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The Man Behind BYU’s Nutrition Program

22 August 2012 Brett Richins 31 Comments

Dan Wilcox, BYU’s new sports nutritionist.

When BYU embarks on a new football season next week, one of the people that may have the biggest impact on the success of the 2012 campaign is someone who will never take the field.

That person is Dan Wilcox,  a cutting-edge nutritionist and the owner of Elite Fueling.

The University of Utah grad is the guy BYU contracted with to bring a new culture and level of athletic performance to its football program through a new commitment to nutrition.

Wilcox designed the diet that, in conjunction with his workout regimen under the direction of Dave Stroshine at ASAP Training in Orem, helped former BYU offensive linemen Terence Brown famously and dramatically change his body in a short span of time leading up to the NFL draft.

Wilcox also worked with former Cougars Travis Uale and Corby Eason, helping them to make amazing gains prior to BYU’s Pro Day this past spring.

The transformations those players made in their physiques and the improvements in their performances during the combine-like workouts for NFL scouts caught the attention of Bronco Mendenhall, and the Cougar head coach had a real ah-ha moment.

“Just after combine training I got a call from Bronco,” says Wilcox. “He congratulated me on the work that we had done getting the guys ready, and asked if I would like to meet with them and see if I could possibly help the team out. We had a great meeting and the rest was history.”

Spend just a few minutes talking about nutrition with Wilcox, and you’ll quickly realize that he is extremely passionate about what he does, and he’s been on a mission to transform the Cougars into lean, mean, fighting machines.

“We’re really working to create a good culture here of nutrition as well as of good, lean bodies. It’s been absolutely amazing to be a part of it.”

Wilcox didn’t get his hands on the BYU players until May, meaning that the transformations the BYU players have undergone thus far have taken place in a very short span of time.

“A lot of the results you’re seeing are only three or four months along. What I’m telling the athletes is that within three to four months you will have a new skeleton, and within a year from now every tissue will be replaced in your entire system. And the foods that you and I choose and how we exercise has everything to do with the type of body we’re building.”

The secret to his success is the individual program he sets up for each player and the regular measurements, evaluations and adjustments that are part of the process.

“I’m down here everyday, and the athletes will come in and then I will pinch them and weight them and I track them on my data collection software where I will look at lean body mass on a weekly basis, as well as over time, and then we react to those results,” Wilcox explains.

“I draw them up their own individualized menus, so they’ll know how much of what to eat and when. We go through each menu and make sure that they are foods that (the players) like and foods that they are going enjoy, as well as foods that are scientifically sound as far as the good macro-nutrients — good carbs, fats and proteins.”

Wilcox says that each player receives his own menu and nutrition regimen based on his fitness and performance goals and how his body deals with a combination of foods.

“How those carbs, fats and proteins break down in their systems and how their bodies react to it, they are all individual. So you can’t really put them on a template-style program, you’ve got to have them on a personal and individualized program.”

One of the keys to such rapid results is the communication between Wilcox and the players. If an athlete doesn’t feel right after a workout or practice, they are encouraged to call Wilcox and describe how they are feeling. Wilcox will then recommend changes to their diets and then watch the results.

“How does their body react to the macro-nutrients? Do they need a certain level of carbs or a certain level of proteins to perform better? By trial and error, by asking questions and by them giving you feedback, you can dial each one of them in pretty quick. It’s really neat to see an athlete that is burning on all cylinders.”

Wilcox says he also works closely with representatives of Athlete’s Performance Institute, a training organization that helps prepare athletes for the professional ranks that BYU has hired to help develop specific training programs for each player. He also receives input from BYU coaches, and works with strength and conditioning coach Jay Omer to make sure that his nutrition menus properly integrate with the players’ training and goals.

“The coaches have all been involved and have been involved in the goal setting”

Some BYU fans have wondered what took so long for the program to come up to speed with its strength, conditioning and nutrition programs.

“I’ve been asked that by people,” Wilcox says. “The reality is that Bronco is ahead of the times. If you look at the programs across the nation that have a dedicated sports nutritionist, someone that is truly dedicated to the program, it’s a handful of teams and they are big name teams. So Bronco is ahead of the times in my opinion.”

Wilcox also says that only a small portion of college teams have a program that dials in so specifically on each individual players’ unique physiological needs and performance goals.

After years of Utah hiring BYU guys to help lift its football program to the next level, the Cougars have turned the tables, bringing in a Ute to help them take their athletic performance to the next level. Wilcox says that despite his ties to Utah, his experiences at BYU have made him true blue.

“I couldn’t be more excited; I love these guys. I’ve just been amazed at the caliber of guys that they are. There is no way I can stand on the sideline and not hope they perform their best.  I’m looking for a good, solid BYU win on September 15th (at Utah). I’d love to see them go up there and rattle their cages.”

 

 

 

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31 Comments »

  • cory said:

    Great article Brett! And thank you very much Mr. Wilcox.

  • Rick said:

    Nutrition is the key! This will make as big a difference in performance as anything the team can do. As an amateur triathlete, I have experienced it. Looking forward to see the results on the field!

  • football junkie said:

    Nice article but to be honest all this ‘tinkering’ with players frames in a smash mouth game seems a bit gimmicky to me. It’s nicethat the guys look a bit more chiseled these days but I didn’t see that it helped any of our guys into the NFL draft this year. And while I’m on it, I know Bronco wanted to minimize injuries this year during camp by going milk toast on hitting but again we’re toying around with time tested preseason methods for getting a team in peak condition for the regular season. I’m feeling like our Cougar football program is some sort of lab project trying to find a better formula for success. Come on the gameis time tested.These gimmicks have been tried before and if they had worked it would be the way things are done by the biggest and best programs out there.

  • Rob H. said:

    Great stuff Brett. Thanks for the good read.

  • Seasider said:

    football junkie- Regarding Bronco’s “tinkering” being gimmicky. I would refer to this quote from Wilcox.

    “The reality is that Bronco is ahead of the times. If you look at the programs across the nation that have a dedicated sports nutritionist, someone that is truly dedicated to the program, it’s a handful of teams and they are big name teams. So Bronco is ahead of the times in my opinion.”

    A player’s physical condition is usually not the deciding factor on whether or not they get drafted but I’m pretty sure being in tip top shape increases that player’s chances of getting picked up by a team.

  • Xerxes said:

    I agree with Seasider. Many of these players, especially O-line, will not be chiseled by any means. But, they will have less body fat and more lean muscle. It may not improve their skill level, but it will make them faster and improve reaction times. When the whole squad improves together even just a little, it will make huge differences in gameplay.

    While I’m not sure we’ll see a huge difference this season because the program is so new, I’m willing to bet that within 2 or 3 years we will be able to look back and wonder how we were able to win 10 games with past squads.

  • Jared (the original) said:

    For many many years, swimmers used to train 2-6 hours a day, every day. Don Scholander(SP) was a US olympic swimmer. He tells of how they would train.

    Then some years ago, I read of athletic scientists who used research and statistics and body results to analyze how much and when and what to train during the week and approaching competition. Things change as knowledge increases. Reason dictates you don’t go swimming the morning you are going to play a fb game in the afternoon. But many other training factors not so obvious can be analyzed to produce superior results.

    I am not sure this nutrition approach is as truly efficient and effective as we could hope, but exercise by science has proven effective. Our modern day athletes are almost always better than what they were years ago.

    Usain Bolt broke his own world record in the 100. But what was interesting to note, of the 8 runners who ran the race, 7 broke the 10 second barrier. It used to be nobody did it.

    It looks like this may be a good thing. I really don’t think it is as totally effective or unique from the nutrition side as Wilcox would like us to believe, so that he can continue his chance to be the consultant, but good science is usually very effective in making better competitors. The WofW provides a lot of good nutrition advice. Eating healthy is not Wilcox’s unique domain. But it is good to have science and research back up what he advocates.

    So if it takes a consultant to get guys to eat wisely, the better the team has a chance to be.

  • football junkie said:

    Seasider, I appreciate your remarks. Taken at face value all this makes perfect sense. And by the way I wouldn’t expect Mr. Wilcox to say anything different, after all he is on the team payroll. What I am suggesting is that in order to justify his worth to the program he must redefine the nutritional balance of the players diet. This is a risky proposition because not only are we wanting our players to be fast and agile but because of the nature of the game they must be able to absorb a hit…thus the need and necessity of osseous, muscular resistance or in other words personal body armour…and I’m not talking about pads and helmets. A professional nutritionist, as skilled as he is in his art, is still ‘practicing’ his profession, meaning there are no guarantees. (ask your doctor if he dispenses guarantees in his practice) So, like I said this is a bit like a lab project. You hope for excellent results but if your science labs have been like mine there’s always an unforeseen glitch that sometimes ‘blows up’ in your face. And by the way, your tip top shape idea has merit, it’s just that ‘changing one’s shape’ doesn’t necessarily mean it will bode better for that player’s chances..it may worsen his chance for a shot at the NFL. Case in point. We were all told that Matt Reynalds was a sure fire 1st round draft pick. I feel really bad for the young man but don’t see this nutrition program having helped him over the top. Who knows, maybe it hurt his chances. After all he not supposed to be a gazelle; his job is to be a tank and protect the QBs blind side. Just saying…

  • Jeremy said:

    As a Ute, I am nervous about what Dan will be doing for the Cougars…

    I worked with him for 6 months and saw the transformation on myself first hand, so I know he will help those guys take it to the next level…

    I just wish he were doing it for the U. ;-)

    Dan is the real deal… congrats to him and to BYU!

  • John said:

    Jeremy,

    Does that mean Dan works with individuals who are not collegiate athletes? I would be interested in utilizing his services if that is the case. I tried searching for Elite Fueling, but didn’t get any hits.

  • Brett Richins (author) said:

    John,

    Email me and I can point you in the right direction.

  • WaybackCougar said:

    This is a real scoop, Brett. Thanks! I can’t believe I haven’t seen an interview with Dan Wilcox in the mainstream media yet. So interesting that this has only been going on since May and the results are already apparent.

    Football Junkie, LaVell Edwards wasn’t afraid to head off in a different direction from time-tested ideas and that led to the golden age of BYU football.

    Bronco knows that he has to do all he can to find ways to make up for the limits of our talent pool. And, yes, keeping his best players healthy by limiting hitting is one of them. Losing one great player for the season before even reaching the starting blocks may well be more detrimental than having 11 that aren’t quite as ready to tackle.

    I’m all for his willingness to experiment. It’s true that not all ideas may turn out well, but I’m betting he will keep things moving upwards in the long run.

  • Jeremy said:

    John, he does work with us normal folk… but I am not too sure what his current workload and capacity is, given this new opportunity working with BYU…

    It sounds like Brett can give you more information, but if you want to get in touch with Dan, email me at jeremy (at) jrbechthold.com and I will forward your request over to Dan.

    You may also want to check out ASAP Training… if you are looking at working out as well as the nutrition side, Dave Stroshine is top notch!

    http://www.trainasap.com

  • Jim Tills said:

    Great personalized nutrition, proper exercise and enough sleep will ensure the most out of these talented players and consequently, a better result on the football field for BYU. BYU has always used strength and conditioning coach, Jay Omer, but have needed more.
    Year after year, we have suffered from nagging injuries that have limited some key players and totally lost others from the complete season. Bronco and fellow coaches went to NFL teams to see how they kept their players healthy in the pre-season conditioning time period. The result seems to jive with his approach to have mostly non-padded players touching rather than “hitting” during August drills. In my opinion, this was almost a no-brainer decision and keeps our top athletes healthy for the crunch time coming very soon.
    Can hardly wait until the 30th and our first BYU win of the season!!!

  • Brett Richins (author) said:

    WaybackCougar,

    Hence the existence of DSB. Thanks.

  • Martin said:

    This is an impressive piece Brett. Well done! The only question I have is why Bronco did not hire Stoshine as well. A changing of the guard is long over due at the strength and conditioning coach.

  • Brett Richins (author) said:

    Martin,

    Stroshine is currently employed as the strength and conditioning coach at UVU, and so he can not be hired as a consultant in the same way that Wilcox and API have been “hired”.

  • Vesparider said:

    I don’t have any inside info but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stroshine make a move to BYU eventually. Things may be already in the works. Omer won’t always be the S&C coach at BYU. BYU athletics would be a step up from UVU athletics and I’m an alum of UVU.

  • Brett Richins (author) said:

    Vesparider,

    I do have a little bit of inside info and I agree with you.

  • Gary said:

    Jim Tills – your comment about fall camp preparation being dictated by what Bronco learned from NFL camps is interesting. There seems to be a lot of people who are criticizing Bronco for his low contact camp, feeling that it does not prepare the team for the season.

    I do know that the last couple of years we came out hitting hard in our first few games. That seems to taper off during the year, maybe because of wear and tear and injuries?

    What is typical contact for NFL players who have a longer season and are being hit by larger players? Do they go soft during the preseason camps until the get close to playing time?

    Is Bronco’s current approach really modeling NFL concepts?

    It would be nice to put an end to the constant criticism leveled at the coaching staff for trying to keep players healthy.

    How different is our fall camp from say, Utah?

    Brett, maybe you have some input on this also.

  • Brett Richins (author) said:

    Gary,

    Interestingly, I am already in process on an article on that very issue.

  • Walt Hanssen said:

    Brett- It seems that the O-line has indeed not come together right in the nick of time as center & RG are still up for grabs. That can’t be good at this point a week away from WSU. Plus Blair Tushaus is only 6’2″ 270 lbs who would be the smallest center to play at BYU in decades. If that is true, Star will be licking his chops to go against someone 50 lbs lighter than him.

  • Jared said:

    Walt…the difference is this, as noted by Coach Weber in another article: 320 pounds total weight with only 215 pounds lean muscle mass weight is not as good as 270 pounds total with with 235 pounds lean muscle mass weight.

    What the scale says when then player stands on it does not tell the whole story. Proof is what happens on the field, but Star will be surprised that the “midget” in front of him is strong like an ox.

  • Brett Richins (author) said:

    Walt,

    Isn’t it nice to have seven or eight guys that are worthy of starting? Don’t worry about Blair, he’ll do just fine at center. A lot of centers are smaller than the average offensive lineman.

  • Teddy Baer said:

    I’ve heard actually that it was Coach Cahoon who suggested a need for better nutrition and position-specific workouts.

  • TroyS said:

    @football junkie

    I saw no reports that Matt Reynolds used this nutrition program before the draft, so it’s no surprise that it didn’t “put him over the top”.

  • Christy said:

    Way to go Dan! My husband and I have worked with Dan on and off for years. He is the real deal. He has changed the way we view food, our body shapes, and encouraged us to make hard adjustments in our fitness level.

    I am currently working with him to get the baby weight off and get my body back after baby #5 and he is amazingly supportive and passionate about what he does and the people he works with.

    Though each person has to do the work, there is no better motivator and help out there. BYU has shown they want to be taken seriously by only recruiting the best. I am definitely a Dan fan. Good luck on your season BYU football.

  • John said:

    Great article. While there has been alot of buzz about the new nutrition program, I would love to learn more about what API is bringing to the table. Any change of emphasis would be interesting to know. How many consultants they send out to Provo and how often. Also how the BYU S&C staff interacts with API.

  • walt hanssen said:

    Brett I knew they were shorter and a little lighter but we haven’t had a center under 300 during Mendenhall’s time and certainly not close to 270

  • Brett Richins (author) said:

    Walt,

    BYU has at least two other potential starters under 300 pounds this year in Mathews (6-6, 292) and Stringham (6-6, 290). And Michael Yeck, a key backup at tackle goes 6-8, 288. It’s all part of having a leaner, quicker offensive line. Plus, I suspect that Reynolds (6-2, 305) will win the starting center spot in the end anyway.

  • Brandon said:

    These articles are some of the best available regarding BYU football. Hopefully it won’t be long before you have your own show on TV talking about the cougars.

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