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At Nebraska, each football player is analyzed at the start of his freshman year to determine, among other things, whether he needs to gain or lose weight and how many calories he requires to perform at his highest level. Each gets a laminated meal card that he can refer to when he goes to the training table and for snacking tips.

Burkhead adheres to a 4,500-calorie-a-day diet that allows him to maintain his 210 pounds and 6.5 percent body fat. Offensive linemen, on the other hand, might require 5,000 calories a day to stay at 300 pounds and have 20 percent to 25 percent body fat.

The average male requires about 2,000 calories a day to maintain his weight.

Ellis founded an easy-to-follow 1-2-3 plan for players to follow. Fruits and vegetables are “1,” carbohydrates are “2,” and lean proteins are “3.”

At lunch and dinner Burkhead ladles up a predetermined number of servings of each. He visits an area in the football complex known as “the landing” throughout the day to snacks on fruits, trail mix and sports drink. He has a glass of milk at bedtime.

Players stop by the “fueling table” on their way in and out of practices to pick up approved supplements and other items that help them recover quickly from the wear and tear on their bodies.

Players are monitored through weekly weigh-ins, with Hingst tweaking their meal plans accordingly.

Hingst also offers cooking classes to players so they can prepare their own meals when the training table is closed, and nutrition staffers clip newspaper ads pointing players to the best grocery buys around Lincoln.

Burkhead said a football player can’t help but eat right at Nebraska _ though he does admit to sneaking some ice cream from time to time.

“I thought I knew a lot about nutrition before I got here,” he said, “but I didn’t know nearly as much as I know now.”

Hingst said the dietitian’s role is as important as those of the strength coach and athletic trainer in college football.

“We’re trying to look at every single area of nutrition and do the best job we can and make sure it isn’t the limiting factor, the weak link in the chain,” he said.