As we close out the year, we thought we would take a step back and review some of our highlights from this year. We have featured so many talented dietitians in a large variety of settings. They have offered great advice for those of us who are already in the practice of sports dietetics and those of us who are still striving to get there. We wanted to thank them again for their time in allowing us to interview them, and we look forward to the many other dietitians we will feature in the coming year.
I do think no matter what, though, it is important to have an extremely strong base knowledge of sports nutrition science. Even as dietitians we sometimes see information that came from an article where the research study was flawed or the research is the first of its kind. It’s crucial that we use caution before repeating any information we see to clients or our audience without getting the facts straight and seeing repeated studies. I always tell people to know the Academy position paper’s content well, and be sure they own the latest copy of the Sports Nutrition Handbook for Professionals (now in its 6th edition). It’s so much better to tell someone “I don’t know, let me look into that for you”, then to pretend you know the answer and give the wrong advice. - Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN
With this population, there is never a dull moment! I think there is a thin line between trying to perform to the best of your abilities and crossing over to [an eating] disorder. I want to help provide clarity and support to help them perform their best but be at their healthiest. - Rebecca McConville MS, RD, LD, CSSD
Learn as much as you possibly can from other dietitians and mentors before branching off on your own. Dabble in as many different jobs and duties as a dietitian so that you can truly find your passion and niche. As an entrepreneur, be prepared for the inconsistent schedules and the highs/lows of private practice. Always have several different “income streams” to support your business and schedule. - Ashley Acornley MS, RD, CSSD, LDN
Some days, it can be difficult to shift gears from working with endurance athletes, team sport athletes, weekend warriors, people starting out on their fitness journey, and professional athletes. Everyone has a different motivation level, background/where they come from or preconceived notions about nutrition… Sometimes, I work with families, and the parent might have some nutrition knowledge or opinions. Teaching a kid about sports nutrition might go against what the parent thinks (for instance, chocolate milk is full of sugar, or people shouldn’t eat dairy, or maybe they follow a Paleo diet at home, but I’m making a general recommendation to eat toast or oatmeal as a part of breakfast) – all those kinds of things can throw a curve ball your way! Sports nutrition is interesting because sometimes people think they should only see a dietitian if they have a health issue or need to lose weight and need a meal plan, but I just don’t do meal plans, don’t really focus on weight as much as people think, and most athletes could benefit from overall general good nutrition and learn more about how to prepare for and recover from training and competitions. - Lizzie Kasparek MS, RD, CSSD, LN
Do not hold back from realizing what drives you and what you are passionate about. I had a passion for helping student athletes become the best version of themselves and wish I had that guidance when I was their age. Because of my interests, it led me to look at ways to provide those services to our area student athletes. As an RD/RD2Be, if working with high school athletes interests you, connect with the coaches and trainers to see what their needs are and see what types of relationships you can form. - Alicia Fogarty MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN
I would encourage anyone looking to work with a specialty population to find a mentor and obtain supervision on all of their cases. While supervision is essential in all of our practice, it is particularly essential if you want to work a more specialized area. In my experience, too many young RDNs graduate school and want to dive right into specialty work open without proper guidance, supervision, and expertise. I encourage young RDNs or RD2be to gain experience in both sports nutrition and eating disorders before trying to tackle the duel diagnosis. If you are able to find a job at an eating disorder treatment center or even an inpatient unit at a hospital first, that will help you build a strong foundation. You can then also work on building sports expertise, but leaning the basics/essentials of eating disorder treatment (which are not so basic) is necessary to have success in this work.
I also encourage all RDs to join specialty organizations. If you wish to work with athletes, you need to be current on research and keep up to date on new developments. I have found that my own knowledge base continues to expand as I attend more conferences, do more reading, and as I make more professional connections. Never stop learning! - Laura Moretti MS, RD, CSSD, LDN
Regulations and policy – much like the NCAA has rules about collegiate athletes, the military has rules to follow. There on limitations on how we spent money for nutrition-related items (food, equipment, etc); there are rules on menu items that must be in dining facilities and how food is provided, how we interact with vendors, etc.
Energy expenditure – during some of their training events, students may be burning upwards of 4500 calories a day so we must work around time and appetite limitations to optimize their nutrition.
Access to food – military members spend time deployed and also train in environments that mimic deployment. Trainees will go several days at a time where the only food they have access to are military rations – no gels, chews, pre-mixed sports drinks, or other common fueling products.
Nutrition skills – Military members typically do not have daily access to a sports dietitian. During deployments, they could potentially go months without ready access to one. As a result, they have to learn to make their own food choices. Therefore, the nutrition interventions I perform are designed to prepare them to independently select appropriate foods in any type of environment.
-Kim Feeney, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS
For RDs2Be – If you are looking to accelerate your growth in the field during the internship, you must change the way you look at feedback. It is going to be extremely difficult to become the best dietitian you can be without healthy relationship with feedback. There is a major difference between constructive feedback and negativity. Constructive feedback is far from negative, but it can assist in bringing out the best in you.
For RDs and RDs2Be – I would never overlook the importance of building rapport with your client. As a preceptor, I notice this is typically overlooked by many dietetic interns. There is an old saying in coaching, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. To be clear, this does not mean that you don’t need nutritional knowledge. I would categorize myself as a relationship-based dietitian/coach. My nutrition information is only useful if the athlete trusts me and knows how much I value their commitment to the process. When you build rapport with a client, you begin the process of building trust. Once trust is built with your patient, you will notice an increase of commitment in the nutrition program.
- Christopher Barrett MS, RD, CSCS
I have to find the balance between providing sports nutrition recommendations to enhance performance while preventing triggers for disordered eating patterns. I work a lot with aesthetic sports, creating a fine line between promoting sports performance and fostering a healthy life, a healthy relationship with food, and a healthy body image. - Jessica A. Wegener RD, CSSD, LMNT