What is a Sports Nutritionist?

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The Sports Nutritionist

In this post we will discuss:

  • What is a Sports Nutritionist
  • Why Should Athletes Use a Sports Nutritionist
  • The Four ‘R’s in Nutrition
  • Examples of Professionals using a Sports Nutritionist
  • How to become a sports nutritionist

What is a Sports Nutritionist?

A sports nutritionist provides nutritional advice and support to optimise and improve athletes performance. This is achieved by researching, planning and overseeing an athletes intake of food and drink.

Examples of topics a sports nutritionist would research and provide recommendations for are:

  • MacroNutrients
  • MicroNutrients
  • Water intake
  • Create meal plans for athletes
  • Supplements

You may also want to find out our favourite sports nutrition books. You can read our article on this here.


Why Should Athletes Use a Sports Nutritionist?

Athletes and coaches have become more aware of the benefits of an effective diet and the link this has on improving performance. Alternatively, an incorrect diet could lead to an athlete collapsing or worse. It is easiest to think of food as the fuel in your car, if it runs out then the body is not going to be able to keep going.

In the cycling world, Sports Nutritionists create bespoke nutritional plans measuring an athletes energy expenditure (how many calories they are burning) to the calorie. A Sports Nutritionist would then research and create a plan to ensure the cyclist receives the necessary calories and nutrients. This ensures they have the correct nutritional value for optimal performance.

Without this, if the athlete had too few calories than they were burning up, they would not be able to sustain the exercise and would end up losing weight as a result. Alternatively, too many calories would result in them gaining weight. Gaining weight would have a dramatic impact on an athletes performance on a bike.


The Four ‘R’s in Nutrition

Sports Nutritionists use the four ‘R’s for recovery after exercise:

  • Restore
  • Replace
  • Repair
  • Rest

Restore is about replenishing fluids and electrolytes lost during exercise. Replace is to do with replacing the body with lost carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the largest macronutrient. Repair is to do with Protein and rebuilding muscles after exercise. Rest involves planning periods of rest in a training programme to allow your body to recover.

Examples of Professionals using a Sports Nutritionist

A Tour De France cyclist can use up to 7000 calories a day on a long stage. Planning for this consumption of energy before, during and after the race is vital to a cyclists success.

Sports Nutritionists research and develop diet plans long before the race. The plan is so detailed that it will include how many calories are needed for a hill climb. In The Tour De France, some nutritionists plan for cyclists to have a certain boost of caffeine before an uphill climb.

Cycling Weekly provide a more detailed analysis of what a cyclist eats on the Tour De France. https://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/racing/tour-de-france/this-is-what-you-have-to-eat-to-compete-in-the-tour-de-france-182775

If you want more, ‘Eat. Race. Win’ on Amazon Prime Video provides a great inside video on the life of a Sports Nutritionist during the Tour De France. In the video, you will see how a Sports Nutritionist researches, plans and provides energy and drink to the riders during a race. 

Halfords also provide a great article on how cyclists can improve their nutritional planning and preparation.

Premier League Football Teams and Rugby Football Union teams also use Sports Nutritionist in their daily routines to maximise performance. Ulster Rugby Team provides a great section on its website to provide nutritional advice for rugby players. You can find this here.


How to Become a Sports Nutritionist

To be able to register as Sports Nutritionist, you would usually need to complete either an Undergraduate or Postgraduate Degree in Sports Nutrition. However, there are other paths without having to complete a degree. 

In the UK, you can find more information on how to become a Sports Nutritionist by visiting the Association for Nutrition.

In the United States, NutritionED provide a useful State by State guide on how to qualify as a Sports Nutritionist

In Australia, Sports Dieticians Australia is the professional body for those in Sports Nutrition.


In summary, we have discussed why athletes should use a Sports Nutritionist, the Four ‘R’s to recovery, provided examples in professionals using Sports Nutritionists and where to find advice on how to become a sports nutritionist. Our article on our favourite sports nutrition books will also provide you with more information on sports nutrition.

Sports Nutritionists have become an integral part of sports professionals success and are in high demand. The biggest challenge is for the athlete to follow the diet plan to the gram. We all know how tempting a bar of chocolate can be!

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