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UNM football: Putting weight on the line

UNM Linemen (from left) Elmer Pauni, Justin Harris, Ben Gansallo and Langston Murray lunch together at Cheba Hut Sandwich shop last Thursday. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

When Jessika Brown and Liz Stuart of Dietitians ABQ visited the University of New Mexico offensive linemen recently to advise them on eating habits and provide each with meal plans, the big guys had plenty of questions.

Most of them had never met with a dietitian, or been through a full body test to realize their respective body fat percentage, among other revelations.

“How can I lose body fat, yet maintain weight and mass necessary for blocking defenders?”

“Do I really need to eat more food to maintain a healthy diet?”

“Does my butt really weigh that much?”

As part of their body test at the Performance Ranch, the UNM offensive linemen received results on the separate weights of their right leg, left leg and “trunk,” Lobo senior center Kyle Stapley said.

The UNM big fellas know that what they eat is important during the offseason as they prepare to rebuild from a 2-10 season. They must eat a lot – some 3,500 to 5,000 calories per day along with 165 ounces of fluids each day – and most of it must be healthy.

“Eating is like a part-time job for these guys,” Brown said. “They need to be big and massive, but they need to be solid, and that needs to be from lean body mass. Not fat mass.”

The UNM offensive line was left with just two full-time returning starters in Stapley and Teton Saltes. Jacob Jankoviak and Cade Briggs are returners who started a few games for the Lobos.

In addition to a head coaching change, from Bob Davie to Danny Gonzales, the Lobos also had a switch at offensive line coach, from Saga Tuitele to former Lobo and assistant Jason Lenzmeier.

“We’ve been doing a lot of building the culture,” said Lenzmeier, who believed it was important to put the offensive linemen on diets. “It was just really neat to hear what they should be eating, and about their body- fat percentage. It should be 20-27 percent, that’s what many NFL offensive linemen have. But these big guys tend to carry more body fat.”

Stapley, a 6-foot-3, 305-pound 24-year old, was intrigued and motivated to find out that he was at a 30.3 body fat percentage.

As a captain last season, Stapley wants to set an example and drop his body-fat percentage before preseason camp.

He’ll follow the dietitians’ meal plan that calls for specific eating times and amounts, sometimes before and after workouts.

Brown and Stuart are two of three certified diet specialists in New Mexico, Brown said. Brown is also a dietitian at UNM, where she graduated with a second bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in nutrition.

Stuart moved to Albuquerque a year ago after having been the director of nutrition at the University of Florida.

Stapley is confident he can reach his goals of eating better and losing body fat with the dietitians’ help and support from his teammates.

“It’s not as strict as I thought it would be,” Stapley said of his diet. “I actually thought it would be a lot worse. I have to make sure I eat better foods. I’m actually now eating more often as I usually do. I have to up my eating, but just eating cleaner. The diet has snacks, and one fun food a day, something that is not really good for you.”

Even though the diet is not as strict as he thought, it’s still been tough for Stapley to let go of his favorite foods at Bubba’s 33 – a double bacon cheeseburger – and chicken sandwiches at Chick-fil-A. He now must eat grilled chicken at the fast food joint, he said.

Stapley said the diet has helped the offensive linemen bond because they encourage each other and challenge each other to stick to the diet.

At his apartment, Stapley can’t get away from the diet. His roommates are fellow offensive linemen Jankoviak, Austin Cook, and Colston Chacon.

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