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There’s a bigger point to Kentucky monitoring the heart rate of its players than work ethic

Jan 3, 2013, 12:48 PM EDT

John Calipari AP

Kentucky head coach John Calipari tends to write about interesting topics on his website in regards to his basketball team, which beat Eastern Michigan 90-38 last night and begins SEC play next Thursday at Vanderbilt.

The most recent entry focuses on how hard his players are working in practice and what’s being done to keep track of it. Kentucky’s using heart monitors, which reveal the amount of energy that each player is expending during team and individual workouts.

According to Calipari the heart rates of the players will be at a level of 90% (or higher) during games, and the goal is to make sure they’re working out at a similar rate. And if not, there’s running to be done to get them to the desired heart rate.

Judging by the reactions on Twitter it seems as if some have a problem with this, but frankly I don’t. And it’s because this is about more than simply making sure that the guys are working hard.

According to the school’s estimates players use between 5,500 and 6,000 calories per day, which makes nutrition (not just taking in calories but making sure those calories are good for the body) even more important.

One, it allows us to measure their caloric expenditure. Through this device, we now know our guys burn between 5,500 and 6,000 calories a day that they must replenish. I’m seeing numbers that are proving that you have to feed these kids more. If we’re the ones burning up these calories, then we should be responsible for feeding them and replacing those calories.

Back in October Steve Eder of the New York Times wrote a story on college athletes being underfed, as the requirements placed on them in regards to competition aren’t necessarily being combined with the nourishment needed to play at a high level.

“The perception, for the general public, is that the day they get to school and get their tennis shoes, they are getting this entry into a world where the horn of plenty is always there for them,” said Dave Ellis, a sports dietitian for 30 years, who has fed teams at Nebraska and Wisconsin.

This, it seems, is not the case. NCAA regulations limit colleges to one formal “training meal” a day for their scholarship athletes, whether the athletes are playing tennis, football or any other sport. A few snacks — nuts, fruit and bagels — may also be provided, as well as some nutritional supplements like energy bars.

Now of course this will open the door for those who argue that “regular students don’t get those perks” but are these truly “regular” students? Given the revenue that collegiate athletics has generated in recent years due to escalating television contracts (which we can thank for conference realignment), would making sure that the athletes are receiving proper nutrition really be that big of a problem?

Feel free to get agitated about Calipari wanting to make sure his players are “working hard” through the use of heart monitors if you wish, but this is about far more than making guys run suicides if they aren’t.

Hopefully more studies like this lead to better nutritional allowances for student-athletes across the board.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

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