating or eating disorders; off-season nutrition; hydration; adequate calorie consumption; and label reading for better food selection.

Team Education
Team education is provided by the sports dietitian by a variety of avenues: team talks; workshops; educational handouts; social media (Twitter and/or Facebook); locker room posters and newsletters. Team education sessions and materials aim to increase Ole Miss student-athletes’ nutrition knowledge as well as their desire to learn more and make behavior changes. Workshops may include cooking demonstrations, grocery store tours, dining hall tours or team cooking competitions. These types of workshops will give Ole Miss student-athletes hands-on experience with choosing and/or preparing nutritious foods.

The sports dietitian is available at the request of the coaches for team talks and presentations that will provide sport-specific nutrition-information to Ole Miss student-athletes. Team talks are held as often as the coach deems necessary (weekly, biweekly, monthly, per semester, etcetera) and cover topics chosen by the coach, team or sports dietitian.

Body Composition Analysis
Body composition analysis using the Bod Pod can be performed to monitor trends and identify student-athletes who may have excessively low or high levels of non-lean body mass which can be detrimental to health and athletic performance. Body composition analysis can also provide the sports dietitian and student-athlete with important information relating to adequate intake.

Implementation of a Hydration & Electrolyte Protocol
Proper hydration is crucial for any athlete, but especially those practicing in a climate such as that in Oxford, Ole Miss and the Southeast. The sports dietitian can assist with implementing a hydration and electrolyte protocol in which Ole Miss student-athletes’ sweat rates are determined via pre- and post-practice weights, those at risk for cramping will be identified and individualized hydration plans will be developed.

Pre-game/Post-game & Travel Meal Planning & Coordination
What a student-athlete eats before and after practice, training and games, and during tournaments, makes a difference in their strength, speed, agility and endurance; ability to focus and recover; and plays a role in their injury risk. The Ole Miss sports dietitian makes recommendations for appropriate pre- and post-game meals and snacks and assists in arranging for pre- and post-game meals for home competitions.

Additionally, having to travel to unfamiliar locations interferes with an Ole Miss student-athlete’s ability to fuel properly for competition. The sports dietitian is able to advise those making travel meal plans for teams traveling for competitions. This may range from contacting and setting up reservations and special menus for teams at restaurants, to providing teams with lists of “best choices” at restaurants near the hotel or competition venue.

Food Service & Menu Development
The sports dietitian will work with the future training table staff at Ole Miss to develop menus that provide healthful, yet appetizing, meal selections for Ole Miss student-athletes. The sports dietitian will assist the Ole Miss athletics department on what is needed to implement a successful training table.

The sports dietitian will check that food is prepared and displayed appropriately to ensure food safety measures are being followed. The sports dietitian will be available at the training table to help Ole Miss student-athletes select foods based on their nutrition or weight goals. The sports dietitian will educate on food selection to help Ole Miss student-athletes make good choices on their own, outside of the training table.

The sports dietitian will be in charge of a “Fueling Station” that will provide Ole Miss student-athletes with nutritionally appropriate and NCAA compliant pre- and post-workout snacks to ensure proper fueling and recovery. The sports dietitian can be responsible for the purchasing of items, the inventory and budget for the “Fueling Station”.

The Ole Miss sports dietitian will also develop menus for athletic teams’ preseason camps, bowl game preparations or other necessary events. These menus will ensure the student-athletes will be receiving quality fuel during these times of preparation.

Prospective Athlete Recruitment & Retention
The sports dietitian will contribute to Ole Miss recruitment and retention by offering services that only a limited number of NCAA Division I athletic programs provide. The sports dietitian is available to meet with recruits and their parents to answer questions about the nutritional services afforded to Ole Miss student-athletes. Having a sports dietitian on the Ole Miss athletics staff will show recruits and their families that Ole Miss values the recruits’ ability to perform at their best, as well as their overall health. This will contribute to recruit retention because the recruit will see how the nutrition services provided can give him or her a potential competitive edge, and the parents will gain peace of mind knowing their child is being cared for on many different levels.

E-resources for Athletes
The sports dietitian will make nutrition information available to Ole Miss student-athletes by developing a sports nutrition section on the website. Ole Miss student-athletes will be able to access the sports nutrition section to retrieve helpful handouts and learn about current trends in sports nutrition and healthy eating. The current trends section will be updated regularly, presenting the newest research relating to sports nutrition. The contact information for the sports dietitian will be available on the website so Ole Miss student-athletes can easily schedule appointments or ask questions.

Multidisciplinary Team Member
The sports dietitian is an integral member of the Ole Miss athletics department, working as part of a team alongside coaches, operations directors, athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, physicians and sports psychologists. Having a sports dietitian on staff helps to ensure comprehensive care for Ole Miss student-athletes. The team approach allows the sports dietitian to be involved in all aspects of the Ole Miss student-athletes’ care, and be well-aware of any past or current health issues. The sports dietitian makes a point to attend practices, workouts and games/competitions.

The sports dietitian is a critical member of the eating disorder treatment team helping athletes with conditions such as anorexia, bulimia or other disordered eating issues.

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