“Assault” Pre-Workout Supplement

I have recently had a special request from an undergraduate student to blog about a specific nutritional supplement.  Like many other college-aged males, this student is physically active with an overall goal of increasing lean muscle mass and decreasing body fat. It is rare that I look into one specific brand or supplement, but he asked me to investigate the type of pre-workout supplement he uses, which is called Assault (sounds kind of scary, right?)

Traditionally, pre-workout supplements are consumed prior to training in the hope of enhancing focus, energy, and endurance during exercise as well as decreasing muscle fatigue post-workout.  Pre-workout supplements typically have an array of different ergogenic ingredients. When ingested together, these components are meant to work synergistically to enhance athletic performance. There are literally thousands of nutritional supplements being marketed to the public.  Therefore, athletes need to be wary of  exactly what they are putting into their body, the ingredients, the side effects, and the dosage.  What many individuals do not realize is that the Food and Drug Administration does not federally regulate nutritional supplements. Therefore, there is no 100% guarantee in regards to the manufacturer’s ingredients, nutritional claims, and safety regulations.

Assault Nutrition Facts

Assault is manufactured by MusclePharm in Denver, CO. It contains a vast variety of ingredients, thus making it difficult to pinpoint which ones specifically are the active ingredients that provide the greatest benefit.

One serving of Assault is half a scoop.  However, it is more realistic to assume that many athletes use one whole scoop at a time, making it twice the serving size.

One scoop (or 2 servings) provides:

  • 80 calories
  • 18 g carbohydrates
  • 28 mg Vit. B6 (1400% DV)
  • 170 mcg Vit. B12 (2833% DV)
  • 5 g creatine monohydrate
  • 6 g branched chain amino acids (BCAA)
  • 4 g beta alanine
  • Nitric oxide – Citrulline malate, L-arginine
  • 300 mg caffeine – That’s as much as about 3 cups of coffee…but imagine drinking them all at one time!

The main active ingredient in Assault is more than likely the caffeine content.  The other ergogenic ingredients are the B-vitamins and nitric oxide.  B-vitamins assist with energy metabolism, DNA synthesis, the formation and repair of red blood cells.  Nitric oxide (such as L-citrulline and L-arginine) increases blood flow and oxygen supply to skeletal muscles, which also helps the body to pump out the lactic acid that creates muscle soreness (4).

However, researchers state the creatine and beta-alanine in the supplement both require “loading periods” of ingestion over several weeks in order to provide the best effects. (3)

Proposed Claims and Possible Risks

A 32-serving tub of Assault will run consumers around $30-$40, which will last about a month if used 3-4 times per week. Many users rave about its drinkability because of it’s variety of flavors, such as green apple, blue arctic raspberry, raspberry lemonade, fruit punch, and watermelon.  In fact, bodybuilding.com dubbed Assault the “Best New Supplement of Year, 2011”.

Proposed Claims (1)

  • Fights muscle fatigue and decreases recovery time
  • Boosts performance
  • Builds lean muscle and decreases body fat
  • Amps up intensity
  • Increases focus and intensity
  • Hydrates muscles – From what I can tell, it really doesn’t “hydrate” your muscles. Instead, it will dehydrate your body because caffeine is a diuretic. In fact, the manufacturer’s recommend drinking a gallon of water a day while taking Assault.  In terms of electrolytes, it certainly doesn’t contain enough to have a hydrating effect…with one serving containing only ~1% DV for potassium and ~2% DV for sodium.

Possible Risks and Side Effects (the company suggests staying hydrated by consuming 1 gallon of water per day to avoid some of these side effects)

  • Fidgety – Probably due to the large dose of caffeine
  • Prickly or tingly feeling of the skin – Probably due to beta-alanine. There are two theories as to why beta-alanine causes itchiness of the skin. 1) Beta-alanine stimulates nerve receptors to trigger the firing of neurotransmitters at random, and 2) Beta-alanine perpetuates the response of nitric oxide, causing a person to literally “feel” the blood running through the capillaries that are close to the skin. (2)
  • Increased heart rate – Caffeine
  • Dizziness – Caffeine or dehydration
  • Headaches – Caffeine or dehydration
  • Trouble sleeping – Caffeine
  • Nausea

Down to the Science

A study published earlier this year investigated the effects of Assault on athletic performance.   The randomized, double-blind study was conducted by researchers at the University of Alabama, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of South Alabama. Twelve recreationally-trained males (average age of 28) participated in the three-week study. Participants were required to attend three separate training sessions. The first session consisted of baseline testing.  During the next two sessions, subjects were randomly assigned to ingest either 1 scoop of the Assault supplement or a placebo drink 20 minutes prior to exercise. The placebo was a flavored carbohydrate drink with similar color and flavor to the supplement.

Subjects were asked to perform exercises to determine 1 repetition max (1 RM) on the bench and leg press, 75% 1 RM on the bench and leg press repetitions to exhaustion, VO2 max, and various choice reaction time testing (which basically tested agility).  Participants were also asked to complete a subjective survey to describe feelings of energy, fatigue, alertness, and focus on a 5-point likert scale.

Results found that ingesting the Assault supplement 20 minutes prior to training provided significant increases only in leg press repetitions to exhaustion, perceived energy, alertness, focus, and some agility exercises.  Most of the benefits of the supplement were seen in anaerobic exercises with no significant increases seen in aerobic endurance performance. (3)

PROs of this study:

  • It was a randomized, double-blind study, meaning neither the researchers nor the participants knew the contents of the drink at that particular time.
  • The researchers were not funded by the manufacturer.
  • The supplement and placebo were similar in color, taste, and size.
  • Subjects completed a 2-day food diary prior to the second training day in order to calculate caffeine intake from other sources.

CONS of this study:

  • Small sample size of only 12 participants.
  • Participants were all male, with no females.
  • Short time period of only 3 weeks
  • Participants were all recreationally trained (with strength values in the 75th and 90th percentile in the bench and leg press 1 RM and VO2 max in the 60th percentile).  It would have been interesting to observe the inclusion of individuals with varying levels of physical activity to see if there are differences in benefits based on a person’s baseline fitness level.
  • According to the 2-day food diaries, subjects consumed an average of 31.5 + 109.4 mg of caffeine per day through other food sources in their diet. To give some perspective, a 12 oz can of Coke contains 35 mg of caffeine and a cup of coffee can contain up to 100 mg of caffeine.  Thus, men who consumed larger quantities of caffeine on a daily basis may not have experienced the same effects of the supplement due to increased tolerance.

What’s the bottom line?

As a nutrition professional, my opinion is always to avoid taking any unnecessary supplements and to get proper nutrients from whole food sources. That being said, Assault DOES seem to work. In the study described above, participants felt more energized and alert during training sessions and the men were able to perform more leg press repetitions compared to the placebo.  The main effect of Assault is most likely due to the high caffeine content. For this reason, habitual caffeine users may not experience the same effects as non-caffeine users due to a higher tolerance. My concern with caffeine is the dangers it has to the body as well as the heart…ESPECIALLY when someone is exercising and their heart rate is increased to begin with.  I also do not like the fact that several users claim to feel “tingly” or “itchy” while using this supplement. I’m no doctor, but I’d say that definitely isn’t normal and definitely isn’t a good thing.



1.       www.gnc.com

2.       http://www.cnpprofessional.co.uk/blog/?p=186

3.      Spradley, et al. Ingesting a pre-workout supplement containing caffeine, B-vitamins, amino acids, creatine, and beta-alanie before exercise delays fatigue while improving reaction time and muscular endurance. 2012. Nutrition & Metabolism, 9:28.

4.      http://www.nutritionexpress.com/showarticle.aspx?articleid=286


CAMC Outpatient Diabetes Education Program

Today I had the opportunity to observe a diabetes education lesson as part of the CAMC Outpatient Diabetes Education Program. This is a very educational and helpful program for ALL people with diabetes, including their family members.  Comprised of 3 parts over a 3 month time period, individuals learn about all the components of staying in control of their diabetes.

Today’s Step-3 lesson was taught by an individual who was a credentialed Registered Dietitian and CDE (CDE stands for Certified Diabetes Educator!).  There were about 15 patients and family members who participated. The dietitian was a great instructor who really engaged the participants and made the program interactive by speaking very clearly and making the material easy to understand. She wrote on the board, used food models, referred to handouts, and presented a PowerPoint called “Eat Your Way to a Healthier You”, which highlighted tips for healthy cooking, grocery shopping, and eating out. What I liked most about the lesson is that the participants got to know each other and the classroom became a “mini support group”. Individuals were able to openly share ideas for healthy eating, areas they were struggling with, and were able to really relate to one another.

Here are some of the notes I wrote down during the lesson that I thought was really helpful!

The Components of Diabetes:

  • Monitoring – Both blood glucose and insulin levels
  • Healthy Eating – Of course this was the most fun part for me! In terms of the patient’s diets, they were working on reading food labels, consuming less red meat, increasing fiber, increasing fruits and vegetables, eating the recommended number of carbohydrates, and maintaining balanced and consistent meals.
  • Healthy Coping –  Did you know that nearly 70% of diabetics have experienced depression at some point in their life?? I thought this statistic was staggering. That is why the dietitian leading the class felt healthy coping and stress management was the most important part of controlling diabetes.
  • Reducing Risks – This includes always having a snack or glucose tabs on hand just in case of low blood sugar. When a person does have low blood sugar, it becomes very difficult to think clearly. Therefore, it is even more important to have these snacks prepared and ready for an emergency.
  • Problem Solving – Why did I have low blood sugar? How can I prevent this in the future?
  • Physical Activity
  • Regular Check-Ups
  • Medications

Steps for Treating Low Blood Sugar:

  1. Check your blood sugar
  2. Eat 15 g of simple carbs – Aim for 15 g of simple carbs, around 60-80 calories (this is equal to about 4 glucose tablets!).
  3. Wait 15 minutes
  4. Recheck your blood sugar
  5. Eat 1/2 a sandwich

Here are some food models used during the diabetes program to show individuals proper serving sizes!

Determining the Nutritional Risk of a Patient

As part of the nutrition assessment process, the dietitians at CAMC need to determine the nutritional risk of a patient by using a scoring method. A patient who is scored at a higher nutritional risk is put at a higher priority in terms of follow-up and monitoring. Thus, the higher the risk score, the closer the follow-up time frame.

The nutritional risk and follow-up criteria are shown below:

Determining the Level of Nutritional Risk

Criteria Score
Nutrition Support (enteral/parenteral nutrition) 6
Admitting Diagnosis (this can be a number of different things such as pancreatitis and chronic renal disease) 2
Weight Loss 2
Oral intake <50% OR NPO/Clear liquid > 5 days 2
Dysphagia 2
Albumin <2.5, Pre-albumin <16 2
Vent dependent 2
Skin breakdown/Deep tissue injury 2
BMI <18.5 2



Time Frame for Follow-Ups Based on Level of Nutritional Risk

Score Level of Risk Follow-Up
< 8 High 5 Days
6-8 High-Moderate 5-7 Days
4-6 Moderate 7 Days
2-4 Moderate-Low 7-10 Days
2 Low 10 Days

The Start of My Clinical Rotation at CAMC

Yesterday was my first day at Charleston Area Medical Center, which is located in Charleston, WV (which is thankfully a bit flatter than what I’m used to in Morgantown!).  CAMC is a large, trauma-1 center comprised of four different hospitals:  Memorial Hospital, General Hospital, Women and Children’s Hospital, and Teay’s Valley Hospital.  For my 6-week clinical nutrition rotation, I will be interning specifically at Memorial Hospital. Memorial Hospital has one of the greatest heart programs in the United States, performing over 1,600 open-heart bypass surgeries each year. The hospital also has a comprehensive cancer department as well as a diabetes center, family medicine and internal medicine clinics, Vascular Center of Excellence and general medical-surgical inpatient services.

My first two days at CAMC consisted of meeting the employees in the nutrition department, conducting meal rounds, learning the tray delivery system, acquainting myself with the electronic medical record system, and understanding the ins-and-outs of a dietitian’s role in this particular institution.  So far I have been shadowing the dietitian and learning the nutrition care process, but by the end of the rotation I will be expected to perform these tasks on my own as “staff relief”…and I CAN’T wait for that!

I am looking forward to getting to know the hospitals, the dietitians, the interdisciplinary care team, and the patients throughout my rotation here in Charleston!

CAMC Memorial Hospital, which is the specific hospital I will be interning at during my clinical nutrition rotation.


Coconut Water – It’s Mother Nature’s Sports Drink!

In the past few months, I have been noticing coconut water creating quite a buzz in the nutrition-world. I never really heard much about coconut water until I saw a few of my friends downing the drink after an intense workout.  We aren’t stranded on a desert island, here…so why in the world are people drinking this stuff?

As it turns out, the drink has many proposed health benefits such as being an excellent source of hydration and electrolytes, and preventing kidney disease, heart disease, and aging. Hm, are these claims about coconut water valid, or is it just another hyped-up marketing scheme?

What is Coconut Water?

Coconut water is the clear liquid from the inside of immature or green coconuts. This is not to be confused with fatty coconut milk, which is squeezed from the grated meat on the inside of a coconut. In general, coconut water contains more potassium, less sodium, and less calories than sports drinks.

The PROS of Coconut Water

  1. Loaded with electrolytes – Coconut water is referred to as “mother nature’s sports drink” due to it’s electrolyte content. As you can see by the nutrition facts label below, it is loaded with potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, and calcium. Electrolytes are especially beneficial after exercise and physical activity because many electrolytes, especially potassium and sodium, are lost through sweat. The most abundant electrolyte in coconut water is potassium.  Did you know that 1 cup of coconut water contains 600 mg of potassium…which is more than a banana or an avocado?!
  2. Hydration – Perfect for rehydrating post-workout and can even alleviate those horrible hangovers! Professional tennis player John Isner swears by coconut water during his famous 11-hour Wimbledon win. He states, “It is super hydrating and has kept me going in long matches and prevented me from cramping even in the hottest and most humid conditions”,
  3. Low in calories – Containing only 46 calories in a 1 cup serving, coconut water is much lower in calories compared to many other commercial sports drinks (which can contain up to 250-300 calories).  Thus, coconut water may be a great option for individuals who need extra hydration for various health reasons, but don’t want to pack on the pounds with extra calories.
  4. Fat free and cholesterol free – Coconut water has NO cholesterol, NO fat, NO saturated fat, and NO trans fat…enough said.
  5. It’s natural – Coconut water comes strictly from nature with no chemical additives or added sugars. The 9 grams of carbohydrate in coconut water comes from simple, natural sugars…as opposed to refined and added sugars that are commonly found in processed foods and drinks.

Nutrition Facts Label for 1 cup of coconut water.

The CONS of Coconut Water

  1. Price – Compared with commercial sports drinks, coconut water tends to be more expensive.  Depending on the manufacturer and the brand, coconut water runs around 15-18 cents per ounce, whereas Gatorade runs around 5-8 cents per ounce.
  2. Quacky claims – Sorry, but downing gallons and gallons of coconut water is not going to cure you of diabetes, stave off cancer, make you look 20 years younger, or any of the other quacky claims you may see in the media.
  3. Taste – Some brands may vary in taste. Does coconut water taste as good as a sports drink? Well, that is strictly a subjective assessment. Because sports drinks offer a variety of sugary, artificial, and exotic flavors, the chances of consumers finding a sports drink they like may be more realistic than someone liking the single flavor of coconut water.
  4. May not be appropriate for ELITE athletes – Elite athletes or individuals who sweat profusely for over 3 hours lose a VAST amount of potassium and sodium.  Esteemed sports nutritionist, Nancy Clark, MS, RD, suggests neither coconut water nor sports drinks contain enough sodium or carbs for someone who is sweating profusely.  She states, “Supplement with a quick source of energy like a banana or some raisins and a handful of pretzels to provide nutrients to replenish your stores”.

What’s the bottom line?

If you’re an active person who doesn’t mind the taste or price of coconut water, it could definitely be worth it. Coconut water is completely natural and void of the added sugars and additives in many sports drinks.  Coconut water is also high is potassium, low in sodium, and low in calories and fat.






WVU Researcher Spotlight – Dr. Janet Tou

Click on the link below to learn more about the esteemed Human Nutrition and Foods professor and nutritional researcher, Dr. Janet Tou.


In honor of back-to-school being just around the corner, here is a guide to packing healthy school lunches! Kudos to Emily Todhunter for yet another great post 🙂

Emily Todhunter, WVU Graduate Dietetic Intern

With all the controversy nowadays questioning the nutritional quality of school lunches, maybe its time for parents to take the nutrition of their child into their own hands, and provide a packed lunch for their kids, rather than relying on pizza, french fries, and hamburgers served at many public schools across the country.

What we would like to see happen at WVU is to host a 1-2 hour crash course in packing healthy school lunches, for parents. This course would be held once a semester, and would give parents the opportunity to learn about the components of a healthy lunch, ideas on how to incorporate each of the food groups into the packed lunches, time-saving tips, food temperature and food safety information, and they would be able to put their new-found knowledge into practice by creating and sharing menu ideas.

Parents can bring their kids to this program as well…

View original post 697 more words

WVU’s Graduate Dietetic Internship Bootcamp, 2011 & 2012

Every undergraduate senior in the dietetics major knows the feeling of nervousness and excitement for the dreaded “DICAS Match Day”.  This is the horrifying day when you find out whether or not you got placed with a dietetic internship, which is a required component in order to become a Registered Dietitian.  Luckily, I had the honor of being accepted into the West Virginia University Graduate Dietetic Internship Program, and I was beyond ecstatic.  There were so many reasons to be excited because the WVU GDI program had all the features I was looking for:

1.) It is a two-year combined master’s and dietetic internship program.  This means I would receive over 1200 hours of supervised practice experience that is required to take the R.D. exam as well as having the opportunity to earn my Masters of Science degree in Human Nutrition and Foods. The perk of a combined program, such as WVU, is that I am able to get my master’s and dietetic internship completed quickly in just 2 years.

2.) Internship rotations.  When I was applying to internships, one of the biggest factors in my decision was the different internship rotation sites. I thought all of the internship sites at WVU sounded very interesting! To learn more about the WVU rotation sites, click here.

3.) Research, research, research. I am a very inquisitive and curious person, and I knew I wanted to incorporate research into my internship experience. I chose the thesis option of the masters degree, meaning I will receive a research project, perform laboratory work, find results, and write a thesis.  I am especially excited to have the opportunity to attend a large scientific meeting in Boston, MA in April 2013.  Experimental Biology is an annual meeting for the fields of anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, nutrition, and pharmacology to discuss the strides and contributions made to the field of science. I am nervous and excited because I will be presenting a student research poster at the meeting!

4.) West Virginia is a melting pot of opportunities for dietitians looking to make a difference and have an impact on the health of the community.  Unfortunately, WV is the second most obese state in the U.S. and heart disease is the number one killer among West Virginians.  Therefore, being a dietetic intern at WVU opened up many doors in order to educate and improve the lives of those in the Morgantown and surrounding areas.

5.)  I love the big school atmosphere! Coming from Penn State to WVU was not that much of an adjustment for me in terms of size, the number of students, and the college-town atmosphere.  The Mountaineers, football games, tailgates, cheering your team on during March Madness…what’s not to love?

6.)  Close to home.  I’m not going to lie, I am kind of a homebody and I like spending time with my family.  It was very important to me that Morgantown was only an hour and a half away from my home in Pittsburgh.  An added bonus is my younger brother is currently in his undergrad at WVU. It was very reassuring knowing I would have a family member, not only in the same town, but who could “show me the ropes” of Morgantown and the culture of WVU.

When I saw I had been matched with the internship, the first thing I did was, well…call my mom.  The second thing I did was find out who the other interns would be in my internship class (and “friend” them on Facebook of course!).  Next came finding an apartment and the big move to good old Morgantown, WV…well it’s not that big of a move from Pittsburgh, but many of the other interns come from all over the country.


Being a fresh college graduate ready to embark on the start of my career, my first taste of the WVU GDI program was called “bootcamp”.  A dietetic internship BOOTCAMP!? Oh no, sounds scary right?  I was definitely scared and nervous on that first day, but my nerves were soon put at ease.

The bootcamp idea was implemented by Dr. Melissa Olfert, DrPH, MS, RD, LD in her inaugural year as director of the GDI program.  Bootcamp began two weeks before the start of the fall semester, August 9, 2011 – August 19, 2011 from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM at Zen Clay Cafe.

The purpose of bootcamp is for the interns to become better acquainted with:

  • The other first and second year interns
  • The professors and faculty
  • The city of Morgantown
  • The beautiful WVU campus
  • The confusing PRT system
  • eCampus and MIX email system
  • Registering for classes
  • The expectations of a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA)
  • Getting your WVU ID card
  • The GDI program and the student handbook

On the first day of bootcamp, the very first thing the interns were required to do was to take a personality test.  A personality test? What does that have to do with bootcamp?  The personality test was actually a fun icebreaker, it was a great tool to better get to know each other, and we learned what makes eachother’s personality “tick”. Each intern as well as Dr. Olfert took Carl Jung’s personality assessment, more commonly known as the Myer’s-Briggs.  This assessment analyzed an individual based on 8 categories and places them into one of 16 personality types. The 8 categories are extroversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, judging/perceiving.  I am an ENFJ, which is known as “The Giver”. What is your personality type?


During boot camp, first year interns have many points to consider:

  • Do I want to embark on the Thesis or Non-Thesis option of the master’s degree?
  • If the thesis option, what professor would I like to work with and what will my research project be?
  • If the non-thesis option, what would I like to write my problem report about?
  • What professor do I want my adviser to be?
  • What professors do I want to be on my graduate committee?
  • What courses do I want to take?
  • How am I going to create my Plan of Study?
  • What courses am I going to be a GTA for?
  • How do I want to customize my internship experience in order to focus it around my personal interests?

There were many guest speakers during the 2011 bootcamp. The guest speakers and the topics they spoke about are listed below:

  • Mr. Mike Tranthram, RS, MPH – HACCP, Food Safety, Sanitation
  • Ms. Susan Arnold, MS, RD – Information Literacy and WVU Library Resources
  • Dr. Jenny Douglas, PhD – WVU Graduate Academy
  • Ms. Diane Keegan, MPA, RD, LD – Food Service Management
  • Dr. Liz Quintana, EdD, MS, RD, LD, CDE – Dean Ornish Porgram
  • Mr. David Friend, Mr. Dan Esposito, Ms. Cindy Alderson, Ms. Nettie Freshour – Purchasing, Receiving, Storage, Inventory, Production, Distribution, Facility Planning
  • Dr. Cheryl Brown, PhD -Sustainable Ag and Food Movements
  • Ms. Cathy Shaw, RD, LD – Geriatric Nutrition in Skilled Nursing Facilities
  • Ms. Brenda Fisher, RD, LD – WIC Program
  • Ms. Sharon Maynard, RD, LD – Industry Carrers for RD’s
  • Ms. Lynn Ryan, CLC – Lactation Education
  • Ms. Monica Andis, MS, RD, LD – Disabiities and Mental Health
  • Dr Pamela Murray, MD, MHP – Adolescent Nutrition, Disordered Eating, Local Food Movements
  • Dr. Diana Vinh, PharmD – Lab Values, Point of Care Testing
  • Ms. Nettie Freshour, MS, RD, CSSD – Sports Nutrition and Campus Weight Management and Fitness Programs
  • Ms. Peg Andrews, MS, RD, LD and the CAMC Outpatient/Inpatient Team – Clinical Overview for Outpatient and Inpatient
  • Ms. Sarah Edwards, RD, LD, CDE – Diabetes Education
  • Ms. Nicole O’Barto – Patient Counseling
  • Dr. Andy Wood, PhD, MBA – Advertising, Marketing, Entrepreneurship, and Leadership
  • Ms. Pam Hamilton, MS, RD, LD – Culinary Partnerships
  • Ms. Megan Govindan, MS, MPH, RD, LD – ServSafe, Mock RD exam, Medical Terminology

WVU Graduate Dietetic Internship Bootcamp 2011
Pictured – Top, left to right: Emily Todhunter, Leah Gecheo, Roanna Martin, Jordan Bryant (2010 Intern).
Bottom, left to right: Kaitlin Mock, Mary Rodavich

Dietetic intern, Kaitlin Mock, learning first-hand the difficulties individuals face when trying to eat a meal with physical disabilities.

All the dietetic interns intently listening to a guest speaker at Zen Clay Cafe.

Meet the 2011 WVU Graduate Dietetic Internship Class!

Emily Todhunter

  • Hometown: Grand Forks, ND
  • Undergrad: University of Nebaska-Lincoln

Roanna Martin

  • Hometown: Lancaster, PA
  • Undergrad: Messiah College

Kaitlin Mock

  • Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
  • Undergrad: West Virginia University

Leah Gecheo

  • Hometown: Kenya
  • Graduate: WVU


WVU Graduate Dietetic Interns – Bootcamp 2012
Pictured – Top, left to right: Kaitlin Mock, Emily Todhunter, Erin Smith, Jessie Popelka
Bottom, left to right: Remi Famodu, Shannon Ackerman, Mary Risch, Wendy Thompson, Mary Rodavich, Roanna Martin.

During my first year in the WVU GDI program, I had taken many graduate courses, been a GTA for several undergraduate nutrition courses, and completed as much research as possible for my thesis.  Over the following summer, I had just started my internship rotations when it already became time for bootcamp again! Wow, the first year of this program absolutely flew by.

Based on some of my experiences, here are some “pearls of wisdom” for other interns during their first year:

  1. Get AS MUCH done as your can during the first year because once the internship starts over the summer, you will want to give rotations 100% of your focus.  Some of the things you want to get a head start on during the first year includes classes, research, lab work, and writing your thesis or problem report.
  2. Time management in grad school is a little different from undergrad because you are given many more roles and responsibilities. You are going to have a lot on your nutritional plate, including graduate courses, presentations, being a GTA for undergrad nutrition classes, grading projects, giving lectures, conducting a research project, doing lab work, and writing your thesis.
  3. Absorb as much information as you can because everything you learn in grad school and during the internship directly applies to your future career.
  4. Be opened minded.  Some of the areas in nutrition I thought I was more interested actually ended up being just the opposite! For example, the first time I gave a lecture to a class of 150 undergrad students…I was absolutely terrified! But I am so glad I did it because I discovered that teaching and lecturing one of my favorite things to do and I am considering it as a possible career path!
  5. Customize your experience. What you put into your masters degree and the internship is what you’ll get out of it. There are very little limitations here. If you see a class you find interesting, but maybe doesn’t seem like it fits into your plan of study…go ahead and take it. If you want to incorporate a rotation into your internship that seems interesting to you, go ahead and plan it and see where it takes you!
  6. Network, network, network. You have an unbelievable opportunity as a WVU intern to meets dozens of prominent dietitians in the WV area. Take advantage of this!! One of the benefits of networking is that you are now considered a colleague and a professional in the dietetics field. So get to know people, ask for advice, get their business card, and make contacts.
  7. HAVE FUN and do what you love. I love writing, social media, and blogging and I am clearly obsessed. It is my creative outlet and it adds some fun into my day.
  8. On a more practical note, here are some other bonus tips!
  • Don’t drive downtown on a weekday between 12PM and 5PM unless you like being stuck in traffic. Traffic can definitely be an issue in Morgantown, but it is easy to learn alternative routes (plus, the summer is much less congested compared to when school is in session).
  • All of my classes were on the Evansdale campus and luckily I was able to walk there from my apartment. However, there are  year-round parking passes available to buy next to the AgSci Bldg and there is also an hourly pay lot.
  • Take advantage of the dietetic intern office to study and do work. There are plenty of computers, a color printer, a mini fridge, and tons and tons of nutrition textbooks and reference materials to your disposal.
  • The PRT system is a great way to get from one end of campus to another. However, it tends to shut down a lot unannounced…so make sure to check the PRT status on the MIX homepage.
  • Go to FOOTBALL GAMES! You’ll really get the true Mountaineer experience.
  • Join an intramural sports team and go to the beautiful new Rec Center, which was only built 10 years ago.
  • Adventure on the rail trail!  The 48 miles of rail trail is a gorgeous (and FLAT) place along the river to walk and bike.
  • Experience the beauty of West Virginia. Take a hike through Cooper’s Rock or go boating on Cheat Lake.

Anyways…back to bootcamp! This year’s bootcamp took place from August 6, 2012 – August 17, 2012 (from 9 AM – varying ending times) at the WVU Health Sciences Center.  In just one year, bootcamp was already changing and evolving in order to better suit the requests and needs of the interns.  Compared to last year, bootcamp is much more relaxed, laid back, and is more of a period of transition and adjustment from summer to fall semester. The new interns were given adequate free time to get many of the logistics worked out (MIX account setup, blog and ePortfolio setup, WVU ID card, payroll setup, and meeting with their potential adviser).

Some of the first and second year interns getting to know each other at bootcamp.

Some of the first and second year interns getting to know each other at boot camp.

Some of the first and second year interns getting to know each other at bootcamp.

Some of the first and second year interns getting to know each other at bootcamp.

The second year interns were all given a 3-hour block of time where they presented on various nutritional topics. This gave the second year interns a chance to become more involved in bootcamp, provide guidance and interact with the new interns, and have independence with preparing a lesson and inviting guest speakers.

Second year intern presentation topics included:

  • Roanna Martin – Local Food Systems, Local Farmer’s Markets, Farm to Table
  • Mary Rodavich – The Dietitian in Social Media (Blogging, ePortfolio, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest)
  • Emily Todhunter – Diabetes Education, Meal Planning, Counseling Techniques.  Guest Speaker – Dr. Liz Quintana, EdD, MS, RD, LD, CDE
  • Leah Gecheo – Childhood Obesity and West Virginia Programs. Guest Speakers – Dr. Emily Murphy and Kristen McCartney on childhood obesity programs
  • Katie Mock – Nutrition Conferences, Meetings, and Organizations

Meet the 2012 WVU Graduate Dietetic Internship Class!

Wendy Thompson

  • Hometown:  Grand Junction, CO
  • Undergrad: University of Northern Colorado

Mary Risch

  • Hometown: Louisianna
  • Undergrad: Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA

Shannon Ackerman

  • Hometown: Morgantown, WV
  • Undergrad: Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Remi Famodu

  • Hometown: Bloomington, MN
  • Undergrad: Ohio University

Erin Smith

  • Hometown: Union, WV
  • Undergrad: WVU

Jessie Popelka

  • Hometown: Lincoln, NE
  • Undergrad: University of Nebraska-Lincoln

History of the Pepperoni Roll? It’s A West Virginia Classic!

Why am I blogging about pepperoni rolls, you might ask? I’m a dietitian, aren’t pepperoni rolls supposed to be “bad” for you? Well, yeah maybe.  But I learned a little tid bit today about pepperoni rolls that I found intriguing.  Did you know that some people in this world have never even heard of a pepperoni roll, let alone ever tried one?! WHAT?!! This is a travesty, I say. Those little rolls of heaven are absolutely delicious.

Being born and raised in the Appalachian region, this “pepperoni roll phenomenon” was complete news to me.  However, today I learned in a presentation by Roanna Martin that the pepperoni roll actually originated right here in West Virginia!

What Is A Pepperoni Roll?

Let me break down the components of a pepperoni roll for those who have never tried one before.  Number one…THE DOUGH. Typically plain old white yeast bread dough broken into small squares.  Number two…THE PEPPERONI.  This can be in the form of a single stick, several folded slices, or shredded or ground.  It’s strategically placed on top of a laid out piece of dough. Number three…THE CHEESE.  Who doesn’t love cheese? Usually parmesan or mozzarella cheese is sprinkled on top of the pepperoni and is thus “rolled up” into the shape of a roll.  Number four…BAKE IT.  This is the key step.  Cooking the pepperoni roll allows all of the yummy juices of the pepperoni to seep into the dough.  Then the cheese melts and oozes out of the edges of the roll, creating a mushy gushy roll of doughy, cheesy, pepperoni-y, scrumdiddlyumptiousness.

I may have made up some of those words, but hey, you get the idea…I love pepperoni rolls.

History of the Pepperoni Roll

The pepperoni roll is ubiquitous to West Virginia because it was created by Giuseppe “Joseph” Argiro at the Country Club Bakery in Fairmont, West Virginia, in 1927 (Fairmont is only about 20 minutes from Morgantown).  It was created as a quick and practical snack for coal miners because it did not require refrigeration and could be easily packed for lunch.

Nowadays pepperoni rolls are sold everywhere you go in West Virginia. I’ve seen them in gas stations, convenience stores, farmer’s markets, cafeterias, grocery stores, and just about everywhere else.

Healthier Version of the Pepperoni Roll!

I couldn’t blog about my love for this WV staple without giving some healthier options and alternatives to the classic pepperoni roll. This recipe incorporates whole wheat pizza dough, turkey pepperoni instead of regular pepperoni, and if you are trying to save on extra calories you can always nix the cheese.

Whole Wheat Pepperoni Roll Recipe


  • Homemade whole wheat pizza dough (I used 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 teaspoon yeast, sea salt, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon honey, 1/2 cup warm water and let rise for 2-3 hours.)
  • 4 slices mozzarella cheese
  • 4 slices provolone cheese
  • 1 package turkey pepperoni
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • Preheat over to 375.


1. After dough rises, roll it out so it is very thin. Depending on how many rolls you want (and which size you want them) cut the dough accordingly. I cut my dough into four pieces.

2. Brush each piece of dough with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of garlic powder. Add a layer of pepperoni, then a layer of cheese. I used cheese slices, but tore them in pieces to fit. Make sure you use a combo of mozzarella and provolone in each roll.

3. Starting at one end, fold the roll to the end (like a jellyroll) and pinch the sides close. Lay on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray.

4. Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes, turning the rolls halfway through.