Too often these days, athletes and nutrition professionals can get caught in the binary approach to nutrition and fueling the athlete:
· High carb or low carb?
· Calorie counting or not?
· Carnivore or vegan?
· Drink to thirst or drink to a plan?
· Gels or solid food?
· Vitamins/Supplements or not?
It goes on and on…
As much as it can seem overwhelming or even frustrating to fully appreciate, the “right way” to nourish and fuel for sport is not black and white or an either/or type of approach. Additionally, there are too many variables to yield an exact “just do this” formula that would work for everyone. Perhaps someday we will be there with clever technology and algorithms, but we’re not there yet.
Let me give you a flavor of just some of the factors that need to be considered when starting to optimize one’s nutrition for health and sport:
· Current dietary pattern to assess energy intake, macro- and micronutrients, metabolic flexibility and efficiency
· Blood biomarker testing to assess for deficiencies, inflammation, energy availability
· Genetic and nutrigenomic data
· Experience level of athlete (new to sport vs. years of experience can affect fueling and hydration plan structure)
· Type of athlete (think Crossfit athlete vs. ultra runner vs. ‘combo’ athlete as an example)
· Female ‘stage of life’ (puberty/adolescence, pregnancy or post-partum, pre-menopause, peri- and post-menopause)
· Medication use, medical history and family medical history
· Food preferences
· Lifestyle factors such as work demands and schedule, family dynamics, sleep schedule
· Dieting history as it plays into bone health, metabolic adaptations, mindset, disordered eating tendencies and much more
And there’s more, believe it or not, Suffer Better friends.
The point here isn’t to inundate you with the laundry list of factors that feed into nutrition personalization. Rather, it is simply to raise awareness that nutrition planning and implementation need not, nor should not, be approached in a polarized approach.
Keep this in mind as you consider your own nutrition patterns. Run far and fast from anyone who gives you nutrition ultimatums without digging deeper into the why, what for, and how with you.
-Dina Griffin, MS, RDN, CSSD, CISSN
Sport Dietitian and The Nutrition Mechanic
Readers can redeem a 15% savings on the online self-paced “Endurance Nutrition Primer” program available from www.nutritionmechanic.com by entering SUFFERBETTER at the checkout. Dina will make a matching contribution to the Suffer Better non-profit organization.