#STINGDAILY: Georgia Tech Nutrition - There's an app for that

June 7, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

Like every member of the work force, Mike Bewley faces occupational hazards. As nutritionist and strength and conditioning coach for Georgia Tech’s men’s basketball and tennis teams, he runs the risk of disconnect between student-athletes.

So, he’s built an app for that. It’ll go live in a couple weeks.

Bewley has control over what’s in front of him; which is to say when Robert Carter Jr., Vikram Hundal or their teammates are in the weight room, he’s in charge.

When those guys leave, though, who knows? Are they wolfing down pizza, loading up on chips? Guzzling who-knows-what?

Preaching at players about what to eat, when to eat it, how much of it to eat, and even why they’re eating it . . . that gets old – for the student-athletes, who often don’t take the time to understand the why component. And for Bewley, it’s frustrating to be tuned out.

He has discovered in nearly 15 years of work that one of the greatest hurdles in what he does on the nutrition side is the risk of delivering too much information to student-athletes.

Early in his career, he wrote a 120-page book on nutrition to supplement the speech he’d give players. Too long. So he later shortened it to about 16 pages. Better, but less than ideal. You know the deal with attention spans of the young.

Now, he has come up with an app that can be used on smart phones, tablets, laptops etc., and it will soon be available to the public. Bewley’s had help building it, much of it  from Tech students and graduates, and he has strategic partners on the business side.

Bottom line: it’s his baby. And when it goes live in a couple weeks, it will be called Nutracarina. Carina, by the way, is Latin for the keel of a ship – which, of course, fosters balance in the vessel.

Here’s the best part: the app not only takes in personal information by asking what the user hopes to accomplish (add mass, lose weight, gain endurance, get stronger, etc.), but explains interactively – yet succinctly – why users need to do what they need to do.

“Well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that [120-page book] didn’t work for everybody,” Bewley said of his early days in the field, back in 1999 when he was at the University of Nevada-Reno. “Really, I had no way of being able to gauge that they were able to comprehend that information.

“Kids had to carry a journal around, and learn how to [measure portions]. It was a very labor-intensive process. There were no smart phones or anything back then. Everything was done by book; you had to have this book of calorie counts.”

Bewley suggested that, “time is precious.” Most student-athletes don’t want all the science behind their nutrition; just the Cliff Notes.

“The book taught them everything I knew,” he said. “They didn’t need to know everything I know. They need to know basic nutritional concepts.”

Members of the Tech men’s basketball and tennis teams have been testing Bewley’s app for a few months, and so have student-athletes at Greater Atlanta Christian. They’ve all  been his beta program.

GAC entered the mix when Bewley went to the Gwinnett County high school to meet with coaches because GAC buys Bewley’s post-workout supplement, Critical Reload. Think Muscle Milk, but – Bewley says – better.

The notion that something other than work in weight rooms can boost athletes has long fascinated this Louisville, Ky. native, who worked with Tech basketball coach Brian Gregory at Dayton.

“When I was a young kid, I thought you had to look like the people in the bodybuilding magazines and that was the pinnacle of health and performance,” he said. “I soon learned . . . that’s the furthest thing from the truth.”

Bewley will tell you that supplementation should be just that – a secondary approach – and it’s not for every athlete, let alone the common woman or man.

“Nobody wakes up and says, ‘I plan on eating like crap today,’ ” he said. “What it comes down to is they have no idea. This [app] gives them rhyme and reason. It gives power to the athletes, to coaches. There is so much information out there, and mis-information.

“What’s going to happen is [high volume nutrition information] is going to lead to frustration, and they’re going to give up. A lot of young athletes get caught up in taking supplements [as shortcuts] and that could lead to steroid use. We’re providing a road map, or plays.”

Bewley’s first choice for a name for his app/web domain ran into conflict. The word is already in use.

But he and his partners have pressed onward and found at different junctures interest in what they’re doing. In some cases, others had begun designing or had designed something similar to what he’s doing.

There are simple nutritional apps available to the public at large. They’re different that what he and his partners have in mind.

“They’re great for a common person, but not for an athlete,” Bewley said. “We’re talking about nutrient principles, nutrient timing, maximizing muscle performance beforehand, recovery . . . all sorts of dynamics.

“There are big groups, those wanting to lose weight and gain it, but with athletes . . . a cross country runner is going to eat differently than a football player. [The app] breaks off where your goals are different, you put personal parameters in and it has interactive components.

“It automatically calculates that and moves onto the next session. It takes pretty high-level nutritional concepts, refines them and makes them easy to understand. They can go through it in about 60 minutes, and develop a nutrition program. And you don’t have to bang it out on a calculator.”

Which saves time like this: three meals a day, seven days a week = 21 times a week banging keys on a calculator (or smart phone). And that’s to say nothing for snacks, or those eating more than three meals a day.

This is a winner. We’ll be back in a couple weeks when Nutracarina goes live with testimonials from users. That will probably include Tech student-athletes and some from GAC because Bewley (and his partners) have created a dashboard that enables coaches to monitor their student-athletes’ progress while engaged in the app.

Comments to stingdaily@gmail.com.

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