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Avvalzameer Bhatia: Protein shake station at Wooden would greatly improve Bruins’ gym experiences

(Sheyra Mantri/Daily Bruin)

By Avvalzameer Bhatia

March 18, 2018 10:45 pm

UCLA’s John Wooden Center offers world-class exercise facilities to fit the diverse fitness needs of students and faculty. It has everything from leg workout stations to yoga classes. It even offers study spaces for Bruins.

There’s just one essential service the gym is missing: a shake bar.

Back in 2004, Associated Students UCLA and UCLA Recreation, which manages the Wooden Center, signed an agreement to open a store called the Energy Zone on the first floor of the gym. The store sold energy drinks, food, athletic wear and accessories.

Unfortunately, the service was recently shut down and replaced by the facilities for FITWELL programs, which provide personal training and fitness counseling services. UCLA Recreation believed the Energy Zone area could be used more effectively by the FITWELL programs and that Bruins could instead buy UCLA gear at the ASUCLA’s merchandise store and purchase food at Ackerman Union.

And now, hungry athletes and thirsty weightlifters only have access to a lowly vending machine to get their daily dose of energy drinks. If they want anything healthy or fresh, they have to drag themselves across Bruin Plaza to Ackerman Union to ingest the next best thing: an expensive Jamba Juice smoothie – provided the restaurant is open.

It’s time for Energy Zone to make its return. UCLA Recreation should renew its contract to provide Bruins with protein shakes, a basic fitness tenet, and other refreshments during and after their workouts.

As of now, UCLA is of the view that Wooden Center’s vending machine is sufficient for gymgoers.

“Ultimately, we felt, based on sales data provided by ASUCLA, that the same needs could be provided for either at Ackerman or the vending machine on the first floor of Wooden Center,” said UCLA spokesperson Ricardo Vasquez.

However, it is highly unlikely that athletes would, after a rigorous workout, want to munch on fries from Carl’s Jr. or orange chicken from Panda Express. Moreover, ASUCLA’s nutritious food offerings aren’t always in alignment with most students’ post-workout dietary needs.

Thus, Wooden Center’s gymgoers are often forced to travel long distances to meet their post-workout needs. As any enthusiastic student on an exercise regimen would know, it’s hard to feel motivated to make and drink a protein drink after getting out of the gym and dragging your feet for 15 minutes.

Vrishab Ajmera, a second-year economics student, said he has to walk up the Hill to the Hedrick Study four times a week to swipe for protein drinks, such as Odwalla, after working out at the Wooden Center.

“I would love to have access to a shake bar at the Wooden Center, where I can buy energy drinks and food,” Ajmera said. “I wouldn’t even mind paying extra for it because then I can have it right after my workout.”

Rishabh Jain, a second-year computer science student, said he did not know the Wooden Center had an energy drink station in the past, and would enjoy such a facility.

“It would be so convenient to be able to buy food and drinks at the gym itself,” Jain said.

Of course, this might seem like yet another trivial student service concern, but a protein drink station wouldn’t just benefit gym fanatics: It would also be a great business prospect for the university. UCLA Recreation could use profits from the venture to fund other facilities and bring in more personal trainers and equipment at Wooden Center.

Opening up a modified version of Energy Zone that offers protein shakes and nutritious, protein-rich foods would be a clear win-win for the university and its students.

Certainly, some may argue that if Energy Zone were to return, there would be no space for the FITWELL programs, which are an essential part of the gym. But UCLA Recreation would not need to allocate as much space for the shake station as it did for the Energy Zone – the former sold food, drinks and accessories, whereas the latter would only sell protein shakes and limited foods.

On top of that, FITWELL trainers and counselors have worked in the past with Bruins in conference rooms and open spaces around the Wooden Center, and could return to doing the same for more private classes and training sessions.

Sure, Wooden Center already offers a top-tier exercise experience for Bruins. But UCLA Recreation shouldn’t miss the opportunity to shake things up with a shake station.

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Avvalzameer Bhatia | Opinion columnist
Bhatia is an Opinion columnist.
Bhatia is an Opinion columnist.
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