02/05/2016 – The Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers face off on February 7 in Super Bowl 50. The National Football League's top two teams have something in common besides excellence on the field: Both are fueled by the science-based nutrition expertise of registered dietitians.
Starting as an intern with the Broncos in June 2009, Bryan Snyder, RD, is now in his seventh season. "I grew up a Broncos fan and am a Colorado native," Snyder says. "I was fortunate enough to work alongside one of the best sports dietitians in the country, Dave Ellis, RD, for a year, which truly accelerated my knowledge and experience in the field of sports nutrition."
Snyder works with the Broncos during the 17-week regular season, as well as the off-season, ensuring players get customized nutrition plans to fit their needs. "Every athlete is different, and determining their caloric needs is very individualized," Snyder says. While he cannot monitor players to make sure they are eating right at all times, Snyder does monitor their meal trends, muscle mass and weight. "My job is to educate them as much as possible and teach them to make wise decisions," Snyder says.
What advice does he give the players before this weekend's matchup? "I tell players to stick to their routines as much as possible, especially the night before the big game," Snyder says. "Hydration is another area that sometimes gets overlooked when we are traveling. The last thing we want is to have guys cramping up."
On the other side of the field will be Jennifer Brunelli, MS, RD, LDN, who has been with Carolina for two years. Recalling her first day with the team, she says, "The minute I walked in the dining area, players approached with a ton of questions. I was so impressed to see how educated many of them already were when it came to nutrition."
In addition to working with players two days per week, she regularly communicates with the team's foodservice staff to plan menus and makes trips with players to the grocery store. "Instead of making them feel like their food is limited when they leave the stadium, it is more my goal to help them make sure they eat high-quality, nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods."
In preparing for the Super Bowl, Brunelli says consistency is key. "When building Super Bowl menus, it was my goal to match as closely as possible what [we did during the regular season]." Brunelli says the players have gotten to this point doing "very specific things regularly to ensure they are well-fueled and hydrated. Going into the biggest possible game is not the time to change it up!"