The Sad Truth The majority of athletes believe their nutrition is above average when in truth they are well below normal standards (4). So the first step is believing that food, hydration and recovery does matter.
Testing To assess your personal requirements you need to do some testing. If possible I highly recommend at least these five tests.
Metabolism Testing: Know how many calories you burn at rest. That means how many calories you burn if you just slept for 24 hours. This measurement allows you to customize a more accurate menu plan to meet the health and performance goals throughout the year. Some of the biggest error athletes make is not increasing their energy (calorie) needs as their training increases or others overeat or eat whatever they want because they burn a lot. BIG MISTAKES!
2. Body Composition Testing: Know how much lean weight to fat weight you have. Total weight on a scale cannot even come close to setting accurate health and performance goals for the short and long term. It also helps guide your performance team on what needs to be worked on (6, 7).
3. MuscleSound®: This measures how many carbohydrates (glycogen) you currently have within the muscles. You will be surprised how many athletes are chronically low. This device has been a game changer in my office, especially for monthly follow ups. This guides me if my athletes need more fuel or what we are currently doing is optimal. Also I have been doing pre and post competition readings so we know how much fuel they are using and how to replace optimally. Like I said…..GAME CHANGER!
4. Nutrition Assessment: This is a detailed nutrition consult to see what you are currently eating, when you are eating it and how much. It can also include food allergies, intolerances, sensitivities, any gut issues, fluid intake, sodium intake, stress, sleep, family and medical history, reviewing any blood work, supplements and medicines and any past or current injuries and pains (8).
5. Blood Work: Most athletes should do a minimum of yearly blood work ups. Just because they are young doesn’t mean they are in optimal standings. You will need to work with a Sports Dietitian or medical professional who is up to date on optimal lab values for athletes. One of my many pet peeves is…”Everything is normal” I have no idea what that means. Always get a copy of your labs. Normal does not always equal optimal! I want optimal! Here is an online resource known as www.athletebloodtest.com. (Use code: SportsNutrition2Go if you would like a 15% discount). They are very thorough on the tests and explanations. I have found it very useful for my client base.
There are definitely more tests that can be done, but I believe these are the main ones for everyone in sports to do.
In Closing As you set goals for your next season or Olympic Dreams, make sure you have a sports nutritional road map as part of your success. Just training hard lacks the vision and goal setting needed to optimize growth, health and performance!
Burkhart SJ, Pelly FE. Dietary Intake of Athletes Seeking Nutrition Advice at a Major International Competition. Nutrients. 2016;8(10):638.
Hinton, P, Sanford, T, Davidson, MM, Yakushko,O, and Beck, N. Nutrient intake and dietary behaviors of male and female collegiate athletes. Inter J of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 14: 389 – 390. (2004).
Von Rosen P, Frohm A, Kottorp A, Fridén C, Heijne A. Too little sleep and an unhealthy diet could increase the risk of sustaining a new injury in adolescent elite athletes. Scand J Med Sci Sport. 2017;27(11):1364‐1371.
Andrews A, Wojcik JR, Boyd JM, Bowers CJ. Sports Nutrition Knowledge among Mid-Major Division I University Student-Athletes. J Nutr Metab. 2016.
Dawn Weatherwax is a Registered/Licensed Dietitian with a specialty in Sports Nutrition and Founder of Sports Nutrition 2Go. She is also a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, which is the premier professional sports nutrition credential in the United States. In addition, she is an Athletic Trainer with a Certification in Strength and Conditioning from The National Strength and Conditioning Association. Therefore, she brings a comprehensive and unique understanding of the athlete's body, and its nutritional needs, to those interested in achieving specific performance goals and optimal health. Weatherwax is also the author of The Official Snack Guide for Beleaguered Sports Parents, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Sports Nutrition and The Sports Nutrition Guide for Young Athletes. She is an Official Speaker for the Gatorade Sports Science Institute and She has also been featured on television and magazines including: Good Morning America, MSNBC, Oxygen, Spark and Shape.