My Nutrition Journey: Ryan, Part 1

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From our very conception, we’re impacted by nutrition. At that time, it’s the nutrition of our mother. Fast forward nine months and it’s either still the nutrition of our mother or that of a formula company. For most of us, this trend continues until we’re off in a school setting and choosing foods yourself with only a little guidance. It was during middle and high school, specifically sports that I competed in at the time, that I realized the impact that what I put in my body had on my performance.

I’ve been involved in some kind of extracurricular sport since I was eight years old. I grew up in the Southeastern United States where American Football reigns supreme. I played football from eight years old until I was 15 and then switched to cross country. During that time, I played a few other sports but none had the same effect on my life except wrestling. Wrestling is a sport based on weight classes and adjusting your nutrition will change if you wrestle in a meet or not. This was also the time where I first introduced into dedicated exercise to improve sports performance–more on that later. It was the change to cross country that had revealed the biggest revelation of the force that nutrition is to sport performance.

“I wanna go fast.”

When it came to running long distances, the cross county and long-distance track runners had it down to a science. They knew running quickly, in essence, is the objective of racing they also knew that to win a little more care was involved. Prior to running cross country, I had never heard of “carbohydrate loading”. During football, the only “nutrition” related discussion was basically “eat more to get bigger and take creatine”. The cross-country team thought about things differently. We thought about maximizing our performance to achieve our long-term and short-term goals. Part of reaching those goals involved optimizing eating and fluid regulation.

High school ended and college was about to begin. My goal shifted to a dream I wanted since I was in seventh grade: to be a professional wrestler in WWE. My world flipped. At the time I was a very lean 142 pounds and knew that I was going to have to change a lot to make it as a professional wrestler. I started training to be a pro-wrestler in October 2004. While that didn’t help me out with grades and scholastic endeavors—it was completely the opposite—it did help me determine what I wanted my scholastic endeavors to be focused on.

Time to Get Big

Seriously. I wanted to be a WWE wrestler and that meant I had to be bigger. Want to be lineman in the NFL? You’re probably going to have to be bigger. Want to be a bodybuilder? You’re probably going to have to be bigger. Want to be world record power-lifter? You’re probably going to have to be bigger. There are various methods for which one can “get big”. To be a WWE wrestler, I needed to look like a bodybuilder. Unlike bodybuilders, I didn’t have to actually be a certain weight. I just needed to look like I weighed a certain amount. By this time I had already read “The Bible of Bodybuilding” and I had been in the weight room for football, amateur wrestling, and long distance running for the past five years. I had an idea of how to lift like a bodybuilder. The part I was missing was dieting like a bodybuilder.

I had just started school at the University of Georgia a few months prior. As a student, I  access to an amazing facility for lifting weights called the Ramsey Center. In the Ramsey Center was top-of-the-line fitness equipment available to staff and students during most hours of the day. That lifter’s paradise spoiled me. No gym that I’ve been a member of since has come close to being as good. Anyways, back to the story. The gym was amazing but so was UGA’s library.

I knew I needed to be bigger if I ever wanted to make it to “The Grandest Stage of Them All” and I knew nutrition played a role. I walked around the library at UGA looking for books on nutrition and sport. The one I found was by a Registered Dietitian and that completely changed my scholastic trajectory.

Course Correction

I used that book to make my plan to get bigger while not accumulating a large amount of body fat. I would wake up, eat, lift, eat, go to class, eat, go to work, eat, go back to class, eat, go to wrestling training, and then eat again. Six meals per day, every single day. I would spread out my intake across them to maximize my effort towards putting on quality lean mass. I became scientifically focused. In the Spring of 2008, I changed my major to dietetics and started working towards becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN).

Go back and take a look at what it takes to be an RDN. Hindsight is 20/10. Fortunately, after picking up a second bachelor’s degree I didn’t get into an internship. Instead, I became a Dietetic Technician, Registered (DTR) and wrapped up pro-wrestling in 2013. I followed Susannah to Indiana to begin a career in Acute Care to get me closer to being an RDN.

That’s where we’ll pick up with my nutrition journey next week. If you would like some help along your nutrition journey, schedule your free meet-and-greet and let’s get to know each other.

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