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NMSU nutritionist making a difference in the health of athletes

Celneque “C.J.” Bobbitt, who transferred to New Mexico State University earlier this year to play for the men’s basketball team, wants to add about three pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-7-inch frame in order to help boost his performance on the court once he’s eligible to play in the 2018-19 season.


Man and woman at a desk
Celneque “C.J.” Bobbitt, a junior student who transferred to New Mexico State University this year to play on the men's basketball team, goes over his nutrition and body fat percentage with Raquel Garzon, nutrition and wellness Extension specialist in the College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences' Family and Consumer Sciences department. Bobbitt is one of several NMSU athletes who are working with Garzon on their nutrition and resiliency to help increase their athletic performance. (NMSU photo by Adriana M. Chavez)

Celneque “C.J.” Bobbitt, a junior student who transferred to New Mexico State University this year to play on the men's basketball team, gets ready to have his body fat percentage measured by the BodPod machine with the help of Lourdes Olivas, Extension Family and Consumer Sciences coordinator in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. Bobbitt is one of several athletes working with Raquel Garzon, nutrition and wellness Extension specialist in the College of ACES, on their nutrition and resiliency to help increase their athletic performance. (NMSU photo by Adriana M. Chavez)

What hinders his progress, however, are inconsistent eating times, too much fried foods and late-night fast food runs when he finds himself starving following intense practices.

Bobbitt skips breakfast and although eats lunch daily at Taos Restaurant on campus, he tends to eat light, choosing a turkey and cheese sandwich and a cranberry juice mixed with Sprite, hardly enough sustenance to get through 45 minutes of weight training and two to three hours of practice.

But Bobbitt didn’t realize his mistakes until consulting with Raquel Garzon, nutrition and wellness Extension specialist in the NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. Garzon, who started at NMSU in January, has been working with several New Mexico State athletic teams for the past four months on their nutrition and resiliency.

“I’m trying to align sports with the science of nutrition,” Garzon said.

Garzon has worked with student athletes one-on-one and in groups. She’s conducted grocery shopping tours with them and has worked with them on their individual needs, whether it be gaining muscle or losing weight. The need for her services has proven to be high, especially since NMSU doesn’t have a full-time nutritionist in athletics like many universities do.

“Dr. Garzon’s work with the Aggies has made a significant difference in the area of nutrition,” said New Mexico State athletic director Mario Moccia. “She educates all of our 400 student-athletes and coaches on what they should and shouldn’t purchase from the grocery stores as well as easy to understand examples of the benefits of proper nutrition for a Division I athlete as well as the negative aspects of a poor diet. In addition, she gives great suggestions on how to eat healthy on road trips, which can be difficult for some of our teams. She has a high level of respect with our teams and we are fortunate to have her services available to us.”

Working with Garzon, Bobbitt learned that he must eat breakfast, especially before his first class. He should also add salad and fruit alongside his turkey and cheese sandwich at lunch. And he should snack on carbs before and after lifting weights, make sure he stays hydrated during practice, and eat a balanced dinner and a snack an hour and a half before bed in order to avoid late night fast food cravings.

“They deserve to have this information on nutrition,” Garzon said regarding her dual role of providing guidance to student athletes and as an Extension specialist. “They’re part of our community, and this creates good bonds to our community.”

The New Mexico Cooperative Extension Service provides a number of free resources to communities statewide, and Garzon said athletes are members of the university community and the community of Dońa Ana County.

Garzon said she was initially approached by New Mexico State head athletic trainer and assistant athletics director Mike O’Larey about working with female athletes on health and body image. However, the conversation soon turned into how to get all athletes in their best shape.

“Dr. Garzon has been a great help to the student-athletes at NMSU,” O’Larey said. “She has presented to our student-athletes about the demands and nutritional needs of their specific sports. She has done so in a way that the student-athletes take away strategies and skills to help them better prepare for and recover from the physical stresses of their sports. I believe she has made a noticeable difference.”

Not only has Garzon helped student athletes make sure they stay hydrated and nourished during practices and competitions, she has worked with them to make sure they stay that way during their down time as well.

“When our student-athletes have unsupervised meals it gives us great concern that they are eating healthy and in the proper quantities,” Moccia said. “Dr. Garzon has taken time out of her busy schedule to do grocery store visits with student-athletes as well as discuss food preparation to give them the best opportunity to make healthy choices. While traveling for away competition often times chain restaurants are all that is available in the area and she has worked with our teams to help them with proper menu selections.”

While Moccia said hiring a full-time sports nutritionist is something he’s considering for the near future, Garzon is helping athletes become successful on- and off-season.

“Dr. Garzon has helped fill a role that is so important in developing an athlete,” said Don Decker, New Mexico State director of sports performance. “To have access to such a qualified and skilled Sports Nutritionist has truly been a blessing. She has educated our athletes through lectures, counseling, individual diet plans, grocery lists, and grocery shopping classes. The importance of what she is able to do for our athletes cannot be overstated. Her expertise allows our athletes to use food as another tool to achieve their goals and dreams. In addition, she is helping us move toward hiring a full-time sports nutritionist, and she is creating learning opportunities in sports nutrition for undergraduate and graduate students here at NMSU.”