How to Become a Sports Dietitian: My Journey Part 1

If you are thinking about becoming a Sports Dietitian, this blog is for you! In this two-part blog series, I will be sharing my journey on how I became a Sports Dietitian and how you can become one too! Becoming a Sports Dietitian can be a lot of hard work but it is one of the MOST rewarding professions once you get there. 

As a Sports Dietitian (and a business owner), no two days are the same! I have so much fun every single day working with my athletes and spreading sports nutrition education.

Some of my day-to-day responsibilities involve meeting 1:1 with athletes, holding coaching meetings in my PFC program, building fueling plans, planning menus, reviewing supplements, developing content, and building relationships with athletes and other team staff. 

One of the most common questions I get from students is about my path and the steps I took to get to the point in the career I am in today. So I thought, I would share it with you! I have broken it down into different parts of my life.

In Part 1 of this two-part blog series, I will be sharing how my experience as a collegiate student-athlete helped set the framework for my career.

Experience As an Athlete

I grew up in North Carolina and was an athlete all my life. When I was younger, I didn’t want to do anything besides play sports (and beat the boys while doing it).

I played soccer, volleyball, softball, and basketball. I began playing club soccer at age 10, as soccer was the sport I was most passionate about. My goal was to compete collegiately. When I was 15, I committed to the University of Georgia. Due to coaching/personnel changes and injuries, after 1 semester, I transferred to NC State where I competed for the next 3 years. During junior year, I was named captain of the team.   

As a college athlete, my nutrition was far from perfect. Being a college athlete is challenging, and I used my busy schedule as an excuse not to prioritize fueling. Like many athletes who under-fuel, I had chronic low energy levels, was always hurt, and overall had subpar performance results. I could have used a Sports Dietitian’s help!

I wasn’t intentionally underfueling but didn’t know what I know now. And I wish I did. I am 110% confident I would have been a much better athlete. I have always loved food but I didn’t see it as fuel or something that I needed to take seriously as an athlete. Because of this, I was often injured and my playing career ended early when I tore my ACL in the first game of my senior year.

Though I did not prioritize nutrition, being a student-athlete was one of the most beneficial things I did on my path to becoming a sports dietitian. It gave me student-athlete insight and allowed me to understand the chaotic college athlete lifestyle.

College sports are crazy. Professional sports are crazy. High school sports are crazy. It is all crazy. Coaches and students are under enormous amounts of pressure. Schedules are hectic and athletes are busy all day. Eating 4-5 meals is unrealistic! Most student-athletes don’t even get in 3.

Undergraduate Coursework

Along with being a student-athlete, I completed my undergraduate coursework at North Carolina State University (NC State). During undergrad, I was preparing to go to medical school. I got a double bachelor’s degree; one bachelor’s degree in Human Biology and one in Nutrition Science. I loved nutrition but I also loved science. As I was excelling at school, I was pushed by professors, advisors (and myself, honestly) to go to medical school instead of pursuing a career as a Registered Dietitian. 

My path changed when I tore my ACL during the first game of my senior year at NC State. It turned my world upside down. During the long recovery, my eyes became open to the role of nutrition in athletic performance. At the beginning of my rehab, I did not take it seriously. One month after my surgery, I had no quad muscle since I had not been meeting the elevated energy and protein needs my body needed to recover. Without the proper nutrients, I was not recovering from the surgery and was clearly lacking strength. 

I had to start prioritizing food as fuel if I wanted to get back on the field. I met with the team Sports Dietitian who taught me about food as a tool for my success on and off the field. My knee started to heal properly and I was able to expedite my recovery. I returned back to playing after 6 months! 

So as you can see, my sports nutrition journey did not begin like a normal Registered Dietitian. I was a food-loving soccer girl that loved chemistry and was ready for medical school. I had minimal nutrition knowledge and wish I knew what I teach athletes today.

Next time I will be talking about my master’s and sports nutrition experience in Part 2 of this series! See you there!

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