Offensive lineman Dicky Shanor ’05 musingly leans back in his chair and appeals for a “shout-out to my girl Donna.”
Donna is a rebel. She knows what it takes to steal the heart of the former Captain Freedom. She knows the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
At approximately 9:30 a.m. every weekday morning in the hallowed halls of Commons, Donna — “the omelet lady” — faithfully scrambles up a quart (the equivalent of that Nalgene of water you carry around and can’t seem to finish) of heart-healthy egg whites for Shanor despite the dining services’ hefty disapproval.
Shanor declares his devotion to the dining hall because “they always have a healthy alternative,” and he depends on his unlimited meal plan to support the 250 grams of protein he tries to ingest daily. He stresses that the “amount of food [he] has to consume is so excessive” that a nutritionally sound regime is imperative to maintain his fit form.
Shanor may tenaciously throw around opposing gridders on the field, but this carnivorous rage does not translate into his impressive dining hall etiquette. He is a model of au courant consumption, with his balanced tray of meat, vegetables, starches, and leafy greens, washed down with two cold glasses of water. Like Shanor, most Eli athletes are conscious of their diets, more so than the average Yalie.
Shanor offers his own theories on football weight maintenance.
“Basically there are two methods: There are the five to six meals a day of healthy food,” he said. “And then, there is the ‘Tony Bellino method’ which involves eating two extremely large and unhealthy meals a day to strategically slow the metabolism.”
Bellino ’05 is an Eli offensive lineman.
Shanor rarely strays from his fidelity to Donna, eating fast food only on occasion. He prefers his own brand of takeout — there is always a “baggie” in his backpack so that he can create a scrumptious sandwich from the leftovers of a meal to “haul out to class.”
By contrast, junior noseguard Willie Cruz ’05 takes a liberal approach to consumption because he is on a weight gain mission.
“I look at my weight gain as a four year sacrifice — I know I have to maintain a certain weight to be successful — gaining weight and getting stronger is a part of my sport,” said Cruz, who has put on 50 pounds since he first suited up for Yale in 2001.
“I’m just trying to eat as much as possible — I have a tendency to lose weight very quickly if I don’t keep up a huge diet,” Cruz said.
A large jar of weight gainer sits untouched on his windowsill because he cannot stomach the taste. Instead, Cruz is a connoisseur of late-night cuisine. He eats four meals a day, and proudly states that he prefers fast food to the often distasteful dining hall cuisine.
Like Cruz, basketball guard Edwin Draughan ’05, who admits to being “extremely underweight,” is looking to gain weight to improve his athleticism.
“Whatever I see, I eat — I have a high metabolism,” Draughan said. “Everything I eat gets burned off.”
Draughan eschews supplements because he has heard that certain weight gainers may cause impotency.
Instead, Draughan eats five meals a day, snacks on peanut butter sandwiches with milk, makes late-night runs to A-1 and has an affinity for a rather unorthodox weight gainer — Jello — because “it’s good and I eat a lot of it.” Draughan’s intense personal drive manifests itself in his declaration that “there is no pressure from the coaches at all [to gain weight.] It is all from myself.”
Like his teammate Draughan, basketball center Dominick Martin ’05 strives to add pounds (approximately 15) to his frame. He said he focuses on eating protein but said, “I eat whatever. I need to start eating healthier. I don’t eat the way I need to.” Presently, Martin said he concentrates on getting “three meals a day and not too much soda” to maintain energy and prevent dehydration during grueling practices.
Unlike Martin, who said he feels that he could benefit from the advice of a nutritionist, long distance runner Melissa Donais ’06 is an expert in informed eating. She makes it a priority to take nutrition classes and read as much as she can about the subject, making her impressively well-versed on the intricacies of her nutritional needs.
“Female runners lose iron very easily — Iron in your body is broken up every time your foot hits the ground,” Donais said. “It’s important because it carries oxygen to your muscles”
Donais revealed the two primary sources of iron — meat and veggies — and stressed that it is essential to drink orange juice with dark leafy greens because vitamin C assists iron absorption.
Normally, Donais loads up on easily digestible carbs like bagels, animal crackers and fruit, which she combines with healthy sources of fat like peanut butter.
“Carbs are the easiest source of fuel for your muscles,” she said. “Right now, the public is losing a sense of that with all the fad diets like Atkins. If a runner were to do that, it would be lethal.”
Sprinter Rob deLaski ’06 eats a moderate amount of unrefined carbs and emphasizes protein at all meals to maintain as lean and strong a physique as possible.
“This year I’ve been very conscious [of my eating] because I’ve been more into the sport,” he said. “You put so much effort into training hard that you don’t want to mess it up by eating McDonald’s every night … Whatever is not muscle is just extra weight around the track.”
Most days, deLaski has two protein shakes, each consisting of 130 calories and 24 grams of protein, one with breakfast and the second after his workout. During the day he eats light meals, such as sandwiches.
“If you eat too much at breakfast or lunch, you throw up at practice,” deLaski said.
While football, basketball and track athletes consciously condition their bodies, the stimuli for their regimes are largely internal, or at the general request of a coach to his team. However the strict weight requirements of some sports are a constant external force that pressures athletes to meet a specific weight standard.
Lightweight rower David Zaragoza ’06 said he is extremely concerned about his food intake.
“Every bit of food counts, he said. “You want to get the best kind of food you can.”
He admitted that there is always the looming issue of weight.
“It’s hard and I’m not going to say I enjoy doing it,” Zaragoza said. “But in the end the satisfaction of rowing well is worth it.”
This sentiment of sacrifice is echoed by women’s coxswain Darby Jones ’06. She said it is ideal to be as close to the minimum weight as possible to facilitate a fast boat.
Jones prioritizes protein because she is a vegetarian, and laments the lack of vegetarian-friendly selections in the dining hall.
She depends heavily on the more readily available dairy options to sustain her diet. Jones credits her vegetarianism with helping her healthfully lose 10 pounds for the racing season.
“I understand that under normal circumstances I wouldn’t be trying to lose weight — But I understand what I’m doing and I’m not doing it for a certain image — I’m doing it to make the boat faster,” Jones said.
Although a club sport, men’s wrestling also maintains an exceptionally rigorous regime in order to compete in specific weight classes. Captain Vince Panzano ’04 detailed how he bulks up — to a weight of 188 pounds — on pasta during the summer, then diets to compete in the 165-pound weight class.
Panzano said he wrestles at 165 because he “can compete and be ripped without starving myself,” although he also stated that he “tries to be a little hungry every day” while supplementing his regime with protein shakes and creatine. Panzano rowed on the lightweight team his freshman year and said he used the same general strategy to control his weight.
Panzano admitted that wrestlers often have additional problems with water weight.
“I will try to lose four or five pounds for the next day — dehydration is a problem.”
Despite the rigors of restricting his diet, Panzano said he considers himself “an expert in making weight change” and enjoys the extra stimulus he gets from the challenge of weight loss.
The sailing team takes a notably low-key approach to eating. Deniz Ozgenc ’04, who sails as crew — a position for which she must be “short and be able to fit into a constricted area” — said she is moderate in her eating habits.
“I don’t eat fries with everything,” she said.
Co-ed sailing team captain Meredith Killion ’05 said there is not much pressure on the sailing team to maintain a specific weight because there are no weigh-ins for regattas, although with the small 420s — large 14-foot boats manned by two people — used in collegiate racing, it is clear that the “lighter you are, the faster you go.”
Killion said weight sometimes determines who participates in regattas because there is a distinction between a regular crew and a “heavy wind crew” for more tumultuous weather. Killion said the way sailors maintain their bodies, especially with the stress of early morning drives to regattas, varies widely due to convenience, budget, and individual eating preferences.
“McDonald’s for some, sandwiches for others,” she said.
Gymnast Suchitra Paul ’07 said she neither consumes excessive amounts of junk food nor over-analyzes certain combinations of food. Paul said she has been doing gymnastics for so long that she feels her eating has become almost instinctive. Moreover, she acknowledges that her body type is naturally well-acclimated to gymnastics. Paul said she feels no pressure from the gymnastics team to restrict her diet.
“We don’t have a regimen on the team — Body weight has more to do with personal preference,” Paul said.
As for alcohol, many admit that celebratory times call for festive measures. However, most athletes are cautious about their alcohol consumption during the season. Revelry is naturally reserved for a big event.
Back at the Ezra Stiles College dining hall, Shanor slyly leans over his modest second course of chicken strips and greens to confide, “I’ve been known to handle my fair share of Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Smirnoff Ice, but for the most part, I’m not a big drinker.”
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