It was an exciting college football season for all parties involved—particularly for BSC National Championship contenders LSU and Alabama. It was not hard to believe that LSU would be challenged to beat Alabama twice in the same year, but it is somewhat surprising that both teams in the BCS championship game employ full-time Sports RDs—registered dietitians from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Amy Bragg is the full-time RD for the Crimson Tide, and Jamie Mascari serves in the same capacity for the LSU Tigers.
It's an obvious fact that great coaches and athletes win games. However, Sports RDs can help athletes outwork the competition by managing their fueling strategies. Simply put, Sports RDs are in the recovery business. They're always seeking ways to optimize the nature and timing of what athletes consume so that they have less down time, more energy and faster recovery. One of the best minds in the coaching business, Tom Osborne of Nebraska, has attributed a two-percent game day performance edge to his athletes' proper diets, but the overall impact on a day-to-day basis is considerably greater.
Daily Nutrition for Athletes
Athletes can perform the most sophisticated training programs on the face of the planet, but if they come in malnourished, the return on those great workouts will be greatly diminished. Poor meal patterns are a common problem in sports, as are chronically under-rested athletes reaching for stimulants—like caffeine—to get through the day, only to show up for training dehydrated, undernourished or worse. This "perfect storm" of bad habits can set the stage for higher vulnerability to injury, illness or worse. This is where reality checks from Sports RDs who know about proper fueling and nutrition are essential.
Athletes also face real challenges with supplements. Supplement products can be contaminated with pesticides, heavy metals, carcinogens or even deliberately spiked with banned substances, which can lead to a positive doping tests. It takes a savvy, well-informed Sports RD to keep pace with the endless flow of news pertaining to "food and supplement security." (Learn more about which supplements are safe to take.)
The value of the Sports RDs cannot be denied. However, most high school and some collegiate athletes lack access to such dedicated professionals. If that's your situation, you must educate yourself on how to fuel your body to optimize your performance and health.
In future articles, sports RDs from the Collegiate and Professional Dieticians Association will discuss the critical elements of sports nutrition, including fueling, hydration and supplementation. Read these articles to ensure you have the information you need to make safe and smart fueling choices. Be sure to check back soon. In the meantime, here's more about nutrition for athletes.
Still craving more guidance in your nutrition plan? Our Athlete Meal Plans page is full of the recipes and suggestions to help you get started.
For more information on the CPSDA, visit sportsrd.org.
Dave Ellis, CSCS, is a veteran Sports Registered Dietitian and the current volunteer president of the Collegiate & Professional Sports Dietitians Association. After 20 years in the collegiate ranks, Ellis set out in 2001 to work with Olympic, professional and tactical athletes. However, during the past decade, as a consultant to some of the most successful franchises in sports, he routinely found himself assisting colleges with their nutritional needs.
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