A sports dietitian uses multidisciplinary knowledge of food and nutrition to help athletes increase their performance. Clinical issues, such as vitamin or mineral deficiencies, also must be addressed by a sports dietitian to keep an athlete at peak performance. Many athletes take supplements, such as vitamins and protein supplements, to bolster their diet; a dietitian should advise any such supplement usage to ensure an athlete does not go overboard and that optimal health effects are achieved. Along with food and supplements, a sports dietitian also should be knowledgeable about exercise and should be able to advocate different exercise routines to help an athlete get stronger or build endurance.
Just like anyone else, an athlete can experience clinical problems with his or her diet. When non-athletes experience these problems it affects their performance, but not as noticeably as with an athlete. To keep him or her performing well, a sports dietitian must be able to analyze clinical problems, such as a vitamin deficiency or toxicity, and know how to fix them.
One of the main objectives of a sports dietitian is to talk athletes about food regimens that would best increase performance. This involves looking at an athlete’s sport, body composition, goals and stress. Such food plans are normally long-term, and the dietitian will create a strict menu that should be followed to optimize performance.
An athlete will often take protein, vitamin, mineral and other legal performance supplements to help boost nutrition without having to eat massive amounts of food. A sports dietitian must monitor an athlete’s supplements and advise him or her about the best supplements and doses. If a dietitian does not do this, then the athlete may not be getting enough of the right kinds of nutrition; he or she could end up taking too many supplements, which could lead to toxicity; or he or she could do OK but never quite reach full potential.
While monitoring food and supplements are the primary aspects of a sports dietitian’s career, he or she also should be knowledgeable about exercise. A sports dietitian may not be able to fulfill the role of a trainer, but he or she should be able to advocate different exercises that can increase performance. For example, if someone is not doing enough cardio exercises and is suffering from poor endurance, the dietitian may recognize this and speak with the athlete and trainer about adding this to the athlete’s regimen.