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What Is a Sports Nutritionist?

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  • Written By: Angela Crout-Mitchell
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2016
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The study of sports nutrition involves understanding how diet affects an athlete's ability to perform at top ability as well as how food and beverages can be used to improve athletics while keeping the athlete strong and healthy. A sports nutritionist often works closely with athletic teams as well as individual athletes and coaches to compile the most effective and healthy eating plan for each client. They use a combination of their education, observations, and medical tests to determine what diet will be the safest and most beneficial. It is not uncommon for a sport dietician to work the same athletes for a long period of time.

Sports nutrition involves in depth study regarding how different foods and beverages are used by the body during stressful physical activity. This study helps these professionals to determine the most efficient food fuel sources for people who regularly engage in athletics. In addition to the type of food and drinks to be consumed, a sports nutritionist also helps an athlete decide how much food is needed and the frequency of meals to maintain optimum physical condition. Each athlete requires unique quantities of healthy fats, proteins, and other vitamins and minerals to be effective at their chosen sport.

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As fitness professionals, sports nutritionists often work closely with a wide variety of athletic teams to help create a sport diet for the entire team. Professional football, basketball, and baseball teams often have a sports nutritionist on staff. In some cases, college and university athletic departments depend on the expertise of these professionals to keep their student athletes healthy and ready for competition. Sports dietary specialists also often find jobs working with high school and other amateur sports teams, though sometimes on a volunteer basis. Their recommended diets are an important part of helping to ensure young, growing athletes continue to receive the nutrients they need for good health and athletic performance.

In order to become a sports nutritionist, there are certain criteria these professionals must complete to be licensed for working with clients. A bachelor's degree in sports medicine, physical training, or nutrition is essential, though some advanced programs only accept students with education in nutrition and a sports related field. After graduation, most areas require more training with an emphasis on anatomy and physiology, nutrition as it related to body functions, and advanced athletic training. These courses instruct the sports nutritionist about conventional dietary plans as well as the use of supplements.

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