Bruzina continued her work at UC last year while working as the consulting dietician for FC Cincinnati. She moved to Minnesota in 2019 after landing the full-time position with Minnesota United.
Her work is as much an art as a science. In addition to designing meals, Bruzina manages weigh-ins three times a day — once in the morning and then again before and after workouts. Maintaining hydration is crucial, she says, because players can lose as many as six or seven pounds of water during a single training session. Players also fill out a questionnaire each morning, answering questions about their nutrition and hydration during the past 24 hours.
Bruzina, who estimates she takes 15,000 steps during a typical workday, is a visible presence on the training field. “I handle any hydration requests,” she says. “Players have individual hydration buckets. Some are straightforward; others who are heavy sweaters or salty sweaters have individualized bottles in their buckets.”
Among Bruzina’s most memorable challenges with Minnesota United was the 40 days spent in the bubble with the team at Disney World, site of the MLS is Back Tournament. Teams and staff were confined to one hotel and bussed back and forth to the training and tournament site. They wore PPE the entire time when outside their hotel rooms, and all were tested for COVID-19 every other day. Keeping the athletes fueled with hotel food three or four meals a day while social distancing, Bruzina says, “will be the pinnacle” of her career. She feels sharing that experience with the players was amazing “because many dieticians don’t get to experience being fully immersed with a team.”
Her role as an educator also continues as she works individually with athletes ranging in age from 16 to 34 with diverse nutritional backgrounds.
“Sometimes they come here and they’re totally unfamiliar with Americanized food or the Americanized food system — even what an American grocery store looks like,” Bruzina says. “It’s overwhelming when they go to the grocery store for the first time. Like, what’s an Oreo? Because some of our players are coming from very small towns in Uruguay or Paraguay or very small villages in Africa and they don’t have exposure to the large Americanized grocery stores and food chains. I’ve had interesting conversations about jelly. I have to explain that there are jellies with a lot of added sugar, but you need to look for jam or a preserve without a lot of sugar.”
So what’s on the menu for MLS players, who can easily burn more than 3,000 calories in a day? “We have quite a few Central or South American players, Eastern Caribbean players,” Bruzina says. “We do a lot of rice and beans; that tends to go well over with everybody. We also do a lot of chicken, steak. We only serve pasta on one day, which is game day. Honestly, that’s just preference. I think lot of players prefer potatoes or rice, or quinoa and other various grains. They see pasta as something specific to game day or the night before game day. In general my players eat very well. I don’t have to twist anybody’s arm to get them to eat vegetables.”