Fuel for Fire

GO KNIGHTS Kelsee Gomes
Kelsee Gomes

April 16, 2012

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By Claire Burnett

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Recently, several universities have been on a health kick attempting to reverse the negative stereotypes of good nutrition. UCF is among these schools with sports nutritionist Kelsee Gomes.

Gomes' primary goal is to help student-athletes understand the importance of fueling their bodies correctly to achieve optimal performance. She also helps them to understand the importance of choosing the best foods to eat before, during and after practice. "They are students first and athletes second so my job is to keep them fueled for success on the field and in the classroom as well," said Gomes.

If executed correctly, sports nutrition can help student-athletes obtain a performance edge against other teams and players during competition. Insufficient fueling of the muscles can cause an athlete to lose necessary strength and energy. "When the brain doesn't get the nutrients it needs, a player's ability to think, concentrate and process what's going on in a game suffers," said Gomes.

We all, however, are no strangers to the fact that habits are hard to break. It's also no surprise to the general population that a college students' budget usually can only afford the cheaper meal options such as fast food restaurants. "One of the most challenging things is getting them to make these changes," stated Gomes. "A lot of these athletes have been eating this way their entire life and still succeeded on the playing field despite their nutrition. They have talent and that's what got them here, but if I can get them to choose a grilled chicken sandwich at McDonald's over a fried one, then I am happy!"

Since she's started working with the teams this past year, Gomes has noticed that sports nutrition has become more of a focus at UCF. Student-athletes, coaches and staff have become more open and enthusiastic about the benefits of sports nutrition. Meeting with teams at the beginning of the year also sparked interest for further information in several players.

"During individual sessions we talk about maximizing performance and how we can make their diets better. I never want them to see foods as bad, but rather have them focus on what would be more nutritionally beneficial to them. When you talk about maximizing performance, especially if they have certain goals of getting to the next level, they usually listen and are more responsive to making changes on their own," said Gomes.

This year, Gomes introduced a new program for student-athletes: UCF Sports Nutrition: IG-KNIGHT Your Performance 2011-2012. The program highlights the six nutritional goals promoted by UCF sports nutrition. These guidelines are emphasized to help student-athletes stay energized during exercise, enhance recovery between workouts and maintain healthy body composition.

Gomes has seen much change in UCF student-athletes as well as coaches interested in what they can do to help their teams perform better. She maintains an open door policy for any student-athletes who wish to speak with her on a daily basis. As a former collegiate athlete, Gomes understands the daily struggle to make healthier choices.

"I can relate to the demands of a student-athlete and trying to find time to eat between classes, practice and sleeping. At the end of the day, I just want to help our athletes improve their nutrition, meet their goals and perform at their best. When you accomplish that, as a nutritionist, it's an amazing feeling."

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