CSU nutrition center: The fuel in the tank of Ram athletics

Luke Zahlmann

As spring begins, the football team awaits the arrival of several players that will make their way to campus this summer. One of the most important cogs in the Rams’ success, though, has already been on campus for years.

Pamela Bartz, the mastermind behind the fuel entering the bodies of athletes all around campus, has taken her impact beyond the counter, hoping to be a constant reminder in the minds of those she aids. As Director of Sports Nutrition, she stretches the job title to a second mother for many in her gridiron flock, along with doing the same for each and every other sport.

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“She knows exactly what I need and what I’ll want after practice,” senior running back Izzy Matthews said. “When I was losing a lot of weight, she was putting (weight loss) stuff in it and just building that relationship so she knows who you are and what you need … (She’s) definitely like a second mom figure.”

director of performance nutrition
Pam Bartz, the director of performance nutrition at CSU, stands in the new nutritional facility located in the CSU football stadium. (Abby Flitton | Collegian)

When Bartz is not making her presence felt in person, the players are a mere click away from shooting her a text if they need assistance. Whether it is at the grocery store, at a restaurant perusing the menu or even in a drive-thru, Bartz aims to be a decision-making guide.

In helping to make decisions, the players are also given a broad base of knowledge on how certain foods can be used for their bodies. A higher level of food awareness helps to keep the players out of harm’s way and the dreaded grease trap that can daunt them at several eateries around town.

“I love the nutrition center because they taught me a lot about doing the little things,” senior defensive lineman Richard King said. “As far as hydration (and) eating a healthy diet, (I) really see how far that goes in relations to your play. I’m seeing a direct correlation now that I have the right nutrition.”

Seeing results from her teachings and cooking is something that Bartz strives for and feels only furthers the connection with the players she looks to build up. Lessons can only go so far without results, and the wellness brought to the players by the training staff and nutrition center are paying dividends.

The meals served are not just redundant uses of boring greens, though; Bartz seeks to bring a freshness to the kitchen that will only elevate the usefulness and flavor of the foods she serves. Varied flavors and ingredients still serve a singular purpose for Bartz: maximum performance.

Though home-cooking is a tall task for the staff of the CSU nutrition center, the aim is to bring freshness regardless of the course, a valiant attempt to cut out the processing in food.

“We have a plentiful amount, they’ll never tell us no,” Matthews said. “You just know that Pam, with how passionate she is about her work, that everything that are putting in our bodies is gonna be so good for us that it’s kinda hard to turn it down.”

Varying intakes and plans for each player come with personal meetings periodically for each, allowing a free-flowing dialogue to be created about what each player seeks to gain from their nutrition. All sizes and shapes, all diets and appetites, and even personal favorites from home are sought to be cared for by Bartz and her staff.

With multiple players coming from places that may even reach different continents, the personal meetings serve as a benchmark for Bartz to recreate some of the foods her athletes have come accustomed to, with a new and improved twist.

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Though football involves a lessened reach among the world as many other sports present on campus, Bartz seeks to switch it up for players and coaches alike. With varieties such as over 50 shake flavors for pre- and post-workout, the nutrition team is allowing players to adjust to an ever-changing world of athletics.

“Strength and conditioning is always changing, so nutrition is (too),” Bartz said. “If it’s timing, choices, we always try new things…We get to really have fun and it’s a hands-on life experience.”

The experimentation has its limits for the staff, however, as a model of consistency leading up to game day is enforced. Within two days of the game, the plan will cease to yield diverse foods as Bartz and her staff seek to provide the players with a common ground in pregame preparation.

“From our perspective, once a player buys in and realize how much better they feel and perform, they’ll see visible differences in their body composition, they’ll have more energy, they’ll be able to have more effective workouts…that really is what puts them over the edge.” Terry DeZeeuw, director of sports performance

The pregame involves a meal, four hours before game time, as well as snacks when needed. Both edible encounters are accompanied by a healthy dose of hydration, a factor that is highly influential on the gridiron among other athletic venues. The preparation for game day also includes a pair of meals and a nighttime snack the day before.

Post-games, both home and away, are focused on recovery. The plans for recovery are already being put into action in spring practice as the strains of every-day work in and outside the training facility are being dealt with daily in the many rooms that surround Moby Arena.

Following road games, Bartz utilizes the ingredients common to their new temporary stomping grounds, such as southern food when the Rams make their way to SEC country as they did last year when they traveled to play the Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa.

“If we’re going to an area of the country that has a certain type of food that is unique to that area, that gets demoed and tested early,” said Terry DeZeeuw, director of sports performance. “Then when we get to that area of the country, it’ll be, ‘This is the real deal, this is the genuine type of food that you’re gonna eat in this particular region of the country.’ It provides our student athletes with a unique opportunity to dive into different areas and expectations from a food standpoint.”

The food on the road makes its way home as well for the players of CSU. Just over a week ago, the team was treated to a Cajun dinner of crawfish, an experience that Bartz says was unique for many on the team who have never encountered the southern shellfish. 

Everything is still made with health in mind, in order to garner the best out of each athlete. Using different ingredients with the same underlying purpose allows the nutrition center to place itself hand-in-hand with the performance staff.

DeZeeuw places faith in the teachings of Bartz and allows them to be utilized to their fullest alongside the training regimens enforced for CSU athletics.

“From our perspective, once a player buys in and realize how much better they feel and perform, they’ll see visible differences in their body composition, they’ll have more energy, they’ll be able to have more effective workouts… that really is what puts them over the edge,” DeZeeuw said. “If you tie the nutritional piece to the workout from that sense, it becomes an automatic buy-in.”

With previous stints at Purdue and Ohio State among others, DeZeeuw’s past at top athletic programs gives insight to what a successful program looks like.

Overseeing the entire health program for all athletes, DeZeeuw has given Bartz free reign, allowing her to also find those who share her passion, including her new full-time assistant Julie Sinkovitz who joined the staff this year.

Surrounded by elite facilities, the trio shares the goal of allowing athletes the opportunity to reach their potential as Rams under their tutelage, advancing past what their previous personal expectations were. Every day is “game day” for the staff behind the scenes, and the success on the field follows suit.

Collegian sports reporter Luke Zahlmann can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @lukezahlmann.