Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Why You Need A Sports Dietitian On Your Sports Medicine Team

Contributed by Lara Gray, MS, RD, CSSD,
Director of Education at Drug Free Sport, Inc.

Full disclosure: I am a sports dietitian (RD). But that is not the only reason I feel compelled to write a brief post on this topic. Through our work and educational outreach at Drug Free Sport, I have observed that the role of sports RDs on the sports medicine team is still largely misunderstood, under-budgeted, missing—or all of these at once. So, let me make a few points to elaborate on why you need a sports RD in your athletic program. If you are a sports RD reading this, use this information to strengthen your case on why you are essential to any athletic programs’ success, and the health and safety of the athletes they serve.

Most athletes have little to no nutrition knowledge.
o   Even a basic understanding of which foods provide carbs, proteins, or fats is primarily absent. A lack of basic nutrition principles immediately limits an athlete’s potential to make adequate fueling decisions for performance. This, in conjunction with issues pertaining to budget, often predisposes athletes to selecting high fat, high sugar options from cheap, grab’n’go conveniences (e.g., fast food, fried foods).

Lack of awareness of food-based solutions leads to increased reliance and trust in potentially harmful dietary supplements.
o   This generation of athletes will not shy away from using technology to source ways to “treat” sports performance issues (read: Google, Facebook, Twitter searches and online influence are at an all-time high). Enter dietary supplements. An athlete's lack of awareness pertaining to nutrition solutions for performance and recovery, and the results of their web search, often leads to dietary supplement products with questionable contents. They are often unregulated, contaminated with prohibited substances, contain heavy metals or toxic pesticides, or fall short of all of these and merely contain almond or soy flour—yet charge $30-$100 per bottle.

To deter supplement use in sport, athletes must receive practical and effective food solutions.
o   Current research estimates the prevalence of dietary supplement use in sport to be within a wide range of 40-75%; higher among those at more elite levels. The expertise of the sport RD can not only provide sound guidance on supplement safety and efficacy, but most importantly, also offer food-first solutions that provide safe, sustainable, and highly effective alternatives.

University of Texas Sports Dietitian, Amy Culp, RD, CSSD, LD, creates teachable moments where most effective—in front of the food.  UT Athletics is an example of a high functioning and collaborative sports medicine team that effectively incorporates sports nutrition for shared success. Photo courtesy of  UT Athletics. 

Sports RDs make nutrition decisions highly approachable, visible, and easy for athletes.
o   Sports RDs are educated and trained in food service operations. This makes them a primary asset when negotiating and determining pre-/post-game meals, stocking and maintaining refueling stations, navigating food options while teams are traveling, and working with catering and food service managers to create/enrich training table meals.

The sports RD can save both time and money.
o   Food costs money. Consider the time saved in human resources if you have someone working with teams, caterers, operations staff, and food service staff who can confidently set menus while competition is both home and away. Recognize cost savings from a professional experienced in ordering and stocking only the appropriate amounts and types of nutrition resources.

Sports RDs effectively support the collective success of any multidisciplinary sports medicine team.
o   The team physician’s efforts in athlete post-surgical care;
The athletic trainer’s efforts to support recovery, injury prevention, and immunity;
The sport psychologist’s efforts addressing athletes with disordered eating;
The coach’s efforts in achieving optimal body composition for performance;
—are all elevated and improved by the work of a sports RD.

Make sure to set their place at the table!

For additional guidance on adding a sports dietitian to your team, or to find a certified specialist in sports dietetics (CSSD) in your area, please email me at lgray@drugfreesport.com. Drug Free Sport advocates for all professional disciplines that support athlete health, performance, and safety. To learn more about the impact of sports dietitians on high performance teams, and experience a new sports industry conference that focuses on maximizing collaborative success of “the team behind the team”, visit www.sportexchangesummit.com.

What impact has a sport dietitian had on your team or athletic program? PLEASE USE THE COMMENTS TO SHARE!

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