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To Amber Rinestine, UNC athletics is a utopia — a place to see athletes evolve, find their potential and form relationships that last well into the future. 

As North Carolina football’s director of nutrition, she wants the players to feel like they are not just another number on the roster. With personalized care, nutritional plans and cooperation with the medical training staff, the UNC nutrition department works together to fuel success through the enjoyment and love of food. 

Rinestine worked as UNC football’s nutrition fellow before making the jump to the NFL level, where she spent time with the New York Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles.

In the pros, she felt like something was missing. 

“My relationships with [NFL athletes] were just not the kind of relationships that I get here with our athletes,” Rinestine said. “I don't think you see as big of an impact.”

After Rinestine made her return to UNC as director of nutrition in 2023, her impact was immediately felt. Rinestine’s presence was especially welcomed by graduate offensive lineman Austin Blaske, who has to constantly monitor his blood sugar on the field due to his Type 1 diabetes. 

Through brainstorming during mealtimes, Rinestine and Blaske have tried new things to help keep his blood sugar where it needs to be. Blaske says that his blood sugar tends to go down during physical activity, and UNC’s nutrition department has put him on a good regimen to make sure he is able to play through all the bumps in the road. 

“They always want to make it better for me and make sure I'm always out there on a level playing field," Blaske said. 

As a senior, linebacker Power Echols knows the UNC nutrition department well — both with and without Rinestine. Her aggressive organization and fired-up personality are the biggest changes since her arrival, and they help the team to know she will do what is best to help them succeed. 

Senior wide receiver Nate McCollum said Rinestine makes him want to put in the work. Rinestine, with her 6 a.m. encouragement to come in and eat, helps him to not fall in the traps of being a “typical college athlete.”

When McCollum dealt with a lower-body injury last season, he had to battle back while still maintaining his health. Rinestine helped him find that balance and stay healthy.  

As a department, UNC football nutrition is constantly looking for ways new research can help players develop. Each week, Rinestine and her assistant, Issy Chung, give the nutrition interns the task of researching and presenting the staff with new articles. New research methods are sometimes posted in a short Instagram slide to be seen by the team. 

Rinestine’s dedication to the development of the team does not end with meal preparation. Due to her time spent in the big league, she has connected UNC players with players she worked with in the NFL. This method of inspiration has helped Tar Heels buy into the kinds of methods Rinestine uses. 

“I think it's really important to these guys, because [some] day, that's where they want to be,” Rinestine said. 

When Rinestine was first introduced to coach Mack Brown, he told her that there would not be a single player she did not like. Although she found that hard to believe at the time, she since realized it to be true. 

It is safe to say Rinestine loves the team, and they love her too. As for her best recipe, McCollum said it would have to be a combination of Gatorade electrolytes mixed with Pedialyte. 

“It’s just a bunch of sugar,” he said with a laugh. “It takes out my grandma’s Kool-Aid.”

@aplancaster_

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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