Nutrition helps Clemson's cause

CLEMSON - One of the biggest additions to Clemson's football program over the last year is something the average fan will never see.

Last fall, Clemson opened up a new team "training table" dining facility inside Memorial Stadium's WestZone facility.

That was followed shortly by the hiring of team nutritionist Lisa Chan.

While Clemson had a nutritional counselor on staff in Dr. Loreto Jackson, Chan's hiring gave the football program extra focus at the table.

She designs nutrition programs for performance as well as optimal weight gain and weight loss while complementing strength training. She also helps players make correct choices while they're away from the training table, since NCAA rules limit programs to serving one "training table" team meal per day. During preseason, Clemson can serve all three meals at its training table.

Chan's impact, said senior left tackle Brandon Thomas, is already being felt.

"Lisa Chan, she came in and did a great job with us," Thomas said following the Tigers' first preseason practice Friday. "I feel like she helped us a lot. We didn't care about eating all that healthy food and what we can put in our bodies to keep the muscle mass on.

"She's helped out a lot. During the summer in years before, I used to lose four, five pounds coming into fall camp. I've maintained my weight, gotten better with my body mass, my muscle – that's helped a lot."

Thomas weighed in Thursday night at 313 pounds, which is right where he wanted to be entering August. He maintained his weight even through summer seven-on-seven work and conditioning, which is "always a struggle," he said.

August's scorching temperatures and brutal humidity can often wreak havoc on players' weight (at least those who don't need to lose any), with players dropping as much as five pounds in a single practice.

"That's the way with everybody," Thomas said. "When it's hot like this, they tell us, put salt in your food and try to drink a lot of fluids."

He'll begin August as the starting left tackle, but Thomas is prepared to move if necessary. Coaches would love for sophomore Isaiah Battle to prove himself worthy of the spot, which would allow the versatile Thomas to shift to left guard.

"I don't have a preference," said Thomas, who played inside as a freshman. "I feel I can play both well, I feel like I know the technique for both. But anywhere they want me to play, I just play."

Not that he has much of a say in the matter.

"If they want to move me, they will, because they're the coaches," he said. "I will move, because I don't have a choice."

He could even play at right tackle, as he did in an emergency situation in the Chick-fil-A Bowl when starter Gifford Timothy went down with a knee injury. Thomas likened the switch to being "thrown in grease, basically."

"We worried about it, because (Timothy) is a good player, that hurt us big-time," he said. "And having Battle come in (at left tackle), that helped us out a lot. Him coming in and I moved over there, that's one reason why we succeeded. We held up."

Now that he's done it, though, Thomas is confident he can play anywhere.

"I feel comfortable doing it," he said. "Even if they want me to play on the right side, I'll play on the right side. It's not about the position, exactly. It's about the technique. Once you learn a technique, you can play on both sides, you can play either position, anytime."

And thanks to proper nutrition, Thomas is in good shape for whatever comes next. Top Stories