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Fuel for Success

Alumna leads nutrition program to help athletes at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid rise to their potential.
McCrudden stands by a table full of food preparation items

Maggie McCrudden ’14 is the food and nutrition registered dietitian for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee in Lake Placid, where she fuels elite athletes and provides nutrition education. Here, she shows off the lineup for making pierogies—fresh dough stuffed with a variety of fillings, including carbohydrate-rich mashed potatoes, probiotic-rich sauerkraut and antioxidant-rich blueberries.
When the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics get underway, Maggie McCrudden ’14 can take pride in knowing she helped energize U.S. athletes on their arduous journey to the Games. As the food and nutrition registered dietitian for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, she works at the organization’s training center in Lake Placid, New York, ensuring the world-class athletes find the right food in front of them. “My main focus is making sure we can nourish the athletes day in and day out because nutrition isn’t just what you eat in one meal,” says McCrudden, an alumna of Falk College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition with a minor in gerontology. “It’s the repeated action of fueling yourself, recovering, resting, staying hydrated—the full circle of nourishment for your body and wellness.”

McCrudden has insight into the mindset of athletes. She is a former captain and four-year member of the Orange rowing team who collected national scholar-athlete honors her senior year. “I have a lot of compassion for the athletes because I try to put myself in their shoes,” says McCrudden, who counts completing the 2019 New York City Marathon among her athletic feats. “It’s a high-stress, competitive environment, so I want to make sure they’re nourished and feeling confident.”

several containers of food are displayed on a table
To highlight the importance of carbohydrates and antioxidant rich foods for athletes, McCrudden created acai bowls with nut-free granola and a variety of toppings to customize smoothie bowls.
At Lake Placid, the range of nutritional needs is evident. There are bobsledders and lugers geared for explosive starts and biathloners who cover long distances. Add speed skaters, ski jumpers, snowboarders and other athletes to the mix. Some are super-focused on caloric intake and tracking their meals, while others may need guidance on their fueling requirements. “I’m an open door and very nonjudgmental,” McCrudden says. “If anyone has questions, I let them guide the conversation and see how I can help.”

The training center hosts an assortment of different camps and teams, with athletes coming and going depending on training and competition schedules. Along with Olympic hopefuls, McCrudden has worked with the national wheelchair basketball team, U.S. junior national teams, even rhythmic gymnasts. When she started the position last January, COVID presented its own challenges. Athletes who’d traveled were quarantined in their rooms, and she did her best to fulfill special food requests. For a time, athletes who trained at the center were required to stay there as well. “They weren’t able to go out to get food on their own, so making sure they had access was huge,” she says. “It was important for them to have the comfort of going to the cafeteria and having whatever ritual food they want or what they need to perform at their top level.”

Maggie McCrudden Portrait
McCrudden is a longtime foodie who earned national scholar-athlete honors as a member of the Orange rowing team.

A Foodie Finds Syracuse

McCrudden’s interest in food and nutrition grew out of her childhood and helped lead her to Syracuse University. With a Polish grandmother and a Chinese grandfather, she was introduced to cuisine combining the two cultures—mixing pierogies with dumplings, for instance. She enjoyed spending time in the kitchen with her grandmother and mother and loved cooking. “I’ve always been pretty much a foodie,” she says. “Everyone grows up with different concepts of food. For me, food makes me feel loved.”

When it came time for college, an Orange attraction couldn’t be overlooked. Her sister, Natalie ’12, was studying engineering at Syracuse and a member of the rowing team. “To become a registered dietitian requires a lot of planning, so when I was looking at universities, Syracuse definitely stuck out,” she says. “Falk’s nutrition program has all the credentials to get into a dietetic internship, which would be my next step after graduation.”

McCrudden, who is dyslexic, says the support she received from Falk and the University community was “amazing.” As a student-athlete, she appreciated the access she had to tutors and resources and the responsiveness of faculty members. “If you reach out to people on campus, everyone is super and, from my experience, willing to help you,” she says. “Everyone at Syracuse is cheering you on, trying to get you to be your best in the classroom, on the fields or on the water.”

McCrudden fondly recalls a class on intuitive eating and mindfulness, which focused on partaking in special treats by savoring the flavors and taking your time eating them. “Enjoy it,” she says. “That’s the main thing.” Falk’s nutrition counseling program—which pairs nutrition majors with students seeking guidance—also proved influential to her career. “It was so helpful because you can read things in books, but then you go into a conversation with someone and you think it’s going one way and it goes a completely different way,” she says. “I really benefited from having exposure and access to different opportunities and professors to guide me through what it is to be a dietitian because we’re never dealing with the perfect patient and nobody eats the perfect diet.”

A bowl of guacamole and a glass of orange juice on a table
Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with a non-alcoholic margarita mocktail and easy guacamole—a nutrition education on dietary fat, McCrudden says.

Growing with New Opportunities

McCrudden was first drawn to sports nutrition during a summer internship before her senior year, when she worked with the New York Giants’ dietitian at MetLife Stadium doing food demonstrations and nutrition education during the team’s rookie training camp. After graduation, she pursued a master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics at Saint Elizabeth University and tackled her dietetic internship requirements, logging 1,200 hours of supervised practice working in various hospital settings as well as doing counseling and community outreach. She was also a volunteer coach and nutritionist for her high school rowing team in Ridgewood, New Jersey.

McCrudden started her career as a clinical dietitian with Alaris Health, working as a department head in sub-acute rehabilitation and long-term care facilities in New Jersey. “It gave me a huge understanding of medical nutrition therapy,” she says. “I’m happy I went straight into clinical dietetics because I was dealing with patients, family members, doctors and nurses, and understanding the interaction between medication and the body.” Then it was on to New York City, where she served as the clinical nutrition manager at Morrison Community Living, which provides dining and wellness services for senior living centers. “From there I moved to Lake Placid, and it’s been an awesome transition,” she says.

Rolling Sushi, Rocking Orange

McCrudden does some coaching herself at Lake Placid, guiding athletes through a weekly cooking class. The classes are educational—nutrition focused—and a great team-building exercise. Her favorite class so far: sushi rolling. “We probably had 40 people doing sushi in waves,” she says. “We’d have different start times and stagger them. It was really fun. All the different teams liked competing against each other. Sushi became a competitive sport.”

Mix that competitive spirit with her enduring Orange spirit and it’s easy to see why McCrudden enjoys Lake Placid. She and her husband, former Orange rower Mac Zink ’14, were married last summer and have embraced life in the Adirondacks, adding hiking and snowshoeing to their activities. They also remain tight with their ’Cuse alumni network of former rowers and other friends. “Being a Syracuse graduate means the world to me,” she says. “Syracuse completely prepared me for each step of the way into the world of nutrition. I accomplished so much there. I met so many great friends—and we’re all obsessed with Syracuse.”

A Syracuse University story by Jay Cox originally published on February 1, 2022.