A sports nutritionist is a specialist who ensures that athletes that they cater for are prescribed a diet which enhances their stamina, strength, health, and overall wellbeing. In today's competitive world of sports, it is of utmost importance that an athlete of national and international stature remain physically fit and healthy. Thus, diet and subsequently dietitians have become an integral part of sports people's lives and nothing moves forward unless the nutritionist allows so, at least in matters related to health. These specialists work with sports individuals as well as whole teams. Their objective is to try to enhance the stamina and performance of these athletes, both on and off the play field.
What Does a Sports Dietitian Do?
✓ Assesses the daily intake of calories, carbs, proteins, vitamins, and minerals through the total food intake of an athlete.
✓ Assesses the metabolism of the athletes individually and accordingly sets the dietary chart for them. For instance, if an athlete has a predisposed tendency of gaining weight, the dietitian will keep fat at a minimum in the dietary plan.
✓ The nutritionist advises athletes and coaches on the types of food that fall under healthy and suitable categories for daily intake. The objective being to help improve the overall performance of the athletes in the best and the most natural way possible.
✓ They must plan a weekly menu for athletes which must be reasonable, appetizing, economical or within budget, as well as extremely healthy.
✓ A sports dietitian cannot simply write a list of foods down. They have to specifically mention the type of food, the quantity per serving, and the way the dish must be prepared.
✓ They must make a note of the amount of nourishment being provided through each serving of each type of food. This helps the athletes order for the right foods while in a restaurant or hotel. Thus keeping a check on their diet even outside the play field.
✓ The nutritionist is required to manage and ensure that the athletes are served the appropriate food while staying in hotels for participating in matches or attending press conferences.
✓ They are also supposed to discuss with the athletes about their health concerns. This helps in coming up with a solution where nutrition, strength and performance is concerned. The dietitian will focus on the areas where the athlete needs guidance or needs improvement.
✓ Their role is not merely restricted to food, as they must also focus on balancing the overall plan according to the athlete's needs and requirement. They must understand the athlete's physiological limitations, mental barriers and ambitions. Accordingly set up a fitness regimen as well as dietary program. They must know all about the athlete's medical history and steer the way accordingly.
Sports Nutritionist Certification
At the least a bachelor's degree is a must in order to become a sports nutritionist. However it is important to be deemed as a certified or licensed dietitian, which requires the state's approval. The American College of Sports Medicine Health/Fitness Instructors Exam's (ASCM) certification programs requires that the applicant hold a degree in nutrition studies such as kinesiology, sports medicine, exercise physiology or athletic training. They must also have work experience as well as research papers written on personal experiences while training and guiding. They must have knowledge about human anatomy, flexibility and different workout exercises which can come handy during cases of emergency and training. The course can be done through an online program, and the applicant can take 1-2 years for completion of the course. They must complete 1200 hours of training through an internship, and must pass the test in order to gain the license to practice as a nutritionist. Sports dietitian certification is not mandatory, but it helps improve the reputation, credibility, and job opportunities for those who have a license. The average yearly sports nutritionist salary comes to about USD 44,000 - 85,000. This salary range is however likely to rise even higher because of the rapid increase in demand for well qualified and experienced, health and diet experts, both of which services are offered by sports dietitians.
Apart from the above mentioned roles, a sports nutritionist job description entails that they work with the entire team if and when required. Sometimes they have to set up workout routines which will suit the entire team as a whole. They have to modulate the pre workout and post game diet accordingly so that the food served after workout has more energy content. They must also possess knowledge about self-help techniques for checking conditions such as anemia, eating disorders, addiction, blood pressure and diabetes.