Kyle Bellamy was a high school standout, two-time All-American at the University of Miami from 2008-09 and on the brink of getting consistent playing time as a Major League Baseball relief pitcher for the Chicago White Sox in 2010.
But then he hurt his shoulder, causing him to miss all of the 2011 season. Just two years later, he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow and had to have Tommy John surgery, a procedure that often alters pitchers’ careers forever.
While rehabilitating his arm in fall 2014, Bellamy chose to go back to UM to finish his undergraduate degree in exercise physiology.
That’s when Bellamy fell in love with the program and, with his wife pregnant with their first son, made the decision to stop playing baseball and pursue another path.
“The preparation that athletes go through for game day is something I really grew an interest for,” Bellamy said. “I developed a really serious passion for this type of coaching – strength and conditioning and athletic performance. My own career started dwindling a little bit, but that was okay with me because I was just as excited to start my new career.”
After 1 1/2 years interning full-time with UM baseball’s strength and conditioning coach, Brian Gabriel, Bellamy was offered the job as the Hurricanes’ director of football nutrition and performance in February 2016. The position was created when head football coach Mark Richt and his staff were hired that year.
“It was the best decision I ever made because, if I would have stalled and finished the season up there, I wouldn’t have been in that fall semester,” Bellamy said. “Who knows what would have happened from there? My whole timeline was about perfect timing.”
Bellamy, 29, now oversees the sports nutrition needs for Miami’s entire athletics department, including nutrition education, counseling, training tables, body composition analysis and supplement evaluation. But football is his primary responsibility, and the 114 players on the roster take up nearly all his time.
“We are developing athletes to help them reach their maximum potential and having a positive impact on their careers,” Bellamy said.
Bellamy and his staff tailor their nutrition plans to each player based on what he is doing in the weight room – whether he is trying to gain, lose or maintain his weight, and if he is trying to gain muscle or size.
Players are required on most days to eat both breakfast and dinner at the school dining hall, where scheduled meals are planned for each athlete’s specific needs. Bellamy will be there, sitting down with the players to make sure they’re eating the right foods.
The athletes are usually given more freedom for lunch, but the meals mostly will be nutritious options catered from restaurants such as P. F. Chang’s, Carrabbas and Pollo Tropical. Bellamy picks meals with a high carb-based starch and a quality-protein meat for players to refuel after practice.
The staff makes sure the lounge outside the gym is stocked with snacks and other nutritious items such as post-lift protein shakes. Each shake is made individually for the athletes depending on what they like and need, such as a fruit smoothie or a chocolate and peanut butter shake. Bellamy said he makes sure every drink contains the right proteins and carbs for the player depending on his workouts.
During practice, Bellamy monitors hydration, ensuring players get drinks with the right amount of electrolytes to alleviate fatigue. He also oversees the stretching period and watches throughout practice for signs of cramping.
After practice, the staff sets up a refueling station with fruit, protein shakes and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
“We take a lot out of them during practice, so we need to make sure to get the nutrition and energy back in them,” Bellamy said.
The players receive snack bags to carry with them throughout the day, with snacks ranging from peanut butter and jellies, protein shakes and bananas to Goldfish, Cheez-Its, granola bars, nuts and beef jerky.
“This is basically to bridge the gap between lunch and dinner,” Bellamy said. “That way, during class, they don’t need to think about what they have to eat, and they don’t have to spend money. It’s all right there.”
But when it comes down to it, Bellamy’s main goal is not to constantly control what the players eat but teach them why eating right will help them in their careers as well as for the rest of their lives.
“Education is huge because nothing is stopping them from getting McDonald’s at midnight,” Bellamy said. “That’s where I see the impact. You have to educate them because ultimately they will have to make the decisions on their own. I could sit here and portion it all out, but at the end of the day, they are gonna have to live life. Nutrition is a lifestyle, not just a diet here and there.”
After originally trying to make it as a professional baseball player, Bellamy has found even more fulfillment through his job now. He said he truly feels like he was meant to coach and help kids.
“Me being able to share my story and help other athletes, honestly that inspired me more than anything,” Bellamy said. “This feels like more my purpose in life than my playing career. I love teaching them and explaining to them why we are doing one thing over another, and using my past experiences to help them with whatever trials and tribulations they’re going through.”
And for Bellamy, returning home in the process made it that much more satisfying.
“I got to stay in sports, stay in athletics at Miami – my alma mater,” Bellamy said. “I love this place. I really do bleed orange and green.”
Listed below are the types of food options a football player will choose from on a typical day.
- Wheat toast
- Roasted potatoes
After practice and before lunch:
- Protein shake
- Sometimes caters P. F. Chang’s, Pollo Tropical, Carrabbas or Chicken Kitchen
- Lots of protein and carbs
From lunch to dinner and in between classes:
- “Snack bag” containing peanut butter and jellies, protein shakes, bananas, Goldfish, Cheez-Its, granola bars, nuts and beef jerky
- Pasta with chicken and vegetables
- Through an app, players can choose foods from one of the appropriate restaurants
Players that have made strides through Bellamy’s nutrition program:
- All-ACC sophomore receiver Ahmmon Richards has gained 10 pounds of muscle since 2016
- Freshman offensive lineman Navaughn Donaldson has lost 43 pounds from January to August 2017.