As you should all know by now, a Sports Dietitian is very different than a Registered Dietitian. Sports Dietitians are Registered Dietitians that have received additional training and have specialized in sports and physical activity. This is a really important difference as the body processes and uses the nutrition you get from your food and supplements differently when your body is physically active. Furthermore, everyone is different and therefore needs different nutritional recommendations. Knowing this, there are differences in the information that a Sports Dietitian needs for your initial assessment in order to make the best-customized nutritional recommendations for you.
Here’s a list of things that you need to prepare before your first assessment with a Sports Dietitian:
The Basic Info includes your age, height, weight (Measured first thing in the morning after you pee), food allergies, intolerances, religious or cultural practices involving food, past medical history and any medications, including birth control for women. Now for me, I also like to take your current clothing sizes because weight can be very tricky in athletes. Athletes usually have a body composition higher in muscle mass, which weighs much more than fat does. Current clothing size gives a lot of information and will continue to give a lot of information as you work with your Sports Dietitian. One other thing to consider is which notch you’re currently using on your belt; this can give us a lot of information too, especially if you prefer baggy clothes. For women, clothing or dress sizes are a bit tricky, especially since leggings are so popular now and will ultimately depend on the brand. Pick one outfit, preferably with jeans or dress pants, and write down those clothing sizes. Remember that outfit because that’s the outfit we’ll be comparing to.
Athletes usually take many supplements to help them improve their performance, this includes protein powders, protein bars, multivitamins and even herbal supplements. Not all supplements are created equal! Some supplement brands have a really bad reputation of not having their product match the ingredient list or the health claims that are made on the label. Some other supplements may have banned substances in them, so it’s best to either bring a list of the supplements or you could easily take photos of the front and back labels on your phone. Your Sports Dietitian will make sure the supplements you’re taking are safe and effective. If not, they will definitely work together with you to pick out the best Sport Supplement for you.
Sport/ Workout Schedule
Athletes usually have a pretty set schedule as to when they work out or train. Providing your Sports Dietitian with your training schedule will help the Sports Dietitian best time your meal intakes to fuel your training sessions and to help you recover from your workout or training session better. It’s also really helpful to know what the purpose of the training session is. For example, a hockey player may have a training session focusing on stick handling or speed skating; these are very different training goals and have to be fed differently. Or you might be a runner, knowing if it’s a hills training session, tempo run or speed run would also help the Sports Dietitian know how to best feed you. It’s also best to make an honest note of your Perceived Rate of Exertion on a scale of 1 to 10. Different workout intensities create different nutritional needs as different intensities use different energy pathways in the body that requires different feeding targets. Knowing the Perceived Rate of Exertion will help the Sports Dietitian make better recommendations.
Past History with your Sport
It’s most likely that you’ve been active in your sport for some time before seeing a Sports Dietitian to help bring you to the next level, so it’s important to bring that information to the appointment. Whether you’re a Body Builder or a Gymnast, it’s important to know how long you’ve been active in your sport for. Athletes develop something called muscle maturity, which can affect how effectively your body uses nutrients and calories. Typically, the longer you’ve been active in your sport, the more muscle maturity you have. This can mean that your muscles have become more efficient at using calories, which will make a huge difference in the food targets that your Sports Dietitian sets for you.
Since athletes are so unique and different, it takes a long time to establish exactly what works best for you and your athletic performance. Sports Dietitians need long-term data in order to see trends and patterns in your competitive results. For example, a cross-country runner or a swimmer may have race and training data from the previous season. It’s important to bring this data in because the Sports Dietitian will work together with you to get your body ready for competitions by trying different Sports Nutrition strategies at different times to see what works best for you.
Many athletes have experienced some form of injury at some point in their career, it’s important to share this with your Dietitian. The type of injury can indicate a different nutritional issue that needs to be addressed. For example, many runners tend to get shin splints, cramps and knee of lower back injury. These can all tell very different stories as to what the athlete needs in their diet to prevent these injuries from occurring again because an injury can mean the end of your competitive season!
It’s not likely that you’ll get to cover your entire athletic season in the first or second assessment with your Sports Dietitian but it’s a good idea to bring a schedule of your athletic season to your first assessment. Sports Nutrition goes through periodization to match your athletic season. For example, a Triathlete training for their first Ironman race will need different nutritional recommendations at different points of their training schedule. This is to best support the training as well as to get your body in the best shape possible for race day. For Physique competitors and Body Builders, this is to best plan and match which phase you’re currently training in because the nutritional goals for a bulk are extremely different than a cut phase. Furthermore, there are different nutritional goals in the competitive season versus the off-season. Make sure you let your Sports Dietitian know if you’re in your competitive season or if you’re in the off-season.
As you can see from the list above there’s a lot of information that a Sports Dietitian needs in order to help you reach your maximum potential in your sport. Giving more information could mean the difference between First or Second place. Remember, everyone is different and so are their needs. The more information you bring the better your Sports Dietitian will understand your unique nutritional needs. Also remember that the most effective time to see a Sports Dietitian is in your off season as it’s very likely that they will need to get in touch with your coach to see what their goals are for you for the upcoming season and believe it or not, the off season is the best time to reach those goals in order to ensure you have the best competitive season possible. Once you start working with a Sports Dietitian keep in mind that you’ll likely be working with them for the entire season, so the better your Sports Dietitian knows you and your unique needs the better you’ll perform!
Benjamin Sit, RD, Sports Dietitian
President and Founder of Evolved Sport and Nutrition
Complete Lifestyle Management