Cheryl Metzger is showing student-athletes at Old Mill High how to have their cake and eat it too, albeit without the sugar-laden icing.
Senior Pam Williams, a cross country runner who eats three meals a day, has lost 3 pounds since her September enrollment in Metzger's Sports Nutrition class. She didn't even have to give up pizza, one of her favorite dishes, and still gobbles between-meal snacks.
"I still eat all day long," she says. "I'm not the kind of person who can stick to the standard of just three meals a day."
While he can still "pinch an inch" and made weekly trips to the local McDonald's restaurant during the football season, Austin Johnson, a 6-foot-3, 208-pound junior football player, says he has dropped 6 pounds and has more mobility for the upcoming basketball season.
Wrestler John Earle, a 150-pounder with only an 8 percent body fat level, proves that a high school wrestler can eat at least three square meals a day, lose weight and still wrestle effectively.
No, Metzger hasn't stumbled across a new fad diet. In fact, her students enjoy a variety of foods, including fish, lasagna, pizza and fruit-filled muffins and breads -- just to name a few goodies.
The 37-year-old home economics teacher's 18-week Sports Nutrition course is geared for athletes interested in improving their eating habits.
Through diet analysis and lab work, the 20 class members learn to prepare foods high in proteins and carbohydrates and how to control the fat and sugar content of foods to make them more beneficial to proper training and athletic performance.
"The class helps students to understand what they're putting in their bodies and the possible side effects," Metzger says. "There are a lot of quacks out there who are bombarding kids with false information about what's good for them. The class can help students learn how to think critically in evaluating nutritional information and they can learn a new taste for healthy food that's good tasting."
Five years ago, during her first year at Old Mill, Metzger taught a nutrition-oriented cooking class. The jogging enthusiast began noticing bad eating habits among some Old Mill athletes and decided to make the class more attractive to them.
After consulting with Colleen Pierre, a sports nutritionist at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, Metzger developed the class into its present form.
Using the weight, age and sex of each student, she calculates the basal metabolic rate, or caloric intake, of each student, taking athletic activity into account.
"Then we can determine how many calories their body needs," Metzger says. "The figures are then computerized and the students have the option of checking the nutrients in their diets from day to day or week to week."
The course also clears up some inconsistencies about "quick-energy foods" and dieting techniques. Here are a few things that Metzger points out in her class: * Only the juice -- not the fibers -- of an orange should be eaten during or before playing an athletic event. The fibers are likely to get the body's digestive energies going, which can tire an athlete during competition.
* There is nothing you can eat that won't make you gain weight.
* The sugar in chocolate eaten before athletic participation will give an athlete a temporary high before dropping his blood level below its previous level, resulting in fatigue.
* Contrary to popular belief, breads and pizza, with the right vegetable toppings, can be great energy foods and are among the best health foods.
* A Big Mac hamburger yields as much grease as approximately a quarter-pound stick of butter.
Old Mill wrestling coach Mike Hampe says that his program is among the prime beneficiaries of Metzger's class.
"Dealing with kids and wrestling, I know (diets) can be a big problem because kids want to go with what tastes good to them," he says. "That's a natural mind-set for them, and it's hard to get them to stop thinking like that."
Using effective experiments in her class, Metzger has found a way. Take, for example, her sugar test.
"One student holds his arms at his sides while a classmate tries to push them away from his body. They can feel the tension," she explains. "The student who has his hands at his side is given a tablespoon of sugar, and the effect is immediate. His energy is drained and he has a harder time keeping his hands at his sides."
In another experiment, Metzger's students run around a track until they perspire, after which they can choose from several liquids -- such as orange juice, Coke or water -- to quench their thirst.
"Most people thought water tasted the best; the others taste yucky when you drink them after running," Williams, 17, says. "Before meets, I started drinking more water so I wouldn't get cramps. It helped, and I suggested it to my teammates."