Michigan State Football Focuses On Nutrition, Thanks To New Performance Dietitian
Amber Rinestine performs many roles for the Spartans, from watching what they eat and drink, to serving as the team “Mom.”
Team Moms are a staple in American youth sports, serving as the coach’s pillar of support or chief assistant to deal with any issue that could arise off-the-field, such as feeding the team or organizing team bonding activities.
The idea of a team Mom remains largely confined to youth sports, but Amber Rinestine is changing that with Michigan State football. Rinestine said she has become the de-facto team Mom since joining the MSU coaching staff as the head football performance dietitian in January.
“I'm always available to them, which is something that they have had to adapt to,” said Rinestine. “Like, you always have big sister looking out for you. Or I like to call myself a mom, because it's food and food reminds you of parents and comfort. So you always have mom looking out and mom's always here.”
Rinestine’s daily responsibilities as the dietitian include building menus for meals before or during practice, creating hydration schedules, supplement management and one-on-one dietary consultations for players.
But in her eyes, her responsibilities are “literally everything underneath the sun that involves food” for the team.
Rinestine is the first full-time dietitian in the history of Michigan State football. Unlike her predecessor, Rob Masterson, who served as the director of performance nutrition for all sports including football, Rinestine’s only responsibility is the football team.
Rinestine said that being full-time is a blessing because she is always in the Duffy Daugherty building with the team and can serve as another form of support for players if they are having any issues on or off the field.
The players have noticed this and embraced Rinestine as an integral member of the coaching staff and Mom of the team.
“We love her,” said senior Linebacker Noah Harvey. “She's awesome. Anything that we ask for, she executes it. I don't know one guy that doesn't like her. She gets along with everybody on the team.”
Harvey praised the small changes that have been implemented since Rinestine joined in January, such as “fueling breaks” or snack breaks during practice and helping set dietary goals for players to maximize their performance.
“Now in practice, we're doing halftimes where we fuel in between practice just to get food in our bodies like we would in a game,” said Harvey. “It's just little things like that they have added that have improved things. We got all our goals that we gotta hit when it comes to weight and our body fat and we've seen success so far.”
Rinestine said working full-time with the team has let her focus on relationships with players during spring camp and focus on individualized dietary plans for players. She said she works closely with the rest of the coaching staff, specifically Strength and Conditioning Coach Jason Novak, to make sure that players are getting the correct food for their respective conditioning program.
“We (the coaching staff) all talk and that is based on what the coaches want to see and what Coach Novak wants to see in terms of weights and stuff like that,” said Rinestine.
According to Rinestine, Novak is one of the main reasons why she considered the position and why Head Coach Mel Tucker hired her. Novak and Rinestine worked together previously in their corresponding positions at IMG Academy at the beginning of 2020 before Novak joined MSU in February.
“He tells them ways to improve their bodies and ways to improve their technique, which is massive,” said Rinestine. “So, after working with him at IMG and when I saw this job opening, I was like 'I love that strength coach. And I trust that strength coach that whatever coach he chose to work under is a great coach.'
The collaboration between Rinestine and Novak has led to praise from players and peers on the coaching staff as they help reshape the Spartans to fit Tucker’s vision for the team.
Elijah Collins said the joint approach between Rinestine and Novak has led to his best offseason camp yet as a Spartan. Collins said he experienced muscle loss due to COVID-19 in the fall but is making significant strides because of his individual strength and conditioning plan.
“I had to really focus and hone-in on my nutrition which Coach Tuck has really emphasized a lot, especially with Amber,” said Collins. “She's been taking care of us tremendously, she does a great job. And I’ve been hitting the weights hard and eating three to four meals, snacks as well, but really getting in that weight room and trying to like do a little extra something just to try to get back to where I was.”
Rinestine said she has never worked on a coaching staff like Tucker’s or with a team quite like Michigan State this year despite working in the NFL with the Eagles and Jets, the NFL combine dietary team, and the Universities of North Carolina and Oklahoma.
“I think this team is very unique and very special,” said Rinestine. “I've worked with a lot of teams now and I've never seen a team take a program like what Coach Tucker has built here and run with it and believe in it as strongly as this team does. They want to be here. These players want to be here, and they want to learn which is absolutely incredible to see. I have been blown away by this team since I've been here.”