YSU’s athletic development fueled by sports nutrition

YSU's sports nutritionists help athletes make smart food choices for optimum performance.

By Yousof Hamza

Food is a crucial part of life and everyone needs it, but for athletes it acts as fuel to help develop them physically and to keep them healthy.

Sports nutritionist Amy Raabe works in the Youngstown State University athletic department providing athletes with nutrition plans.

“It’s been a huge benefit being able to come over and help with our student athletes, help to keep them safe, hydrated and to help them perform at their best,” she said.

Raabe started as a lecturer in the dietetics program at YSU through the Bitonte College of Health and Human Services before joining the athletic department in 2019. She is the first registered dietician to work in the athletic department, and since coming on board, athletic trainer Rashaun Bailey noted several of the improvements to the athletes since her hiring.

“Our teams are getting bigger, faster. They’re also getting better sleep,” Bailey said.

Bailey pointed out that the athletes and Raabe will discuss if something is not quite right and will work to fix the issue. One thing they talk about is replacing something unhealthy in their diet with something that is.

“Because our basketball players have to eat chips, so she’s like, ‘I won’t completely take out chips, I’ll just give you guys baked chips,’” Bailey said.

Head lacrosse coach Theresa Walton said having Raabe around is great for the athletes and it helps them perform during the season.

“It’s been phenomenal to see the engagement that our student athletes have had with her, they ask her a ton of questions after her presentation,” Walton said. “Each presentation has been built for a women’s lacrosse athlete, so looking at that program she’s been really able to break down what it is.”

Raabe makes sure all the athletes are able to get the proper nutrition for their age, which ranges from 18-25. This helps improve sleep and general well-being. 

When Raabe first started, one of her primary concerns for athletes was a vitamin D deficiency that has since been corrected.

One common part of an athlete’s diet is a high level of carbohydrates, Raabe will also adjust various other nutrient macros depending on the phase of the team season and the needs of the athlete.

“We typically bump up their calories a lot — we have some athletes that need between 5,000 and 6,000 calories a day,” Raabe said.

YSU has also taken part in a program to test a new Gatorade sweat test. Players wear a patch on their arms and trainers will receive information about nutrient loss through sweat. This has helped trainers understand why athletes cramp and how to prevent it.