The Man Behind BYU’s Nutrition Program
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.”