Gatorade Fuel Bar serves athletes’ nutritional needs

By Chris Harry

It’s 6:30 a.m. in the south end zone at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, yet the weight room is bustling with workout groups from the football, softball and soccer teams. As the athletes wrap up their sessions, for many there is now a mandatory stop they make before exiting the facility.

Belly up, folks, to the Gatorade Fuel Bar.

What was once a simple countertop area with some refrigerators has been converted into a full-service nutritional refueling station that UF athletes routinely visit post-workout as part of their training plan, whether on a weight-gain, maintain or lean-out schedule.

“The whole setup is just really appealing. Perfect, actually,” junior defensive tackle Joey Ivie said. “With the bar right there, no one is walking out of here without their protein. You can’t miss it.”

That’s the idea.

“Basically, because of the fueling of their bodies and the amount of caloric expenditure that occurs during a workout, to be able to advance that recovery so readily, makes it special,” said UF Director of Strength and Conditioning Mike Kent, who accompanied football coach Jim McElwain from Colorado State. “Everything is basically set up so we know how many calories are being burnt in a workout and this is how we can restore those calories faster and more efficiently.”

Gatorade-contracted programs began installing the bars last year. Perhaps it was only fitting that this state-of-the-art model showed up in time to celebrate Gatorade’s 50th birthday at the very place the sports drink was invented by Dr. Robert Cade in 1965.

A pictorial timeline of Gatorade’s history is part of the slick graphics package that decorates the bar area — under the heading, “Born In the Lab” — that includes a 12-foot food prep and workspace counter, under-counter pass-through visi-coolers, blender stations, cabinet and organizational system, plus an iPad affixed to the wall so workers can have an athlete’s nutritional specifications at their fingertips.

The University Athletic Association (UAA) announced plans to include a variation of the bar in the renovation of the basketball facility weight room. That fueling outpost will serve the basketball, golf and
tennis programs.

“Obviously, monitoring nutrition is one of the most important things we do as far as taking care of our athletes,” said Chip Howard, UAA’s executive associate director for internal affairs. “Now we can do it better.”

The UAA’s new director of sports nutrition, Stephanie Wilson, oversees the Gatorade Bar and its operation.

A staff of interns handles the day-to-day workings of the station, making sure the chocolate, vanilla, chocolate-peanut butter or strawberry-banana shakes are prepared, stocked and made to specifications, with calculations based on weight and lean muscle mass.

The feedback from the athletes has been all thumbs up.

“I think they all love it,” said post-graduate intern and interim nutritionist Tiffany Ilten. “Visually it’s very appealing, with a kind of futuristic look to it, and you can’t beat the
convenience. Above all, it’s helping them accomplish their goals.”

And depending on the time, sometimes the bar is stacked two and three rows deep, not unlike one of the hotspots in Midtown across University Avenue.

“Yeah,” nodded senior tight end Jake McGee, with a smile “Only here, you don’t have to tip.”

Nope. Just belly up and fuel up.

“We’re fortunate to be at a place like the University of Florida where we can have nice things like this,” senior linebacker Antonio Morrison said. “It looks good and it’s good for us.”