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Career profile: Sports dietitian

Career profile: Sports dietitianWant to work with sports stars? A career as a dietitian could be your route into working with famous athletes.

A what?

Sports nutrition is the specialist application of the science of nutrition to the enhancement of performance in sport. A sport dietitian has to work with athletes and professional sports men and women to make sure their diet is giving them everything they need to succeed.

On the job

A sports dietitian’s work is often very practical. You work directly with athletes, discussing what are the right food choices for their profession. Each athlete’s personal nutritional requirements are based on the demands of their sport and general lifestyle, you will be setting dietary goals for carbohydrate, protein and fat intake, and ensuring that they are achieving the recommended intake of vitamins and minerals.

Advice given is based on research evidence, and the recommendations are then translated into foods and drinks to be taken in the correct amounts at the right times to support training loads, improve recovery and optimise performance during competitions. Supplements are also discussed and impartial advice is given regarding the appropriateness of products and any risks associated with their use.

Each athlete and each sport has its own set of nutritional requirements, you could find yourself explaining how to achieve the large intake of carbohydrate necessary to fuel endurance sports or helping weight category athletes make weight prior to competitions. In a sport such as rugby, players need adequate carbohydrate to fuel the demands of training, and depending on both individual and positional requirements may need to either gain lean mass or reduce body fat.

Published guidelines form the basis of the recommendations. They are usually modified to reflect the players’ lifestyle and training patterns. It is a case of getting to know the individual, and then devising dietary strategies to suit their individual food preferences, level of cooking skills, budget and personal lifestyle. Issues such as eating out, take-away and fast food choices are all discussed, to enable the athlete to manage their diet more effectively.

Course entry requirements

For the degree course you will need GCSEs in maths and English and at least two science-related A-levels or equivalents. It is preferable that one of the A-levels should be chemistry and it should also be noted that maths is considered a science subject. In general it’s best to check entry requirements with the institution of your choice as they may vary.

What does the training involve?

Training consists of a four-year university degree course involving theory and practical experience in hospital and community settings. You could also do a degree followed by a postgraduate diploma or masters degree in Dietetics.

Related links

(Information taken from the NHS Careers website at www.nhscareers.nhs.uk)