“Food for Thought” For Student Athletes

A virtual course designed to fuel student-athletes with knowledge on nutrition and mental health.

Funded by the NCAA “Innovations in Research Grant”, served at Tennessee Tech University (NCAA D-1), and developed by Anthony Paradis, MA, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS.

A full toolkit of resources for sports nutrition and mental wellness

Evaluation methods included to measure your impact

Video links on important topics

Integrated into a smart phone app for easy access for athletes

Background. Through an examination of college campuses nationwide, researchers have discovered that nutrition habits and food security are closely correlated to grade point average (Paul, Panton, & Marzigliano, 2008; Trockel, Barnes, & Egget, 2000), academic progress (Gallegos, Ramsey & Ong, 2014), and self-reported health condition (Patton-López, López-Cevallos, Cancel-Tirado, & Vazquez 2014). NCAA student-athletes may be at a higher risk from food insecurity due to the strenuous physical demands placed on their bodies and the need for more nutrients to sustain those demands (Thomas, Burke, & Erdman, 2016).

Along a similar vein, it has been well established by historic research that student-athletes experience stressors—such as demands on their time, pressures to perform, injuries, and physical exhaustion that might result in burnout—beyond those experienced by a typical college student (Sudano, Collins, & Miles, 2017). If these stressors are not managed in a healthy way, they could lead to instances of anxiety, depression, and even suicide (Armstrong, Burcin, Bjerke, & Early, 2015).

Aligned with NCAA’s Best Mental Health Practices, and to optimize our student-athletes’ performance, recovery, and holistic wellbeing, this “Food for Thought” program takes an integrated and intentional approach that includes training coupled with ongoing support for smart nutritional and mental health practices.

Video intro explaining the program to our athletes- you may want to make one for yours

We used a client management software built for dietitians called Healthie. It is an app, scheduler, messenger, dashboard, and has a feature called “programs” that allows you to drip information (slides, videos, handouts) to your athletes. The link is here: https://www.gethealthie.com/ if you want to check it out! Also– we were able to launch our pilot test of this course on our university’s course platform, “i-Learn” so please note that this program can be implemented on a variety of formats. Choose what makes the best sense for your situation and teams.

Toolkit– Resources to implement this course into your own athletics’ program.

Click here to get access to the course inside the Healthie app. See it from the eyes of the athletes and access/download all content within.

Module 1: Overview of Nutrition

Video- USDA Myplate overview

Module 2: Body Composition

Video- Body Composition

Module 3: Eating Disorders

Video- Eating Disorders

Module 4: Mindfulness and Coping with Stress

Video- Mindfulness and Coping with Stress

Module 5: Nutrition Supplements

Video- Nutrition Supplements

Module 6: Meal Planning and Budget

Video- Meal Planning and Budget

Module 7: Mental Health: Anxiety and Depression

Video- Mental Health: Anxiety and Depression

Module 8: Mental Health: Sleep

Video: Mental Health: Sleep

Module 9: Post-Grad Life Strategies

Video- Post- Grad Life Strategies

Module 10: Summary

Additional Tools for Sports Nutrition

Need more resources? I’ve created an entire model and toolkit for sports dietitians and directors who want to plan, implement, and evaluate a full sports nutrition program for their university or team which includes assessments, reports, handouts, and other useful tools for getting started and keeping up.

Collegiate Sports Nutrition Logic Model

“This is a well thought out and practical approach for developing and improving sports nutrition programs. It is easy to get lost in the day to day operations and this model helps to stay focused on the measurable outcomes we are seeking to achieve. It is also helpful to see it all in an easy to understand format and how all the moving parts are connected. Thank you for providing a valuable resource that is much needed in sports dietetics!”Stephanie West, Sports RD.

“As a sports dietitian who has also worked with various universities, I have to applaud you for this incredible share. To have had this when I started out would have been such an asset. This video is true quality and worth the watch for any RDs who are starting in sports nutrition! Cheers to you!” – Natasha McLaughlin-Chaisson, Sports RD

*Note* If you found any of this information useful, please help me out by responding to my brief survey with your feedback.

This model is a tool for Sports Dietitians to plan, implement, evaluate, and report on their sports nutrition programs. Although this particular model is designed for a collegiate setting, it is malleable enough to be converted to suit a private practice or professional sports nutrition setting. Be sure to open the manuscript link to get a detailed description of each step in the model.

The Toolkit (below) offers some resources and examples at every level of the model. If you have any suggestions for additional resources in the toolkit, please let me know. If you’ve created or used something that could be helpful to other sports RDNs, I’m happy to add it.

Video Overview of the CSN Logic Model

Click here for the CSN Logic Model manuscript

CSN Toolkit

Click here for the CSN Workbook

Step 1: Needs Assessment

What do you need to know?

  • CSN WorkbookPrint this off and fill it out, follow along, and plan each component of YOUR program step-by-step.
  • Assessing Program & Team Needs- A focus group is a good place to start. This resource will help you conduct your focus groups with admins and coaches.
  • Food IntakeMyFitnessPal– Nutrition tracking tool. A tracking tool for athletes. I’ve used this successfully with 1000’s of athletes to teach calories and macros in foods.
  • Food Intake– This picture based food log is a free app your athletes can download. Just snap a picture.
  • Athlete Nutrition Knowledge– This survey is a great tool developed by dietitians for assessing athletes’ knowledge of sports nutrition.
  • Eating Disorder Female AthletesFemale Athlete Screening Tool (FAST)- A screening survey for eating disorders in female athletes. 
  • RED-S (Triad)- The LEAF questionnaire is a screening tool to assess risk of female athlete triad.
  • Eating Disorder Male AthletesValidated in Males (EAT-51)- screening survey validated in males.
  • Food SecurityFood Security Screening Tool– Adapted from the USDA 6-item food security screening instrument. I made it into a google form.
  • SleepAthlete Sleep Screening– a brief survey to assess sleep optimization in athletes.

Step 2: Inputs

What resources do you have… or need?

  • Accepting Interns– Fill out this form with the Academy and you’ll be on the list as an intern preceptor.
  • Evaluating Volunteers- Here’s a score card I’ve developed to evaluate workers. I recommend doing this for each position to formalize your volunteer efforts. Here’s another more detailed role.

Step 3: Outputs

What services do you provide?

  • Education Program Development– This manuscript can serve as a guide for program planning, implementation, and evaluation.
  • Education Program Development- This report from Brown & Tenison outline their administration of a sports nutrition education program that utilized student helpers.

Step 4: Outcomes

What changed?

Outcomes are a result of your program efforts. In this level, you will revisit any initial assessments you performed for a post-test (before and after of food logs, body composition assessment, blood work, knowledge tests, etc.) For example, if you administered the knowledge assessment (from step 1) before the semester, you could administer the same test after the semester to compare gains in knowledge.

If you didn’t measure something initially, you can still use a retrospective post-test surveys to measure perception of change. An example question pair might be “Rate on a scale of 1-5 (from low to high), your level of hydration knowledge before participating in our program. Now rate 1-5, your level of hydration knowledge after participating in our program.

After you have gathered all of your outcome data, you will have everything you need to complete a formal evaluation and report of your program.


Were you effective?

Formative evaluation is meant to improve a service or process in your program. This occurs at every step and can be as informal as asking a coach and players about their thoughts on your presentation, or something formal like a quiz given at the end of your presentation. In both of these examples, the aim is to improve your presentations. If you are giving a series of nutrition presentations (team talks), it may benefit you to get some feedback on the first couple so you can have a greater impact with the rest.

Summative evaluation is meant to measure impact. Here you will arrange your data into easily digestible summaries, tables, and figures to form a report. The summative evaluation will (1) provide you with insights for program improvement (2) provide justification for budget increases for future initiatives and (3) help the profession by building up data on the impact of using a sports dietitian.

*Note* If you found any of this information useful, please help me out by responding to my brief survey with your feedback.

Speaking & Consulting Inquiry– I am available to speak at conferences or consulting for your sports nutrition program. Contact me with questions!

Nutrition Resources

Below are nutrition resources I’ve created over the years for my clients. Including my Transformation Accelerator nutrition video series and e-book (used to be private for paying clients only, but now you have access to it).


Transformation Accelerator Playlist– 28 videos on everything you need to know from goal setting, grocery shopping, meal prep, building muscle and losing fat. It’s all here.

Lean and Strong in 30 Days– a PDF copy of my 169 page e-book on nutrition for health and fat loss. Also includes a training and stretching guide.

1200 calorie meal plan– meal examples and samples for a 1200 calorie diet

1800 calorie meal plan for college students– cheap foods and easy recipes for 1800 calories

2400 calorie meal plan– this is one I made for myself a while ago

Healthy grocery list– whole foods focused grocery list. Includes every food group.

Goal setting worksheet– keep yourself accountable and focused

Fat loss food pyramid– general guidelines for losing fat. Pin this to your fridge.

Athlete’s nutrition guide– a little booklet I put together for my college athletes here at Tennessee Tech University

Football weight gain guide– booklet for gaining weight and muscle for sports

If you want me to write you a personalized program complete with nutrition and training coaching, check out my services page and contact me to get started.

“Tried & True” Strength Training Templates

Free Training Program Templates


Below is a compilation of links to training programs and workouts. Please feel free to modify these programs to suit your needs and goals. You can print theses sheets and take them with you to the gym!

All I ask is that you give me credit if you want to share, and that you let me know if you achieved good results! Enjoy!

Beginner’s lifting program – 2-3x per week. 30 minutes. This is my tried and true program I’ve used on 100’s of beginners. It’s not fancy but it is effective. Workouts should take about 30 minutes with some hustle. The video above explains it in great detail and has a couple of workout videos to go with it.

Muscle stimulus/recovery evaluation tool. Here’s a tool for you if you prefer to train intuitively. Track your soreness and recovery.

Progressive Gains Program. My (so far) ultimate lifting program. I believe this system represents my best understanding of periodization for strength and muscle development along with the need for adaptability to individual needs. This is the program I personally follow. Maybe you should too. (Unless you are a beginner, in which case you should follow the beginner’s routine above).

In other words, this is a program for real people who need flexibility and don’t want to overthink their training. I recommend this program for the following reasons:

  • Science-based– This program is built off the principles periodization and progressive overload. It gets tougher as you progress and forces your body to adapt.
  • Flexible– Training frequency in this program ranges from 3x per week to 6x per week. You choose how many days you can handle. With this flexibility, you can back off when you need to (without giving up on a program) or add more when you have the time.
  • Fun– You lift heavy and do some powerlifting. You hit high reps and do some bodybuilding. Exercises and routines change every week. This program changes often enough that you never get burnt out or bored.
  • Proven– I’ve been training others for over 14 years now. I’ve used phases of this training model to transform bodies and train champions. This is training program is the outcome of this experience.


Each week is characterized by its focus and training frequency

WeekDays/WeekFocusRep Range
13strength & power1-5
35strength & size3-8 & 10-20
46bodybuilding10-20 & 6-12

If there are no reasons to train otherwise, follow through week 1-4 and repeat.

However, there may be 2 reasons you wish to go out of order. This is perfectly acceptable. These reasons are:

A. You want to repeat a week that focuses on a specific training goal you have. For example, right now I am building up size so when I run through this program, I try to repeat week #4 once or twice if I am able to continue to add weight to my exercises. If I stall, I’ll start over again on week 1.

B. If schedule demands it, you can always repeat a week with lower training frequency. For example, if you have a busy couple of weeks, you can repeat the week 1 protocol during that time because it has the lowest training frequency of 3 days per week)

Guidelines for Progressive Gains

  • Do not push to absolute failure on exercises unless it is your last set. Leave one or two reps in the tank and rest long enough to repeat sets within you rep range goal (but no longer than 3-5 minutes on low rep stuff and no longer than 2-2.5 minutes on higher rep stuff). Sometimes you just wont hit your target reps and that’s ok. Make a note of it in your training journal. Adjust the weight for the next set if needed.
  • Rest between 1-3 minutes per set, or enough so that you can repeat the next set within your target rep range.
  • Substitute any exercise you want to for a similar exercise. If you don’t know how to squat, bench, and deadlift yet, I recommend learning how eventually.
  • Record the weights that you use. When you repeat a week you can use previous numbers to set new lifting goals.
  • Increase weight every set of every workout- until you are sure you are pushing each set to *almost failure.*
  • If you want to super-set smaller exercises, you can
  • If you want to change the “chest/back-legs-shoulders/arms” split to a “push/pull/legs” split you can.
  • Promise me you will never use your powers for evil. Good luck and enjoy.

Other lifting programs

Intermediate lifting program. 3x per week. 45-60 minutes. I’ve had great success with this program for my clients for weight loss and muscle gain. This is a 12 week program with specific training blocks for endurance, strength and size. Great for bodybuilding and variety.

Bodybuilding program– 6x per week. This program is a bit more flexible. Choose your own reps in a hypertrophy range. Try the PPL sheet or the CB/SA/L sheet for a good muscle building program. As of 12/5/2018 this is the program I’m currently using.

Advanced daily undulating periodization program– 6x per week. 60-90 minutes. This is my pet project routine with a DUP / block periodization style to it. It’s a program I’ve personally used to get big and strong. Not for the faint of heart.

Bodybuilding style DUP program– 4x per week. ~60 minutes (rest 60s between sets). Another version of my DUP project. This one puts some smaller muscle groups at the BEGINNING of the workout to help you bring up some weak points. Calves included.

Jiu Jitsu strength and conditioning program– 2-4x per week. Intermediate. 60 minutes or less. This is a program I wrote for myself to improve at jiu jitsu. You’ll see that the barbell hip thrust is a staple to help you get better at the oopa and there’s some fun conditioning work for your endurance at the end.

Backpacking strength and endurance program– 3x a week lifting and 5x week backpacking training. This is the program I wrote for myself before completing the 500 mile Colorado Trail hike. You’ll need to start this program at least 9 weeks away from your hike to get through the whole thing. But start now even if you don’t have that time, it will still help!

3x a week lifting and 3x a week grip strength for improving at rock climbing. I’ve tested this program out on myself as well as a few other experienced climbers. I was able to move up about 2 bouldering grades in 6 months and the other climbers moved up a sport climbing grade in about the same time. Get after it.

Nutrition Internship Opportunities

Tennessee Tech Sports Nutrition Internship  

Rotations and Focuses

Total= 4-8-week rotation 


Must have at least 1 of the following for access to full internship 

  • Dietetic intern in a DPD internship 
  • Current RDN looking for more sports nutrition experience  
  • Strength & conditioning intern, or certified strength coach looking for nutrition experience 
  • Pursuing degree or interning in related field (up to program director’s discursion) 
  • *if you do not meet the above requirements, please contact us as we often need volunteers* 


  • Prompt, professional, and courteous  
  • Self-interest in nutrition and physical self-improvement: a passion for the field  
  • Self-driven and ambitious  

Opportunities and learning objectives 

  • Assess and prescribe nutrition programs for athletes and general population 
  • Use of supplements and functional foods for sport 
  • Public speaking opportunities  
  • Specialization in 1-2 team sports at TnTech 
  • Business development and strategies for private practice  
  • Nutrition program development for teams 
  • Working with coaches and athletes in group and 1 on 1 settings 
  • Nutrition workshops including meal planning, food prep, grocery store tours 
  • Letter of recommendation based upon merit and completion of internship 
  • Certificate of recognition after completion of internship 

Want more insight? We also have a video sneak peak of one of our interns recapping the week during one of our internship rotations here: 

About Anthony Paradis, Director of Sports Nutrition.  

“I came to TnTech from private practice in sports nutrition to develop the sports nutrition program here for the Golden Eagles. Having the split position, between teaching nutrition in the college of Human Ecology and sports dietitian with Athletics, has given me a unique opportunity to develop a comprehensive sports nutrition internship. I have a passion for working with students and continuing education. You can see more about my background here. Thank you for considering a rotation with our program and we look forward to hearing from you!” 

The next step 

  1. Contact me through our contact page. Put “sports nutrition internship” in the description. In the email please tell us a little bit about yourself and what you hope to get out of this internship experience.  
  2. We will contact you to work out the details and set a start date.  
  3. If you have an internship director, we will contact him or her customize our rotations to meet your internship needs.  
  4. Start and complete your sports nutrition internship!  

Physician’s Nutrition Toolkit

This toolkit provides (1) info on the Quality Measure 2020 nutrition and referral to dietitians, (2) printable referral documents, and (3) printable educational handouts for your clinic.

Quality Measures with Dietitians

Malnutrition Assessment Tools

Referral Documents to our Clinic

Printable Nutrition Education Documents

Booking Provided by Healthie

5 Easy Ways to Make Your Kitchen Eco-Friendly

  1. Use reusable shopping bags

Reusable shopping bags are inexpensive and easy to find. Keep a few in your car in case you forget to grab them out of your kitchen before you head to the store. Many grocery stores in Cookeville allow you to use reusable bags. Aldi is one store that requires you to bring your own.

2. Use reusable, washable food storage bags

Reusable food storage bags are also inexpensive and easy to find. Look for reusable bags that are dishwasher safe or easy to clean. These can replace plastic snack and sandwich bags.

3. Use washable rags instead of paper towel

Rags are inexpensive and you most likely have a couple old towels laying around that you could turn into rags. Use these for cleaning and messes instead of paper towel. Save paper towel use for your dirtiest messes, like pet messes.

4. Use wax food wraps instead of plastic wrap

Beeswax and other wax food wraps are become more popular. You can find them at home goods stores or online. Wash them in cold water and let air dry. Most can be reused for up to a year.

5. Use vegetable scraps to make vegetable stock

Place vegetable scraps in a large pot and cover in water. Add your favorite spices and simmer on low for a few hours. Strain out the veggies and store for 6 days or freeze for future use.

Bring in the New Year

Hello 2021, it’s time for a new year! With this new year around the corner people create goals to better themselves. One of the most common goals that people create for themselves is exercising and dieting. With the goal of dieting people often resort to fad dieting. (fad dieting is a trendy weight loss plan that promises dramatic results.) 

Reasons why New Year’s Goals often fail:

·      Busy schedule 

·      No accountability 

·      Lack of motivation 

·      Over-commit to what we want accomplished 

·      Unrealistic goals 

People do not fully achieve their resolution goals due to making a last-minute decision while the clock is counting down to midnight. Typically, the long-term process that is required to sustain these goals is not planned out. This New Year’s make sustainable and achievable goals by using SMART goals. 

Start out by making SMART goals.

S= Specific 

M= Measurable 

A= Attainable  

R= Relevant 

T= Time- based 


–       What do I want to accomplish?

–       Why is this goal important?

–       Who is involved?

–       Where is it located?

–       Which resources or limits are involved?


–       How much?

–       How many?

–       How will you know when it is accomplished? 


–       How will I accomplish this goal?

–       How realistic is the goal based on other constraints?


–       Is this the right time?

–       Is this worthwhile?

–       Am I the right person to reach this goal?


–       When? 

–       What can I do six months from now?

–       What can I do today?

–       What can I do two months from now?

Example of New Year’s goals: 

1.     Eat a wide variety of foods 

Challenge yourself to enjoy foods you would normally not allow yourself to eat. There is no such thing as “good” or “bad” foods. Focus on incorporating a lifestyle change instead of falling into the trend of a quick-fix diet. Fad diets are not sustainable. 

2.     Take care of yourself

Practice exercises that can help manage stress. Some of these could include journaling, yoga, hiking, walking, mediating, etc. 

3.     Get an adequate amount of sleep each night 

Getting a good amount of sleep each night can lead to an overall better physical and mental health. Also, it can help strengthen your immune system and can have an overall improved mood. 

4.     Don’t compare yourself to others and ditch the negative self-talk

If you find yourself constantly comparing yourself to other people on social media, then delete/hide those accounts. Fill your social media page with people who encourage you to be the best version of yourself. 

5.     Start small 

Create simple goals. For example, hold a plank, do a push up, do a pull up, be able to run a 5k, etc. 

6.     Drink more water

Drinking more water can help with clearer skin, feeling more energized, and weight loss. Bring a water bottle to work and order water while eating out will help you to achieve this goal. 

7.     Walk more 

Instead of taking the elevator, choose to take the stairs. Take your dog out for longer walks. Every bit counts and walking is great for exercise. 

8.     Try going to a fitness class

If you struggle working out alone, this can be a great way to hold yourself accountable and it is a great way to meet fitness friends!

3 Tips for a Healthy Holiday Season

1. Follow the plate method

Make half of your plate color from plants, a quarter of your plate lean protein, and a quarter of your plate whole grains. Following the plate method ensures you are nourishing your body with what is needs. It is okay to enjoy treats as well but stick to small servings!

2. Spend time with family and friends

This may look a little bit different this year, but human connection is important for overall health. Call, video chat, or physically spend time with family if it is safe to do so. Many family Christmases are cancelled this year, but this does not mean that you cannot still see your family. Schedule a zoom video chat and do a virtual gift exchange or party game.

3. Move!

Get outside and walk or run, set a timer for 20 minutes and move through 3-4 movements until the timer is up, or get off the couch and move every hour. Whatever you decide to do is beneficial! Remaining active during the holidays is important just like it is year-round.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls 

These peanut butter balls are a perfect fit for you holiday cookie tray! This combination of peanut butter and chocolate will satisfy your cravings! If you have a peanut butter allergy or sensitivity, then you can substitute a nut or seed butter for the peanut butter. 


½ cup of natural peanut butter (or substitute) 

¼ cup of honey 

¾ cup of almond flour 

1 tsp of vanilla extract 

1 tsp of melted coconut oil 

Chocolate cover: 

1 cup of dark chocolate chips 

1 tbsp of coconut flour 


1.Cover a plate with parchment paper and set aside

2.In a mixing bowl, add the peanut butter, coconut oil, honey, and vanilla extract. Stir until smooth

3.Stir in almond flour to form a thick batter

4.Roll batter into a small balls and place on the plate with parchment paper 

5.Freeze the plate with the peanut butter balls on it for about 20 minutes

6.Just before moving the plate from the freezer, microwave the chocolate chips and coconut oil for about 30 second intervals until the chocolate is smooth and melted

7.Remove the plate from the freezer and insert the toothpick in the center of the peanut butter ball and dip into the melted chocolate

8.Place the balls back onto the plate covered with parchment paper

9.Freeze the plate again to firm up the chocolate shell for about 10 minutes