The Air Force Academy demonstrated teamwork in its truest sense with a project that will benefit all 4,000 cadets with refueling stations. Teammates from the department of athletics and the Cadet Dining Hall got together to work on a plan to provide the extra, vital nutrition to the cadets.
"We have 4,000 elite athletes at the Air Force Academy," Director of Athletics Jim Knowlton said. "We needed to find a way to get additional nutrition to these cadets as they go through the demanding Academy experience. Everyone we reached out to was 100 percent on board, starting with our superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson."
AD Team Members have coined the term "Falcon Fuel" for the fueling stations being implemented for cadet-athletes and the entire cadet population. Falcon Fuel aligns with the Healthy Base Initiative (HBI), the Department of Defense initiated demonstration project to encourage a healthy and fit alternative to the trend toward obesity. HBI covers four components: tobacco reduction, healthy eating, active living, and healthy communities. Falcon Fuel directly supports the following HBIs:
1. Empower the military community to make better nutritional choices
2. Increase physical activity
In addition, failure to meet weight standards is a leading cause of involuntary separation from the military with obesity in the civilian community limiting the Department of Defense's ability to recruit qualified personnel.
"I am thoroughly excited about this new initiative to provide fueling opportunities for all of our cadet athletes! Nutrition is an integral piece of the performance puzzle that is finally gaining some traction," Shelly Morales, cadet nutritionist said. "The selected nutritional products stocked in the stations will hopefully serve as an educational tool for our athletes on proper fueling. The goals are to help improve the performance of athletes, aid in the recovery after exercise, and encourage a "foods first" philosophy to reduce the risk of ineffective or dangerous supplement use."
On April 15, 2014, the NCAA Legislative Council decided that Division I student-athletes can receive unlimited meals and snacks in conjunction with their athletics participation. The rule is an effort to meet the nutritional needs of all student-athletes. Prior to this change, scholarship student-athletes received three meals a day or a food stipend. "Fueling Stations" is the current terminology many Division I schools are using to characterize areas close to athletic workout facilities where student athletes may get nutritional food (recovery shakes, bars, fruit, etc) post-workout.
The goal with this project was to create an attractive addition to the weight rooms which enhances the overall experience of its cadet-athletes and cadet population while adding a recruiting tool in the process. The transformation was two-fold and included a revamping of four weight rooms located in the Falcon Athletic Center, Cadet Gymnasium, reconditioning weight room and the Cadet Fitness Center.
The placement of 12 total refrigerated units in the weight rooms highlights each facility. Cadet-athletes and the remaining cadet population will have immediate access to Falcon Fuel in the reach-in refrigerated units, stocked with highly nutritional foods, based on scientific research for pre/post-exercise nutrient requirements, selected by the cadet nutritionist Shelly Morales.
Cadet-athletes will have access to Falcon Fuel during transition from lift to practice or vice versa. The cadet population will have access during a set window. Falcon Fuel provides cadets with pre, during, and post workout nutrition sources to enhance workout preparation and recovery, including carbohydrates and protein to ensure they are able to keep up performance without crashing. Appropriate nutrition provides the edge for improved strength, speed, stamina, and recovery.
Falcon Fuel will cost about $500,000 annually and will be covered largely by USAFA's existing food budget. Each fuel station will be managed by the athletic department strength and conditioning staff and filled with food items procured from Mitchell Hall's food account and the NCAA Student Assistance Fund.
"As an institution we chose to reinvest existing dollars spent on feeding the Cadet Wing by better aligning where and when supplemental nutrition is offered," John Coulahan, associate athletic director finance and lead for the initiative said. "To this end, Falcon Fuel doesn't replace the three squares offered by our dining facility but rather provides all 4,000 cadets nutrition during pre- and post-workouts when their bodies will benefit most. By comparison USAFA's initiative is a bargain-for example Baylor University will spend $1.5M (Champion Magazine); Nebraska and Wisconsin $1.2M (USA Today) respectively on new annual costs to fund athletic nutrition--and their programs only target intercollegiate athletes. We view every cadet as an athlete, and we've put our money where their mouth is."