Oct 19, 2018
Fueling Stations
Craig Castor

At Allegheny Health Network (AHN), we have been bringing nutrition to high school athletes. One way we do this a 5-foot-tall fueling station on wheels. These fueling stations are located in each school’s athletic training room and come stocked with a variety of protein bars and gluten-free snacks, thanks to a partnership with Come Ready™ Nutrition, a Pittsburgh-based manufacturer of sports nutrition products founded by former University of Pittsburgh basketball player Pat Cavanaugh.

The objective of the fueling stations is to fill in some of the nutritional gaps that can plague high school athletes. For example, many have an early lunch — sometimes as early as 10:30 a.m. — and are in need of an energy boost before afterschool practices and games. Instead of heading to a vending machine for a snack, athletes can get a healthier alternative at the fueling station.

The cost of stocking the fueling stations is built into the sports medicine contracts we have with each school. The schools receive a few hundred dollars’ worth of supplies each year, split into four deliveries. Athletic trainers at each school know they don’t have an endless supply of snacks, so they are responsible for rationing them out.

Each station also contains useful educational material, including injury prevention tips; advice on how athletes can care for their bodies before, during, and after workouts; and other topics that vary depending on the time of year. In the summer and fall, information relevant to heat exposure might be provided. But in the winter and spring, the instruction might focus on appropriate clothing for training in the cold or ways to effectively manage stress during exams.

The fueling stations have quickly become a prized resource at each high school. In fact, many schools make additions to the supply of snacks because they recognize the value to their students. For instance, the lacrosse teams at Bethel Park (Pa.) High School have purchased extra bars to establish smart snacking practices on the way to and from games. Their booster club covers this additional expense. Looking ahead, we would like to eventually offer more options at the fueling stations, such as items for athletes with food allergies, protein puffs, protein waters, and dried fruits.

Eric Cardwell, MS, ATC, Senior Athletic Trainer at AHN and Head Athletic Trainer at North Hills High School in Pittsburgh, has witnessed the many benefits of the fueling stations firsthand.

“I have observed that my student-athletes are making better snack choices,” he says. “For instance, they select a Come Ready bar over a candy bar. Plus, they have the education to know why something like a Come Ready bar is a better option for their athletic success. I’ve seen this knowledge extend beyond fueling stations to the lunch room and at dinner time as they have been choosing more nutritious food to fuel them.”

Craig Castor, LAT, ATC, is an Athletic Trainer and Sports Medicine Supervisor at Allegheny Health Network based in Pittsburgh.

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