Sports & Recreation

Food Is Fuel

Performance dietitian Jensen Skinner ’18 keeps Badger athletes up and running.

Jensen Skinner smiles and holds out an apple

Skinner takes an individualized approach to athlete nutrition. Even those in the same sport can have very different needs.

If you are what you eat, then Jensen Skinner ’18 is broccoli and french fries. Her balanced approach to nutrition is not only a personal philosophy but also a critical component of her job as a performance dietitian for UW athletics. Overseeing softball, women’s soccer, men’s and women’s basketball, swimming and diving, and tennis, Skinner is responsible for helping student-athletes stay on track to meet their personal and performance-based nutrition goals.

“Being a dietitian is so much more than telling an athlete what to eat,” she says. “It’s about meeting the person where they’re at, understanding their unique needs, and deciding what success looks like to them.”

Using an “athlete-driven approach,” Skinner offers comprehensive services, including nutrition advice, performance and hydration testing, and body composition analysis. Ensuring that nutrition advice caters to each sport’s requirements, she facilitates game-day fueling, travel meals, and team-based education, like cooking classes or themed talks for each team.

“We look at what energy systems athletes use to see how we can support them on a biochemical and metabolic level. Even in the same sport, sprinters versus distance swimmers or soccer midfielders versus goalies, they’re using different energy systems, so their needs can look very different,” she says. “The biggest part of being an effective dietitian is considering the individual.”

Skinner is also responsible for operating Refuel, the Kohl Center’s newly opened fueling station and smoothie bar for student-athletes. The station is centrally located between locker rooms, making it easy for students to pick up nutritious snacks, shakes, and customized smoothies on the go.

“Nutrition is something that you do three times a day, every single day, regardless of if you’re practicing, in the off-season, or [in] retirement,” says Skinner. “We’re focused on building life-long habits and good attitudes toward food.”

Published in the Summer 2024 issue


No comments posted yet.

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *