Is nutrition the missing link for Florida A&M athletics?

Empty fridges in FAMU weight room where protein shakes are occasionally stocked. 
Photo credit: Catherine Bryant


Now more than ever, the importance of diet is being implemented in the realm of college athletics. Florida A&M is one Division I university that has yet to fully take part in the nutritional aspect of athletics. 

An athlete's diet can make or break their game. At most universities, athlete’s demanding workouts are complemented by a diet plan constructed and maintained by the universities resources. Nutrition is becoming the secret weapon for many universities’ programs. According to the NCAA website, nearly 53 NCAA schools employ full-time registered dieticians.

In 2014 the NCAA lifted restrictions on how much Division I programs can feed their athletes. Since then, nutrition education as well as supplying necessary food for athletes has been on the rise.  “Food For Thought” an article on the NCAA website written by Rachel Stark delves into the complexities of an athletes diet and what it can provide to sports programs.

 “Competition is fierce, and schools are searching to find an edge,” wrote Stark. “Just as the competitive nature has driven coaches’ salaries and training facilities, so, too, can it drive the quest for increasingly sophisticated approaches to nutrition for college athletes.”

Devin Freeman, a soon-to-be Florida State graduate, attended FAMU as a freshman and played football for FAMU. He eventually transferred to Florida State University his sophomore year where he continued to play. Freeman recently completed a project exploring the lack of a nutrition program at FAMU and possible directions that FAMU can head in the near future. As a result of his findings, Freeman suggested that FAMU reach out to the alumni association and ask them to headstart a pilot nutrition program lasting one year and document the students performance in the classroom and in competition. 

The former FAMU athlete has been a recipient of an active nutrition program at another Division I University and said it completely changed his game.

“..Before practice, after practice even during practice we had a nutritionist or interns there fueling us. They educated us on what to eat and even made meal plans with the athletes,” he said.

Jibreel Hazly, a third-year linebacker at FAMU, finds his main source of nutrition from the cafeteria on campus. Hazly is dedicated to his diet, does not eat pork and tries his best to eat healthy but is hard pressed to find a balanced diet amongst the options presented on campus. Hazly noted that their strength coach had handed out a menu of more nutritious options the cafeteria on campus was serving but could not recall any other forms of nutritional education offered to him at FAMU.

Members of the men’s and women’s tennis, softball, track, and baseball teams all attest to not receiving any type of protein, supplements or food directly from the school whatsoever. These same teams also have not been advised by an expert in any capacity about their nutritional choices. These athletes simply do not have the means or the education to create an optimal diet that would lend to their success.

Many times athletes are called upon to lose or gain a certain amount of weight. In most programs, this is monitored by a nutritionist in order to keep the athlete healthy in the process.

According to an article from the US national library of medicine, “Young athletes who are trying to lose weight should work with a registered dietitian. Experimenting with diets on your own can lead to poor eating habits with inadequate or excessive intake of certain nutrients.”

Not only can the lack of a nutrition program be detrimental to the success of a program, but it could also be dangerous to the overall health of its athletes.

If FAMU wants to compete with the best, they should look at their competition and see what action they are taking that FAMU is not. Nutrition is one of those things and is severely lacking at FAMU. So, will FAMU step up to the plate when it comes to providing a nutrition program for its athletes or will they STRIKE, STRIKE, STRIKE out?