Essential Sports Nutrition

3/14/18

Happy Registered Dietitian day!!!

HAPPY RD DAY!!
Today we celebrate the registered dietitians who are the nation's food and nutrition experts. RDN's are the most valuable and credible source of timely, scientifically-based food and nutrition information.

RD's are legally allowed to treat medical conditions. It is against the law for a nutrition expert or nutritionist to prescribe diets or supplements to diagnose or treat medical, health or clinical symptoms/conditions. In other words, if you are not a RD, it's unethical and against the law to prescribe a diet or style of eating to treat a condition. If a nutritionist/nutrition expert is not a RD, he/she is by law, not allowed to treat, prescribe, cure or diagnose health conditions. In some states, this includes providing meal plans or counseling.

As it relates to finding a nutrition "expert" to assist in your health, performance and/or body composition goals, make sure your nutrition expert has the RD (or RDN) credential behind his/her name. 

To learn a bit more about how and why I became a RD, check out this video where Joey and I answer questions about our RD journey: 

If you are in need of nutrition assistance, it can be a costly and time-consuming journey to find the right dietitian to be part of your nutrition journey. Here are my tips to help you narrow down your search so that you can find a good fit for your individual 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 are providing nutrition advice despite lacking the intensive education/schooling to provide realistic, ethical and practical advice. Look for the RD (Registered Dietitian) or RDN (or LD/N) credential behind the experts name to ensure that your nutrition expert is actually a nutrition expert.....by law. Furthermore, if you are an athlete, look for advanced credentialing such as CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sport Dietetics) and his/her specialty area (ex. ball sports, endurance sports, dance, kids, etc.) 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. A dietitian who specializes in cross fit, hockey or dance may lack the in-depth knowledge and experience to understand the needs of an endurance athlete. 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. Does your RD understand the demands of your sport and can he/she put her/himself into your shoes as it relates to the struggles/problems/concerns that you have?

  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, listen to your concerns, ask you questions, have time for your past history and should always give you options and different problem solving strategies as part of the counseling process. 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 be no rules. Flexible thinking and a personalized approach is important in the counseling process as it relates to long-term success. 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.
  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. Most of the time, the answer to questions #1,2 and 3 can be found online in a website, blog or on social media. 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. While many RD's partner with companies that they believe in, you should never feel a gimmick to buy supplements/products as a "cure" to your problems. 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. 
RD's are trained professionals who specialize in nutrition. Sadly, there are many passionate but untrained/unqualified nutrition experts providing nutrition advice - advice that is often useless, expensive and sometimes dangerous. As with any type of professional help, it's important to find someone who is properly trained in a specific field and offers sensible, realistic, sound advice from a comprehensive educational program and not from a certificate. Lastly, don't choose your nutrition expert simply from his/her social media following/presence or a connection to a celebrity/professional athlete/coach.

With so many self-made experts, it's difficult to recognize who is trustworthy or not. Just because someone is a RD, this doesn't mean he/she is the right RD for your needs. Whenever anyone helps you with your nutrition, remind yourself that this person is helping you with your health. He or she can make you better....or worse.