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How College of Human Sciences Dietetic Intern Daniel Martin helps 11-time national champion Aubie stay fueled and hydrated year-round

What does it take to be a champion? For Aubie, who has served as Auburn University’s beloved tiger mascot since 1979 and 11-time UCA National Champion, this means a lot in terms of expelling copious amounts of energy–and calories while juggling a jam-packed athletic and academic calendar year-round.

This past fall, College of Human Sciences Dietetic intern Daniel Martin stepped into a brand new role to assist the Aubie program. Martin ensures Auburn’s beloved mascot is well-versed in key nutrition, hydration, sleep habits, mental health tips and more to stay in tip-top tiger shape these past few months and beyond.

When Aubie enters a room–or athletic venue his presence is felt immediately as his fun-loving and animated personality comes to life with all those he encounters. His famous cheers, dance moves and antics keep Auburn fans and alumni laughing and begging for selfies but with so many engagements, Aubie can lose critical nutrients and fluids fast if a nutrition plan isn’t developed and followed.

This is where Martin steps in. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in both nutrition-dietetics and kinesiology in May 2023, Martin is now a graduate student currently working as a dietetic intern with the Department of Nutritional Sciences in hospitals, public health departments and foodservice facilities in the Auburn area. After completing his internship, he will be eligible to take the National Registration Examination for Dietitians and earn the RD/RDN credential.

Making a natural connection

To compliment his dietetic internship, Martin made a natural connection to the Aubie Program and Friends of Aubie in the fall of 2023 thanks to his involvement on the Auburn University Cheerleading team.

“Over the past three years on the cheer team I’ve had the opportunity to see the Friends of Aubie and get to know them,” Martin said. “We travel together to games and on game days we get to see each other a good bit, and we kind of share a common space. With this graduate assistant position with the Aubie Program it’s allowed me to really get involved in each of their lives and get to know them better. I see the struggles they go through and see the more intrinsic things that go on within the Aubie Program and just have a much greater appreciation for that, while also being able to implement my education to help others. That’s one of the greatest things.”

For several hours each week, Martin speaks with each Friend of Aubie about their individual health needs by giving them weekly assignments and tasks to make sure they keep up with their nutrition and overall health.

“After I graduated in the spring of last year I started reaching out to people I knew, and the connections I had looking for a graduate assistant position and one of the main leaders in the Aubie Program Corey Edwards was the one who reached out,” Martin said. “He told me about a possible position he was looking at creating specifically for my need in having a GA position and then my education and experience with nutrition and exercise science. We went over some roles and the duties I would play and he was the one that opened this position for me to work with the Friends of Aubie.”

Daniel Aubie National Champion

Daniel Martin, left, at the 2024 UCA Nationals where Aubie was most recently crowned the National Mascot Champion.

The toll it takes to be a Friend of Aubie

Whether it’s an early September home football game where temperatures soar to near triple digits or traveling across the country to work an alumni event, the demands for the Friends of Aubie are always high. Nutrients lost in sweat, replacing lost energy, getting adequate rest and allowing the body time to recover are all vital to Aubies’ success.

“Each Friend of Aubie is very different and their frame, body compositions and anthropometrics are very different so each individual will have different needs,” Martin said. “I’m not a registered dietitian yet so I don’t give them specific meal plans but I give them guidelines. I try to share information from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and things that are universally recognized as good guidance and information.”

Working as a Friend of Aubie is not much different than that of an Auburn student-athlete who finishes a grueling workout or competition. In fact, Martin spent some time with the sports nutrition team from the Auburn Football program where he learned key tips and information to relay over to the Aubie Program.

“With the Friends of Aubie program, in one 30-minute or one-hour session they can go through a ton of calories and they’re burning energy like crazy,” Martin said. “To combat that, I give them information on hydration and fueling for those events. Good sleep, proper hydration, fueling their body with food and talking to them about the difference in your macronutrients and when to prioritize certain macronutrients to help benefit performance levels. With hydration, you want to get your electrolytes in but you want to make sure you are properly hydrated and not overly hydrated. I talk to them about keeping a balance.”

Daniel at Lunch and Learn

Martin presents at a Lunch and Learn during National Nutrition Month.

Staying sharp and prioritizing mental health

While the Friends of Aubie stay busy bringing the beloved mascot to life, these individuals have lives outside of the organization where they attend classes and tend to other organizations just like any other Auburn student would do.

The demands of the Aubie Program, stress from taking college classes, things in their personal lives and more can bring on some anxiety, but that’s where Martin can help them prioritize mental health and wellness.

“I really just try to be a good friend to them and help them be in a good head space because it can be a lot being in the Aubie Program,” Martin said. “It’s very demanding and they’re all students and a lot of the appearances Aubie does it’s not a very consistent timeframe. It can be very random. They could be gone for an hour or four days at a time where they’re flown out to California so they have very special circumstances. I try to be someone that they can rely on for overall health including mental health as well.”

“I’ve always been interested in nutrition and performance and how the two can be so complimentary of each other. With a degree in nutrition and a career in it I can really benefit people’s entire lives by helping them create healthy habits both in what they eat, and then also promoting physical activity and overall wellness. I think if you’re healthy, you’re obviously able to enjoy life more.”

Daniel Martin

Using knowledge from the College of Human Sciences Department of Nutritional Sciences to impact lives

For Martin, it’s simple why he chose to pursue a degree in dietetics and that’s to be a positive influence and help improve other people’s lives through nutrition.

“I’ve always been interested in nutrition and performance and how the two can be so complimentary of each other,” Martin said. “With a degree in nutrition and a career in it I can really benefit people’s entire lives by helping them create healthy habits both in what they eat, and then also promoting physical activity and overall wellness. I think if you’re healthy, you’re obviously able to enjoy life more.”

The last few months, Martin is happy he’s been able to take that knowledge and apply it to the Aubie Program. He can take pride in knowing that whenever Aubie hits the field, court or stage his solid performance in large part is due to good nutrition and healthy habits learned.

“To me, you can’t have good performance without nutrition,” Martin said. “Maybe for a few moments but afterwards, it’s going to take a toll on you. I think nutrition is an incredibly important factor and then the preparation that goes into their performances. I think eating well and exercising well is what contributes to good performance.”

For more information about the College of Human Sciences Department of Nutritional Sciences, click below

College of Human Sciences Department of Nutritional Sciences