When the Pittsburgh Steelers exit the locker room and run onto the field, the elite athletes’ bodies are ready to perform at optimal levels, capable of explosive strength and speed. The professional athletes have spent their lives training their bodies to do the extraordinary.

Their physical conditioning plays a significant role in the athletes’ preparation, but equally important is their nutrition. For the past two seasons, Dr. Kim Schwabenbauer, RD, CSSD, PennWest professor within the nutrition and fitness concentration of the exercise science program, has worked with the team, tailoring their nutritional intake to the specific needs of the professional athletes. During last year’s training camp, she employed an intern who knows a thing or two about preparing his body for competition.

Senior Eli Brinsky is a member of the Golden Eagles wrestling team and a nutrition and fitness major at PennWest Clarion.

“I chose this field of study because I have always been interested in living a healthy lifestyle, and I wanted to pursue a career that connected to my background as a student-athlete,” Brinsky said. “I chose Clarion because I loved the small-town atmosphere, and I could not pass up the opportunity to continue my wrestling career at a storied program with amazing coaches and teammates.” 

Brinsky’s internship responsibilities included researching nutrition supplements, helping to develop recipes for smoothies and electrolyte popsicles, and assisting in other nutrition-related tasks. 

“When researching supplements, we are looking to see if they are approved by NSF Certified for Sport, which is a third-party testing company that ensures the supplements are not contaminated with banned substances,” Brinsky said.

When creating recipes for smoothies, the focus is on high-protein and antioxidant-rich ingredients to help the athletes recover properly after their workouts and practices.

“High-protein ingredients like whey protein powder and Greek yogurt assist in muscle building and recovery. Antioxidant rich ingredients like blueberries and raspberries help prevent tissue damage from free-radicals that are a result of exercise,” he said. 

Hydration is key for athletes at all times, but especially during training camp because of the extreme heat.

“Electrolyte popsicles are a fun alternative to regular Gatorade and other electrolyte sources,” Brinsky said. “We ensure that the popsicles have adequate sodium and potassium to help the athletes prevent dehydration and rehydrate after practices.”

After graduating, Brinsky plans to pursue a master’s degree in nutrition and obtain registered dietitian credentials.