Know Your Sports Nutritionist
Posted: Jan 31, 2019
There is a lot of fraudulent information available today as regards health and nutrition. It is very difficult to differentiate between what is false and evidence based advice. Besides, there are many self made nutrition gurus that have written multiple books on diet and nutrition. While one may suggest high fat diets, another may propagate consumption of raw foods. However, all of them rely on only one fact - scientific illiteracy of their followers. Because of lack of certain regulations many have become self appointed health and nutrition coaches without recognized credentials. So, today besides these unqualified nutritionists there are also many unqualified individuals who are practicing as sports nutrition coaches too without substantial credentials. To avoid bad nutrition advice, it is better to identify people who practice unscientific nutrition practices.
Who is a Nutritionist?
A nutritionist is an expert in the field of food and nutrition who advice on what to eat to be healthy as well as what to eat to reach a specific health goal. To be able to do this the nutritionist goes through different levels of training and has a qualified degree in the field of nutrition.
Who is a sports nutritionist?
A sports nutritionist is a person who specializes in sports and fitness nutrition after a degree in nutrition thus, helping in improving anyone’s athletic performance. A sports nutritionist is one of the most valuable assets for a sports and fitness professional. Why? Because their primary role is to see the athlete get better and improve performance. Those indulging in a sport either as a recreational activity or taking up the sport to play at a professional level, need to be aware of the demands of the sport on their bodies. Also, performance depends on how well the body is trained as well as the nutrition throughout the year. Eating right is not a one-time thing wherein a person loads up on a carbohydrates just before the game, or takes up a weight loss program where they teach about how to lose weight fast to perform under a certain weight category game. Nutrition has to be sound throughout the year - during the off season as well as during the game season. The goal of a sports nutritionist is to apply the knowledge of good food to make athletes eat well in order to compete, train and recover. Their role is to offer impartial information to the athletes about the different supplements available and help them make informed choices. Besides, they also have strategies planned during competition. The entire exercise undertaken by the sports nutritionist is in a scientific and practical manner. So, how does one find the right sports nutritionist?
Here is a checklist of what to look out for to ensure you have found the right sports nutritionist:
Valid education degree (certification / license):
Nutrition is a scientific study which requires detailed learning over a long duration. Therefore an authenticated degree is a must. You should check the degree of the nutritionist that you are consulting as you would want someone who understands the sport, the requirements of the sport as well as have a practical food plan to reach peak performance. The overall knowledge about different sports, knowledge about the different supplements available in the market and how much to prescribe is an important part of the skill set that a sports nutritionist should possess. He / She will use food as fuel rather than rely only on supplements. On the whole his / her role would be to help manage weight and optimize performance. This entire knowledge comes from a validated degree rather than some short term course that is undertaken with the aim to join the lucrative health and fitness business today.
Just a degree is never enough if there is no rich experience. Experience helps deliver better results. Citing case studies about the experiences and outcomes with athletes on the sports nutrition program will give confidence to the newer athletes on the program. He / She would have a better sense of what works and what does not or what is practical and impractical through the various experiences with the different athletes. He / She would be able to engage the athletes well. He / She may with experience also be able to plan gluten free diets, lactose free diets or injury recovery diets and know what work well and what may not. Experience will teach the nutritionist to not give general advice but sports specific and athlete specific advice. All answers to the athlete’s queries can be answered without an element of doubt.
Regular monitoring of the athlete is essential for optimum results. The nutritionist must take the body composition of the athlete at regular intervals to assess the efficacy of the food plan suggested. Records should be maintained for future reference. Bone health in the case of athletes is important to avoid injuries. Periodical Vitamin D and Calcium assessments should be suggested and reviewed. Periodical blood work is also an important part of monitoring which is under the scope of the work of a sports nutritionist. That way the nutritionist has a way to know what is going on. Whether it is for an athlete at a school or college level or a professional athlete, the nutritionist needs this data. Appropriate nutrition helps the athlete perform better. The athlete may train for hours but without a sound nutrition program, training is incomplete. A good sports nutritionist will help the athlete make informed choices rather than enforcing choices. It is all about what he / she can get the athlete to do. Learning about how to fuel the athlete is different from practically feeding an athlete and fueling an athlete is not the same as fueling a car. The athlete needs to enjoy the whole process to be able to adhere to the rules of eating. And above all the sports nutritionist should have a passion to make the food interesting and enriched beyond supplement strategies. Cafe Nutrition has been working with budding as well as elite athletes to help them reach their sporting goals. Every athlete is different with different training programs, different schedules, different goals and different eating patterns. Success of our sports nutrition program is based on the amalgamation of all these points by the sports nutritionist to make the entire process enjoyable as well as a success for the individual athlete.
As it is said knowledge is power, a nutritionist who has in depth knowledge about nutrition will be more confident and will be able to solve any doubts that a sports player has. He / she knows how to tackle any conditions / problems that a sports player faces and it will be beneficial for the sports player. As mentioned before, if a person who is holding a certificate / diploma, will not have enough knowledge and they end up giving same plans to each and every players, without knowing that the diets are all customized and tailored to meet an individual’s needs.
Arati Shah is an astute nutritionist having expertise in all types nutrition, she is one of the top 10 dietitians in Mumbai who can also guide one through corporate wellness programs with same efficacy