Fueling the 'Birds: UBC Athletics provides online resource for students to eat right

Thunderbird athletes train hard. From practice to hours spent in the gym to game day, it’s important for them to get quality food to fuel their bodies and recover. They have trainers to give pointers around healthy eating, but now they have another tool at their disposal: the Go Thunderbirds nutrition website.

Emma McCrudden is the website’s creator and editor. She is also the lead dietician for varsity athletes on campus and an instructor of sports nutrition in kinesiology and food nutrition and health. Her motivation for starting the site was to have a detailed and easily-accessible resource for athletes.

“There are over 600 athletes in the varsity program here at UBC,” McCrudden said. “Within my first six months in the role, I was seeing a lot of repetitive questions, students struggling with the same problems and it became pretty obvious that creating a website was going to solve those issues, and be a bit more efficient with my time.”

With as much inaccurate sports nutrition information there is on the internet, having a reliable, comprehensive guide to nutrition information for high-level sports was at the forefront of McCrudden’s thinking. She tailored the site with the campus in mind, with one section dedicated to different restaurants at UBC and another one for eating healthy in residence.

“It bridges the gap between basic, low-level layperson language and high level scientific peer reviewed journals and tries to fall somewhere in the middle,” she said.

According to McCrudden, feedback from the athletes has been positive and Go Thunderbirds nutrition has grown greatly since it was launched, doubling in hits in the last 12 months.

To promote the site, McCrudden hosts cooking classes for a team every second week throughout the year. Nearly 300 athletes get hands-on training on how to turn the science of sports nutrition into living it out practically with eating and grocery shopping. McCrudden does an education piece at the end of every session to remind them of resources on the website and uses the UBC Instagram account to spread her message as well.

“We also use the Thunderbird Athletes Council Newsletter,” she said. “Every two weeks we have a media story that goes out within that newsletter that says, ‘You know, it’s exam season coming up, have you checked the ‘Eating for Exams’ information sheet on the Go Thunderbirds nutrition website?’ So we try as much as we can to promote it through as many avenues.”

But the information on the website is not just limited to varsity athletes.

“There’s lots of good information there that’s suitable for non-athletes as well,” McCrudden said. “We get questions on gluten-free diets and protein supplements, and fruit and vegetables, lots of things other people can access.”

McCrudden’s goal is to promote not only the website, but also the overarching mission of a healthier UBC campus with nutritious and delicious food choices. Her favourite smoothie on the site?

“I am a massive chocolate person,” she said. “So anything with chocolate or cocoa powder or a chocolate whey protein is what I would use as a substitute for actual chocolate. And I think bananas add something sweet, creamy and delicious to smoothies as well.”