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Nutrition could be an X-factor in success of men's gymnastics

BY CHARLIE GREEN | NOVEMBER 18, 2014 5:00 AM

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Iowa men’s gymnastics has emerged as a top-10 program in the nation the last two years under the direction of head coach JD Reive. Grueling workouts, dedication, and patience have turned the Hawkeyes into arguably a top-five national power.

But there’s one thing Reive believes is the missing link in the advancement of the program — a greater emphasis on nutrition.

“It’s the missing component in everything that we do,” he said.

Given the intense physical training the athletes go through, Reive is trying implement the right eating habits so that the gymnasts can recover properly.

“We’ve got really hard weeks and then lighter ones,” he said. “If you’re not taking care of yourself during that light week, there’s no recovery, your muscles aren’t coming back around, and you’re not fully getting the benefits of a down week.”

Eating clean, hydration, and sleep are some of the habits Reive and his staff preach to the team. But late nights, weekends, and college life in general can take its toll on the physiological makeup of student-athletes.

It’s an aspect of physical well being Reive and his staff are still getting a grasp on how to implement — including how to shop for and cook healthy food.

Despite the struggles, the program has benefited from a ruling from the NCAA in April that has athletics departments providing student-athletes with an unlimited number of meals and snacks.

The Iowa Athletics Department provides the food through grab-and-go stands and refueling stations, available to both scholarship and walk-on athletes.

“It’s much healthier food than you might get at a Hillcrest,” Reive said. “It’s available all the time, and I’ve seen an instant impact on the team.”

The NCAA created the rule in an effort to meet the nutritional needs of all student-athletes. Previously, full-scholarship athletes received a meal plan complete with three meals per day or a food stipend. Now, with the increased availability of nutritional food, Hawkeye gymnasts are reaping the benefits.

‘I’m so grateful to the Athletics Department,” junior Cyrus Dobre-Mofid said. “Not only does it help financially, it helps better our diets to keep us in in better shape for athletics.”

In one of the most physically demanding of sports, it is critical the athletes remain conscious of what they put into their bodies.

Redshirt senior Lance Alberhasky tries to eat five smaller meals a day to say light and energized for practice.

“You have those days where you have dessert or a big meal,” Alberhasky said. “And you’re going to feel it the next day in JD’s program.”

Freshman Austin Hodges, who has Celiac’s disease and is gluten-intolerant, has come to the program with a “health nut” mentality.

“I don’t eat gluten, and I try to stay away from dairy and soy,” Hodges said. “I changed my eating habits about three years ago and definitely noticed I looked more defined in the mirror.”

Hydration, protein, fruits, and vegetables are some of the components the gymnasts view as essential to their physical well-being. While nutrition may be the X-factor in the ascension of the program, it appears they are on the right track in mentality and habit.

“I’ve been doing this long enough where I can tell when a kid’s eating habits are terrible; I can see it in his body language,” Reive said. “We need to reinforce that component if they’re going to be safe and healthy over the course of the season.”

Follow @CharlsGreen on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa men’s gymnastics team.


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