Mindy Black is a sports dietitian, and is board-certified in sports nutrition. She went to the University of Florida where she got her undergraduate degree in nutrition and her master’s in exercise physiology. She worked for the University of Florida Athletic Association for five years as their sports dietitian. Black eventually made her way to Jacksonville, where she worked for a private practice, the JU Dolphins and even a few PGA TOUR players. She joined the Jaguars over a year ago.

How important is nutrition for overall athletic performance?

It’s extremely important. It’s kind of what we think of as the “one-up.” You can only get so far on genetics, so you need to start doing things to help performance, and nutrition is one of those things that you can always have a “one-up” on. In the last 10 years, it’s become evident how important nutrition is for sports.

One Up

How do you keep the players hydrated during these hot months?

The players get pretty annoyed with us. We will test their urine each morning to see where their hydration level is, and I’m kind of like the hydration police. I’ll walk around to make sure everyone has their water bottles or their Gatorade. We also will weigh in and weigh out, so when they get off the field after a practice we can see how much water they’ve lost and make sure to give that back before the next practice. There’s a science to it!

What’s a typical day of meals for the average player?

A typical day will start off around 6 a.m. and that’s when they will eat breakfast. That might be an omelette with some oatmeal and fruit. And then around 9 o’clock they will have an individualized smoothie that we hand design for each player. Lunch starts at 11:30 a.m. and can be anything from salmon with sweet potatoes and asparagus to baked or fried chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans.

Do you give them a limit on food consumption? We know these are some big dudes!

They know I’m watching! I’m more so here to try and educate them instead of police them. If they’re working on recovering from an injury I’ll pick out the foods directed toward that particular goal. If they’ve had a particular food before that I recommend, I do make them try it, so there’s definitely a little mom factor in there!

Veggies

Tell us more about these delicious smoothies you make.

Each player will get a smoothie to suit their needs. How we categorize it is by weight loss, weight gain or maintenance. Some might be at higher risk for injuries, so we might add in anti-inflammatory fruits or veggies. We do take their preference into consideration, so they’ll enjoy the smoothie!

What’s your go-to cheat meal?

I’m a foodie, so this is so hard. I’d say Southern food, like real mac and cheese and biscuits.

What are three foods that you think everyone should put into their diet?

Some kind of green, leafy vegetable like spinach or kale. 2. A lean protein, something like salmon that has Omega 3s that are good for your brain. 3. Quinoa, because it’s a great carbohydrate, and it also has protein and a lot of fiber in it.

Are the nutrition regimens you design for football similar to something you would recommend to a surfer or skateboarder?

It’s really similar. Basically what we do is concentrate on nutrition for pre- and post-performance. Whether you’re surfing or you’re out on the field playing, you’re using carbohydrates as your main fuel. Making sure you’re getting enough calories is definitely important, so if you’re skipping breakfast, not eating lunch and then eating a huge dinner, you’re not going to perform at your best.  

How many water bottles do these players go through each game?

The goal is for them to be drinking at least 20 ounces beforehand and every 15 minutes having another 4 to 8 ounces.

Water

Favorite recipe?

Probably an easy 10-minute shrimp recipe I make. I take some shrimp, lay them out. Then mix a little worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, a little teaspoon of butter and melt that on top of the shrimp. Bake for around 10 minutes and you’re done. I put it on top of some salad or rice!

One piece of advice for someone looking to live a healthier lifestyle or change their overall nutrition.

Take it one step at a time. I think nutrition is a staircase. If you’re at the bottom of a stair exercising and you decided to jump 20 stairs all in one week, you’ll fall flat on your face. Nutrition is the same way. A lot of people will wake up January 1 and say, “I’m gonna go all organic” or “nothing processed,” and that’s great. But, if you’re eating Burger King everyday you’re not going to be successful. Little things will last much longer than trying to completely change your diet in one week.