Nutritionists for Athletes: How We Help

Giving 100% in a workout is only part of the recipe for success. Athletes also need to take care of their bodies in other ways, like getting enough sleep, keeping stress levels down, and eating right. Yup, that’s right, we’re going there. 

Ugh, diet. It’s such a tricky thing to navigate. 

One day, carbs are good. The next day, carbs are evil. 

It’s a good idea to take supplements, but be careful because they may be harmful.  

Make sure to drink a sports drink with electrolytes like sodium. Hold on, too much sodium can cause your blood pressure to rise. 

How the heck are we supposed to keep it all straight? 

Well my friends, that is exactly why there are nutritionists for athletes. These sports nutrition experts can help figure out the best way for an athlete to fuel themselves. 

Hi! I’m Jessica, a sports dietitian and nutrition professor. In this blog post, I’ll explain the role of nutritionists for athletes and why it’s a good idea to make sure they are part of the team! 

Who are nutritionists for athletes?

Believe it or not, you are what you eat. That is certainly true for athletes. Eating the right food at the right time can make all the difference between crawling to the finish line or effortlessly sailing across it. Coaches and teammates may have some advice about diet, but sometimes that can be more overwhelming than helpful.

That’s where nutritionists for athletes come in: the experts in all things sports nutrition!  

While anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, I recommend finding a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) who works with athletes. An RDN specializing in sports nutrition has extensive training in both nutrition and exercise science to provide you with practical, safe, and effective strategies to improve your diet while supporting your athletic needs. Working with a sports dietitian, you can expect an initial appointment plus a few follow-up sessions as needed. 

Read on for the top 5 reasons why nutritionists for athletes are beneficial!

#1: Create a Personalized Eating Plan

Every athlete has different needs, even if you play the same sport or are on the same team. A one size fits all approach doesn’t work when it comes to sports nutrition (and it shouldn’t for exercise either, but that’s a blog post for another day…). A sports dietitian can be a HUGE help when it comes to figuring out what to eat (and when to eat) to get the most out of your body during your practices and games.

When you meet with a sports dietitian for an initial nutrition session, expect to chat about what a typical day of eating looks like for you and how this is balanced around your current exercise training. You’ll also talk about any supplements you take, where you tend to get your food from, and what your level of comfort in the kitchen is.  

From that initial consult, a nutritionist for athletes will help develop a personalized plan to make sure all of your nutritional needs are met in a way that aligns with your current exercise routine. Your dietary preferences and daily habits will be accounted for in this customized plan. WAY better than some generic plan you might stumble across online, or a random athlete’s diet that they share on social media!

#2: Nail Your Timing 

Nutritionists for athletes are experts in sports nutrition. They understand what your body needs before workout, and how best to refuel after exercise. Working with a sports dietitian, you can map out your day from the time you wake up until bedtime to make sure that you are giving your body what it needs EXACTLY when it needs it. 

Along the way, you’ll learn why it’s helpful to eat quick absorbing carbs before a long run, and the benefits of drinking low-fat chocolate milk after a tough strength training session. 

Feeling sluggish at halftime? We can help with that too! Timing is so important for athletes to make sure that you are loading your body up with the nutrients that can help power your workout.

#3: Expert Advice on Supplements

These days, you can’t look at social media without seeing posts promoting a supplement, amiright? From protein powder to creatine to a plain ‘ole multivitamin, it seems like there’s a supplement out there for every athlete. But the bigger question is, do you really even need to take a supplement? And if you do, which one? 

If you are feeling overwhelmed just thinking about it, you’re not alone! But guess what? This is another way that working with a sports dietitian can help an athlete. By reviewing your diet, they can ID any nutrient gaps and figure out if a supplement might be useful. They can also walk you through the different brands and forms and weigh in on which one makes sense for you. 

If you are competing at the NCAA level or in a professional league, there may be certain regulations about which supplements you are allowed to take, and certain ingredients that are banned substances. Nutritionists for athletes stay updated on the go/no go lists for sports supplements and can advise you accordingly.

#4: Supports Your Training

Every sport has a schedule that changes throughout the year. It usually looks something like this: pre-season conditioning to the main competition season to the off season (however long or short that is). As athletes, your training will adjust with each of these transitions. But what about your eating plan? Well, turns out it needs to adjust too.

Working with a nutritionist for athletes year-round gives you the support to figure out how to tweak your eating plan to keep up with your changing exercise demands. Chances are, your goals will shift too. Want to improve your body composition? It’s best to do that in the off season, when making major diet changes is less likely to risk your performance in a competition. 

Life happens too. Whether it’s an unexpected injury, the emergence of a food allergy, or a new pregnancy, your diet may need updating to reflect what you need right now. Thankfully, sports dietitians are well versed in all things nutrition-related and can give you expert advice to tackle whatever new life change is impacting your eating habits.

#5: Straight Talking Myth Buster

You know that sports is a place full of myths and superstitions. So many recommendations exist because they have been passed down from coach to player, teammate to teammate. But does that mean they work for you? Not necessarily. 

Guess what? This is yet ANOTHER place where nutritionists for athletes are valuable members of your team. They can help settle debates about pre-workouts, sports drinks, and whatever the latest trend is better than any Google search. 

Let’s be real – there are thousands of sports nutrition products out there, and even more people who claim to be sports nutrition “experts”. Don’t go at it alone: work with a sports dietitian so you have an expert to help you find your way through all the noise and understand what the research says about specific nutrients, supplements, or diet trends. 

Overtime – bonus tip: Help Navigating Travel

We’re not done yet! Athletes of all levels have to deal with travel, whether it is a weekend tournament in the next town or flying across the country for a postseason competition. The best laid plans for healthy eating can be wrecked when travel is involved. Your normal routine is disrupted, and on top of that, you may be dealing with a change in time or unexpected reactions to food. 

Planning ahead is the best way to lower your anxiety about travel and to make sure that you have healthy options available to keep you fueled. When you meet with a sports dietitian, you can create a meal plan that is specifically designed for road games or other travel. You can plan out where to eat, and what to order off the menu so that you still hit all your nutrition goals. 

Game Over!

As you can see, nutritionists for athletes, specifically Registered Dietitian Nutritionists with experience in sports nutrition, are a valuable addition to the team. Their guidance can help athletes stay well-fueled and at the top of their game. 

If you’re ready to work with an expert sports dietitian, click the link below and book your initial session with me!

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