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What is a Sports Dietitian?

May 06, 2021
 

Today on Coffee & Questions I explain what the heck a sports dietitian actually is?

And why I get offended and will always correct you when you call me a nutritionist 😉.

There is so much confusion around the titles so I want to explain what the difference is between a Nutritionist, Dietitian and Sports Dietitian and show you some quick and easy ways to check you're getting your nutrition advice from someone that's qualified to be providing it.

Because you don't go to an Optometrist for a sore foot or your cardiac surgeon for a runny nose...

So it makes sense to get your nutrition advice from a qualified Dietitian right?

The problem

Australia currently does not regulate the professional titles ‘nutritionist’ or ‘dietitian’, leaving a wide market for misinformation if you don't do your own research.

The media also tends to use the two terms interchangeably, making distinctions between qualifications increasingly difficult. And only causing more confusion

So let's break each title down and cover their

  1. qualifications
  2. what they are "legally" allowed to do

Nutritionist

This is THE most confusing of the three – as there are varying levels of qualifications that result in the title ‘nutritionist’.

Nutrition is a three-year university degree, but there is currently no regulation over this title in Australia, meaning anyone can call themselves a nutritionist if they want, even you!

Even if they have only completed a 20-minute online lecture! Or a short online course in Nutrition coaching.

The Nutrition Society of Australia is currently attempting to clear up confusion with a voluntary registration that requires a minimum three-year tertiary degree, or relevant years of work experience, to gain the title Registered Nutritionist (RNutr).

Nutritionists have completed study pertaining to community and public health, food science and food policy.

They are qualified to offer broad health advice, however, are not qualified to deliver individualised medical nutrition therapy.

In Australia, every dietitian is a nutritionist, but not every nutritionist can call themselves a dietitian unless they’ve gone on to complete further study. Confusing right?!

 

Dietitian

A dietitian is a person with a 4-year undergraduate University education in Nutrition & Dietetics (or 2 years Masters).

They are qualified to provide individualised, evidence-based nutrition advice after undergoing a course of study with substantial theory and practice in medical nutrition therapy.  It’s a hardcore degree - like medicine but for food. There’s lots of chemistry, biochemistry, anatomy, physiology and medical nutrition therapy.

It's what's recognised by Medicare, DVA and many private health funds – which means you can get a rebate for coming to see me if you have Dietitian cover. So our fees are not all out of pocket expenses.

Have to maintain Continual Professional Development (CPD) points each year to re-register and maintain our qualification.

Looks for an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) after their name

Dietitians can specialise in many areas

e.g. diabetes, chronic kidney disease, gastro-health, fertility

Look for someone specialised in the area you need help with.

See a general dietitian if you need assistance with a chronic disease, weight management or just want to improve your overall health.

 

Sports Dietitian

In Australia, you need to be an Accredited Practising Dietitian first with a minimum of 1-2 years clinical experience before applying to complete further study in Sports Nutrition.

They then complete further qualifications in Sports Nutrition and remain provisional for a year under a mentor before becoming accredited. 

They need to be registered with the SDA as well as DAA and required to complete CPD every year to maintain their qualifications.

Sports Dietitian’s are the gurus in optimising athletic performance through food.

They can specialise in certain areas e.g. fighters or boxers who need to make weight, team sports like rugby, AFL and Sports Dietitians like me in endurance sports nutrition.

They are not just for elite athletes. Everyday athletes can also have a Sports Dietitian in their corner. If you exercise on purpose - you're an athlete in my mind

My experience

  • 4 year undergraduate Dietetics degree
  • Sports Nutrition Course
  • 2 year IOC diploma in Sports Nutrition
  • AIS fellowship - 2 years that got extended
  • Consultant to Triathlon Australia for the past 6 years

Endurance Sports nutrition is my speciality area

Triathlon is my jam

My Superpower

I know exactly how much carbohydrate is in a lot of the sports drinks, gels and bars off the top of my head. I can race plan in my head. I can develop meal plans to support triathlon training programs in my head.

I also understand the logistics of the sport having competed in it myself.

A Sports Dietitians superpower is being able to translate the deep science into practical advice that you can implement and understand - so you don't need to try and figure it out yourself on Dr Google.

You wouldn't come and see me if you were:

  1. A boxer or fighter
  2. A Rugby league player
  3. A golfer…. To name a few

You would come to see if you are a:

  • Swimmer
  • Cyclist
  • Runner
  • Mountain biker
  • Triathlete / Ironman athlete

that needs help with everyday nutrition and endurance race nutrition plans.

If you are looking for help with your nutrition, I encourage you to stop trying to figure it out on Dr Google, or asking your training buddy, brother, sister, mother, coach, physio, Instagram influencer…

Seek help from an expert that lives and breathes nutrition

I hope that clears up a bit of the confusion

If you are looking for an Endurance Sports Dietitian and want to learn more about working with me, click on the image below to see what I offer for private, 1 on 1 consultations.

 

If you’re looking for a more cost-effective option, start with one of my online courses.


If you’re looking for a specialist in a different area:

Look for an APD on the DAA website www.dietitiansaustralia.org.au

Or Find a Sports Dietitian on the SDA website www.sportsdietitians.com.au

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