With nutrition advice everywhere these days, many young athletes are overwhelmed with food choices and confused about what to eat. That’s why Rutgers recently hired Allison Kreimeier, the director of performance nutrition at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. She explains to players the difference between plain old food and food as fuel for performance. It’s all part of her new job as Rutgers’ first full-time sports nutritionist: convincing athletes to adopt better eating habits.

Through PowerPoint presentations, tweets, summer education sessions, and old-fashioned plate monitoring, she sends the message that nutrition is king. “I walk around so I can see what they’re eating,” says Kreimeier, who had been director of football nutrition at the University of Houston and now travels with the Scarlet Knights football team throughout the  season. “I monitor their meals and deliver the services for them. They love the smoothies. It helps them get fueled and provides hydration.”

Kreimeier’s three-step plate plan—available at the dining hall at the Hale Center, where Scarlet Knights athletes train—outlines healthy choices at each  station, from fruits and vegetables to  carbohydrates to lean proteins. She consults with the food service manager and chefs to design menus for the athletes. And she counsels athletes, one on one. Weight loss? Weight gain? Strengthening immunity? Hydration? Pregame fuel-ups? Kreimeier manages it all.

“This is just another step to improving the health of the athletes, getting them back on the field faster after injury,  giving them the energy to perform in practices and workouts, and then achieving their body-composition goals,” says Kreimeier.

A Q&A With Allison Kreimeier

Rutgers Magazine: You are the sports nutritionist for the Scarlet Knights football team. How do the demands on you differ from those placed on a nutritionist for, say, the women’s basketball team?

Allison Kreimeier: We are very active with both our football and women’s basketball teams. A football team, however, does have about 90 more athletes than a basketball team, so there are many more individual counseling sessions and personalized plans. But what we do for our football team, we try to do as much as we can with our basketball teams.

RM: When does your day begin and end? 

AK: Depending on the season we are in, it can be as early as 5 a.m. and as late as 1 a.m., especially if we have an 8 p.m. game or are traveling. Most days on average run 10 to 14 hours.

RM: How do you interact with the football and training/strength coaches?

AK: I work alongside head strength and conditioning coach Kenny Parker, who has a great knowledge of the impact nutrition has on the body and athletic performance. We also work on developing body-composition goals for each player for his position and monitor players’ weights often. The strength and conditioning team will perform body composition and measurement tests at least three times a year, and that helps measure the effectiveness of the programs.

RM: Can you describe the daily menu for the football team?

AK: We serve a variety of high-quality food. Each meal, you will find at least three protein options, four carbohydrate options, and three vegetable options, including an action station, dessert bar, salad bar, and fruit bar. This allows us to meet everyone’s body-composition goal and to provide options, especially for those who may be picky, have allergies/intolerances, or are a long way from home. The meal before practice will be much leaner and provide more quick-digesting carbs and steamed vegetables, whereas for the meal after practice we have more leeway with what we can serve and can provide meats that are higher in fat, carbohydrates that are more fibrous, or have vegetables that are more in their raw status. 

RM: You studied sports nutrition at the University of Central Arkansas, where you received your bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and the University of Central Oklahoma. What big nutritional advances, if any, have been made in understanding what it takes to optimize athletic performance?

AK: A 2014 deregulation that allowed Division I student-athletes to receive unlimited meals and snacks invited sport dietitians to provide professional nutrition services and high-quality meals that meet the unique needs and requirements of high-level athletes. Performance nutrition is where strength and conditioning was 30 years ago. Regardless if we are active in college athletics or not, we must eat daily to live. 

RM: Smoothies are a big part of your diet regime. Can you share a couple of recipes?

AK: Sure.

Strawberry Banana

1 cup strawberries
1/2 ripe banana
1/2 cup strawberry or plan low-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup 100% juice (coconut, orange, or apple)
1 cup ice

Want more protein? Add a scoop of unflavored whey protein.

Vanilla Peanut Butter Banana

1 cup Fairlife 2% white milk
1 ripe banana
1 cup fresh spinach
2 tbsp peanut butter or peanut butter powder equivalent
2 scoops 100% whey protein—vanilla
1 cup ice