Nutrition – and especially sports nutrition – can be a confusing, controversial topic. There are so many diets, trends, recommendations to consider and it can easily become overwhelming. The most important thing to remember about nutrition: it’s unique to YOU. No two humans are alike, and neither are anyone’s nutritional needs.
After all, as GritLink provider Heidi Strickler, RD and specialist working with plant-based and female athletes, says, “Nutrition is the most neglected part of a training program, but the most controllable.”
In GritLink, we don’t just work with physical therapists, chiropractors, and performance counselors. We also work with sports-minded nutritionists and registered dietitians. To optimize your mental and physical well-being, diet cannot be ignored. We’re grateful to have the minds of some excellent dietary practitioners on our team.
Who Should See a Nutritionist or Registered Dietitian (RD)?
While nearly everyone can benefit from a consultation with a food and diet specialist, there are some key indicators that it may be wise to chat with a professional:
- Low energy during your activity, decreased performance
- Brain fog, and other mental stress issues such as insomnia or feeling fatigued, overwhelmed and anxious
- Digestive issues, such as runners trot, bloating, cramping, constipation, indigestion Frequent illness and/or injury
- Desire to adhere to a certain diet – for example, transitioning to a plant-based diet Stress and confusion about food choices
- Inflammation markers, such as joint pain, puffiness, or nails/hair/skin brittleness
It’s also common to visit a nutritionist or registered dietitian to discuss weight loss, body composition, and disordered eating. These are all elements that can affect you as an athlete and in your daily life. A trip to your local RD can help get you on the right path!
What is the Difference Between a Nutritionist and an RD?
Both nutritionists and registered dietitians (RD) are qualified on paper as being able to knowledgeably assist you with creating a sustainable, optimal diet for your needs, goals, and lifestyle.
Many nutritionists have completed at least an undergraduate degree in the field of nutrition. Some nutritionists may also have “CNS” after their names for “Certified Nutrition Specialist.” This means the nutritionist has completed the following stipulations by the Board of Certification of Nutrition Specialists:
- Master of Science or doctoral degree in nutrition or a related field
- 35 hours of relevant coursework related to the practice of personalized nutrition
- 1,000 hours of supervised practice experience
- Five BCNS personalized nutrition case study reports
A registered dietitian, or an RD, is another capable source to look to for food and diet advice. RD’s must obtain a bachelor’s degree accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) and a verification statement from the Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD).
After getting their degree, prospective Rd’s must complete at least 1,200 hours of an internship with a licensed professional in the nutrition field. Finally, RD’s in-training can sit for the Commission on Dietetic Registration exam in order to officially call themselves registered dietitians.
What to Ask a Nutrition Professional
Just like with any practitioner, it’s good to have a sense of what direction to take your conversation. Here are some starter thoughts:
- What is their experience of working with athletes?
- What is their background, education, and scope of practice?
- Ask for a quick chat. Having a personality fit with a Nutritionist is key, as you’ll be making lifestyle changes and your nutritionist will be your coach.
- Do they accept insurance? Reminder: you can also search by insurance on GritLink!
Working with a nutritionist or RD can be life-changing in the best way. We encourage athletes to at least chat with a nutrition professional at least once in their careers. Ready to find a practitioner that meets your needs? Check out our provider listings here.
By Kristin Goett. Kristin is a social media marketing and public relations professional who currently resides in the Denver area. A triathlete herself, Kristin knows firsthand how important it is to have access to great providers. When she isn’t checking Instagram or posting to Facebook, Kristin is spending her days in the Colorado mountains and training for her next Ironman.
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