Troup provides Gophers with the fuel to succeedin her return to the program

Rasa Troup ran for Minnesota until 2000, and she’s back as the team’s nutritionist.

Matt Anderson

On Minnesota’s women’s track and field team’s trip to Purdue for the Big Ten Indoor Championships in late February, there was no meal money distributed.

Rather than leave the athletes to their own devices, there was a catered meal in the team hotel, selected by a nutrition expert.

Rasa Troup said there was no complaining about limiting the options.

That trip is just part of the impact former Minnesota track star Troup has had in her return to the program. Troup, who ran distance and cross country for Minnesota until 2000, was officially named the team nutritionist March 3, and coach Gary Wilson said the move has already started helping his team.

“You can do all the training in the world,” Wilson said. “But if a kid has not fueled their body properly and they’re not nutritionally fit, they’re susceptible to injuries; they don’t perform as well over a one- or two- or three-day period.”

Before Troup’s arrival, Wilson said, he had to juggle handling the team’s nutrition with his coaching duties by distributing books and pamphlets, and imparting his own wisdom on the topic.

Now, with Troup acting as nutrition consultant, the athletes said they have already seen improvement in their eating habits.

“Before she came, I think a lot of people were kind of clueless on what to eat, when to eat,” distance runner Lauren Williams said. “Instead of doing what we think is right, now we’re actually doing what is right.”

Troup began working with the team in February.

Since then, she said, she has been able to focus Minnesota from general nutrition into sports-specific eating habits.

“Nutrition is so broad, that if you are a nutritionist, you can work anywhere,” Troup said. “But sports nutrition is separate from general nutrition.”

Troup came to Minnesota from Pabrade, Lithuania, in 1998 and graduated in 2000 with a degree in physiology.

She still runs competitively and is trying to qualify for Lithuania’s 2008 Olympic team.

Troup said working on her graduate degree and training for competition at Minnesota helped keep her close to the track and field program even after she was done competing at the collegiate level.

“I don’t think I was really distant from the track and field program,” she said. “I usually went to see them compete. And also, I was studying at the University, and I would do my practices when they were at the track.”

Wilson said Troup’s work with the team has helped beyond a simple competitive benefit.

He said that with all the different nutrition plans being hocked in today’s culture, Troup is able to keep his runners in healthy eating patterns.

“They’re not going to be hyped by someone trying to sell a book or a video or someone who’s on (the) ‘Today’ show,” Wilson said. “It’s goofy. The media is running nutrition in this country. And that’s why the obesity problem’s like it is. There’s just too much junk out there to eat, and that’s what Rasa’s trying to do is to just educate.”