Nutrition—Your missing link?
By Nancy Clark
"I've got my training down to a science, but nutrition is my missing link."
Some athletes joke about their seafood diet. They "see" food, and they eat it. Sometimes they eat too much, and often they eat the "wrong" foods. While there's no secret some good athletes have junky diets, the question arises: How much better could those athletes perform if they were to eat better?
The answer, as documented by research studies, suggests 6% to 20% better. Wow-that's a lot! Eating the right foods at the right times makes a significant improvement not only in today's performance and weight management, but also in tomorrow's health and well-being. I've helped many very good athletes build bigger muscles, run faster marathons, compete with higher energy; and many fitness exercisers to train better, lose weight, and improve dramatically. Perhaps this can be your year to significantly enhance your health and performance by fueling your body appropriately.
Don't just eat; eat right
To their demise, many athletes not only fail to eat well, they are also unaware of the benefits to be gained by consulting with a sports dietitian. The common explanation is "I know what I should eat, I just don't do it." If this sounds familiar, you undoubtedly do know you should get your Vitamin C from fruits and veggies, not from C-3 supplements (translation: Chocolate Chip Cookies). And you undoubtedly know you shouldn't dive into the half-gallon container of ice cream the minute you return home from the health club. But why do you continue these behaviors? And how can you revise those habits? These are the issues that deserve your attention.
Nutrition information often goes in one ear and out the other, without getting stuck in your brain and put into action. That's because you may be confusing "eating well" with undesired feelings of denial and deprivation, or with a deficiency of fun-foods and an excess of duty-foods. Life without ice cream can seem dark and gloomy. Plus, on a sub-conscious level, you may be responding to media's messages that persuade you to indulge. You deserve a food reward today. Right?
Given that you know what you should eat for health and performance, you have no need to team up with a sports dietitian, right? (After all, why would you pay someone to embarrass yourself while confessing your quirky food habits?) A sports dietitian can help you have cake and eat it too-and find a livable balance between a "junky diet" and real sports nutrition support that is both enjoyable and benefits your training and performance.
Knowledge is power
You don't know what you don't know. I work with a lot of highly intelligent athletes with lots of nutrition knowledge, but they are not registered dietitians (RDs) with at least four years of undergraduate education related to food and nutrition sciences and another year or two of a dietetics internship and/or graduate school. Your coach, exercise physiologist, personal trainer, and teammates may appear to be nutrition experts and offer nutrition advice, but only registered dietitians (RDs) have the training that makes them professionally recognized as the true nutrition experts.
RDs who specialize in sports nutrition can now take an exam to become Board Certified as a Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). The American Dietetic Association, the nation's largest group of nutrition professionals, acknowledges this specialty niche-just as they have for RDs who specialize in renal disease and pediatrics. Sports dietitians who meet specific educational requirements and work experiences are eligible to take the exam and qualify for this meaningful CSSD title. CSSDs know the ins and outs of foods and fluids as they relate to physical activity and athletic performance.
Make an appointment today
To find a local CSSD sports dietitian, use the "Find a SCAN Dietitian" referral network at www.SCANdpg.org, the website for SCAN, the sports nutrition dietetics practice group of ADA. Or go to www.eatright.org, ADA's website. Put your zip code into the Find A Nutrition Professional referral network.
What can you learn from a CSSD/sports dietitian?
The bottom line
If you show up for training, physical therapy, massages, etc., but do not show up for sports meals, think again. When your goal is to move to the next level of performance, consulting with a sports dietitian can be your winning edge
Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD counsels casual exercisers and competitive athletes in her private practice at Healthworks, the premier fitness center in Chestnut Hill MA (617-383-6100). Her Sports Nutrition Guidebook, Food Guide for Marathoners and Cyclist's Food Guide are available at www.nancyclarkrd.com. For her workshop information, see www.sportsnutritionworkshop.com.
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