Essential Sports Nutrition


How to choose the right RD for your needs

Today, it's easy to turn to the internet and social media for health advice - regardless of the reliability of the source.

I'm constantly amazed by the health-related questions that are asked on social media/forums and the responses given by followers. Questions about how many calories to eat to lose weight, the "best" sport nutrition to consume during workouts, what diet to follow in order to improve health and how to eliminate GI issues are among the most common questions that I see posted on forums/social media. Do you really trust advice from strangers? I sure hope not!

The internet is a great place to help you select the best professional for your needs - not for asking/seeking advice for a specific health related problem.

As it relates to finding a nutrition "expert" to assist in your health, performance and/or body composition goals, here are my suggestions to help you choose the right RD for your needs.

  1. Credentials - Today, anyone can claim to be a nutrition expert. Health coaches, bloggers, athletes, personal trainers, holistic practitioners, chiropractors and even most doctors do not have the appropriate education/schooling to provide realistic and practical advice. Look for RD (Registered Dietitian) or RDN or LD/N to ensure that your nutrition expert is actually a nutrition law. Furthermore, if you are an athlete, look for advanced credentialing such as CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sport Dietetics) to demonstrate specialized experience, knowledge, skill and expertise in sport dietetics.
  2. Experience - It goes without saying that you should be searching for an expert who has expert experience in the area that you need help with. If you are an athlete, your dietitian should be experienced in sports, not renal or pediatric clinical nutrition, as an example. Just because someone is a RD, this doesn't mean that he/she can professionally counsel you. While she/he may have textbook or internet knowledge, make sure he/she is real life experience. Do your research to make sure your RD can actually help you with your needs.

  3. Avoid black or white thinking - When you reach out to a nutrition expert, you should be able to ask questions as to the why's and what's for treatment. A compassionate and devoted RD should treat you like an individual, listening to your story and concerns and always considering options and different problem solving strategies. Rigid thinking means solutions are either one way or another - no in between. There are always exceptions to the rules because with nutrition, there should not be rules. Flexible thinking is important in the counseling process as it relates to long-term success.
  4. Philosophy - Since most nutrition professionals have some type of online presence, "follow" a dietitian to make sure you understand and believe in his/her nutrition methods and philosophy. Ask around for recommendations and referrals from athletes who have worked with your potential RD. Pay attention to contradictions in advice, extreme methods or affiliations to "sell" you a product. Take some time to understand the set of beliefs and principles from your future RD to ensure your nutrition expert is passionate and practices what he/she preaches. Above all, a philosophy outlines the values that are important to that person/business. If you don't connect with his/her philosophy, there's a good chance that dietitian is not the right fit for you. 
Today, it seems like everyone is in need of health advice. That is why there are RD's - trained professionals who specialize in nutrition. Sadly, there are many untrained/unqualified nutrition experts providing nutrition advice that is often useless, expensive and sometimes dangerous. As with any professional, it's important to find someone who is properly trained and offers sensible, realistic, sound advice. Don't choose your nutrition expert from his/her social media following/presence or a promise that he/she can cure your issues by prescribing large doses of supplements.

With so many self-made experts, it's difficult to recognize who is trustworthy or not. Be mindful that nutrition is not a quick fix. Don't expect immediate, rapid or dramatic changes with your health. If your nutrition expert promises that you will be an overnight success, be warned that something is too good to be true.

Just like with any field, finding the right professional for your needs may take time. Just make sure you aren't spending your time googling for free advice when there is a trained and experienced professional that can help you answer your questions and give you appropriate advice that you can adhere to and above all, will not sabotage your health or performance.