As athletic trainers, we are constantly looking for ways to improve the health and performance of our athletes. One of biggest developing areas of athlete care is sports nutrition.
Following changes in 2014 to NCAA bylaws governing the provision of meals and snacks to student athletes, there is a race to fuel student-athletes across the country like never before. The professionals behind well fueled student-athletes are Registered Dietitians, and they work in collaboration with athletic trainers to maximize health, training, performance, and recovery.
Providing nutritional guidance is not only a job important for NCAA student-athletes, professional athletes across the spectrum of sport are in need of assistance too. At the LA Galaxy, we work with a Registered Dietitian to oversee sports nutrition for our first team, USL team, and youth academy teams. This includes providing healthy breakfast options, designing daily lunch menus, planning meals for the team while on the road, providing individualized recovery protein shakes after training sessions and games, one on one nutrition consultations, providing individualized supplement recommendations, regular body fat testing, blood testing and analysis, and hydration testing.
While there are still few Registered Dietitians working in collegiate and professional sports, it is important that athletic trainers understand the importance of incorporating nutrition professionals into the care of our athletes. Is it efficient for us to spend time using manual therapy to help players recover after practice if they don’t consume the appropriate post training fuel to repair and replenish their muscles? Could we ameliorate an athlete’s constant struggle with colds after team travel with maximized nutrition to strengthen their immune system rather than scramble to make them feel better with medicine after the fact?
The future of sports medicine is one in which Registered Dietitians are present in larger and larger numbers in both university athletic departments and professional sports teams’ training rooms alike. This makes it vital that Athletic Trainers be ready to take full advantage of the skill set they offer to further advance the health of the athletes we spend so much time and energy caring for. As of 2016, only 58 Division I universities employ full time Registered Dietitians, which means the vast majority of student-athletes continue to go without access to nutrition professionals. As the practitioners with the highest level of contact with the athletes, it is our responsibility as Athletic Trainers to advocate for the use of local sports dietitians if our work place does not already employ one. To find qualified sports dietitians in your area capable of having a positive impact on the health and performance of your athletes, visit the Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition practice group website at www.scanpg.org.
- By Kurt Andrews