Sports Nutrition (for humans)

I guess this fits here instead of truly off-topic…

But has anyone tried a sports performance dietician as a rider? Did they understand how to tailor diets for rider performance or did they just shrug? I imagine some of it will be figuring out if the individual needs a higher carb load in that window before a ride - and how multiple rides a day, like at shows, impacts diet needs.

Because of other health problems that impact my diet, my insurance covers RDs so thought it might be worth investigating.

Interesting! I would suggest going to the nutritionist with some data, like your own heart rate and a description of the length and exertion of a ride or rides.

My impression is that other than marathon runners most sports at the ammie level don’t require carb loading or recovery drinks. On the other hand, riders are notoriously lax about their own nutrition, and show nerves stop many from eating. Also it’s really hard to ride on a full stomach.

So I’m interested in the topic.

I made the mistake of drinking too much during my last dressage show (neuromuscular specialist wants me to drink 4L a day at minimum, and it was a hot day so had to drink more than that) and I could hear the sloshing during the test, it was highly uncomfortable.

The upside of my health problems is I do have a basic symptom (including HR and sometimes BP) and activity diary going back a couple of years, I definitely could be better about recording perceived exertion levels though, so that’s a good point!

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I recently went to a sports nutritionist for endurance sports and it was really useful. She also does nutritional counseling for average people (not just for long distance athletes), so I’m sure she offers a range of recommendations depending on the need. For me, it was really useful to think through an every day diet that supports a heavy training schedule with enough calories and protein, as well as things to lead up to a race day and fueling for a long race itself (6+ hours).

My daily diet didn’t really change much unless I had more than 2 hours of workouts/day - but my “every day” took regular exercise into account. But if you were at a show all day there might be recommendations about timing of your meals for optimum performance.

Do you have any specific issues that you’re looking to resolve? E.g. do you feel tired in your rides, or are you just trying to maximize your potential?

Without knowing anything else about you other than what you wrote in this post - the nutritionist I met with did say most women are low on protein and would benefit from more protein and more strength training. Even more so if they are over 40.


I think most nutritionists wouldn’t really recommend major carb loading prior to a race anymore, but to continue to fuel during the race. There are tons of gels and drinks that can be taken in throughout a long duration to keep energy up…or, before a short, intense session.

I sampled these at a race recently - cola flavored gummies with caffeine. They were surprisingly good. :slight_smile: I definitely would not take them throughout a whole day though…caffeine overload!


While I have a complex medical history that does relate to diet and I train or cross-train 5-6 days a week ( on average riding 2-3x, cycling 1-2x, walking/hiking 3-5x, lifting 2-3x, pilates 1+x) so I guess I’m looking for someone to help balance and optimize a messy diet with athletic performance. I’m generally stable medically and my spouse and I follow a generally “good” diet (according to my spouse’s medical team) but that’s for a general American adult with a desk job who hops on a stationary bike twice a week, not someone with specific performance goals.

By messy, I mean: low-moderate FODMAP diet for years for IBS (due to re-test this fall again, joy- but at least it helps even if I really miss garlic and apples), 4g of dietary sodium a day for POTS (can’t do salt pills thanks to IBS), trying to follow lower glycemic index thanks to PCOS, and so on. I’m supposed to try for a GERD-friendly diet but that doesn’t happen. Bonus, I can’t do caffeine because of POTS, horse show mornings are “fun”.

If you can find someone to go to, I would definitely do it. My experience was really interesting - one piece was assessing your metabolic rate, as well as other things like skeletal mass versus muscle, fat, water composition. Muscle balance left to right and legs v. upper body. Finding your basal metabolic rate and then using your personal information and workout schedule/goals, as well as desire/recommendation to gain/lose weight and/or muscle, etc. Also we discussed things like health, injury, chronic aches/pains and other issues…for example, she took any GI issues into account when recommending race day nutrition as those are days your body is already under stress.

Then - developing a ‘standard’ diet based on all of the above…and helping prepare a “training” diet and a “race day” diet. That included things like anti-inflammatory foods, anti-inflammatory supplements, and things to really eliminate before hard training/racing since those can cause their own damage.

It was super interesting and really helpful, both in getting me to and through my long race, but setting me up for improvement in next season.

Where are you located? (Generally)?

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It sounds like you had a really positive experience, in line with what I’m looking for!

The Washington DC area/ Region 1 (although, my insurance seems to be amenable to telehealth allowing for more normally out of network practitioners, especially if they have niche certifications (like certification from Monash on FODMAPs)

RD or go home.

Anyone can call themselves a “nutritionist.”

You want a registered dietician. Even someone who may pitch that they have degrees in relevant fields (many don’t have even this), they shouldn’t be giving dietary advice unless they have gone through, and maintained, their RD accreditation .

There is more junk science and quackery in human and animal nutrition than can be quantified. In addition to be being potentially dangerous, it is always expensive.

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Sure, but there are also certifications that back up that title. I agree that I would not go to someone that has no credentials of any kind, yet calls themselves a “nutritionist.”

The person I saw was not an RD but holds 2 different certifications (health coach and nutritional counselor); the first of which is accredited by the state university. But also holds a masters in counseling (specialty - addictions), and two coaching certificates as she is also a competitive athlete and coach. (I also see an ortho specialist who is a very competitive endurance athlete – when you go in and say “it hurts when I do this, but I have a race in 4 weeks” he doesn’t say stop running, he says “I can get you to your race”.)

If you can find an RD that specializes in sports nutrition, that would be great. But I’d pick a sports nutritionist with a relevant background before an RD without one.

That said, “they shouldn’t be giving dietary advice unless they have gone through, and maintained, their RD accreditation”…does this advice also apply to doctors and nurses who give dietary advice all the time? I mean, they aren’t exactly experts either.

“Is this advice also apply to doctors and nurses who give dietary advice all the time? I mean, they aren’t exactly experts either.” You are correct, they aren’t experts. I’ve heard some really shite stuff second-hand that has come from nurses. Many doctors do not have much training in nutrition, either. For anything complex, medical professionals should refer to an RD, and do.

An athlete and a coach doesn’t mean much in terms being qualified to dole out dietary advice.

This is older, but it does a decent job with listing terminology

This is a nice summary, but no sources.

The point is, certifications and titles can mean lots of things.

RDs, to make it more confusing, are now, technically, Registered Dietitian Nutritionists.


Of course not. I didn’t suggest it was. But, a RD that has never run a 5k would not be my go-to expert for Ironman race nutrition either; someone that has actually participated in that sport and/or makes their living coaching others (including with nutrition) would be valuable to me. If the OP is looking for a nutritionist that can understand/appreciate how nutrition affects her riding/other sports, that part of the package is important too.

I suspect we don’t really disagree. Qualifications are important. I don’t think a RD is the only possible option, particularly for sports nutritionists.

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It sounds like you are already more educated on food and the body than the average American! Combining this with an RD who does athletes could be “additional education” but I don’t see necessary? Unless you are really feeling sluggish after rides.

I have colitis, so I understand some of what you are dealing with (not sure if you have IBS-D or -C or a combo), but I’ve had rides where I’ve had to abandon ship so to speak. So I just watch what I eat, but I really miss spicy food and most fruits.

i say go for it! you don’t have to keep it up long term if what they suggest doesn’t work for you, and you might get one tip that makes a big difference!

I will second the suggestion above to do some research into the particular provider and choose one that is an athlete themselves - I do this with ALL my medical professionals if I can help it! - my PCP rows crew; my PT does BJJ; and my dietician (who has a PHD in nutrition) is a weightlifter. It’s just easier not to have to try to explain my active lifestyle/choices/injury history/goals over and over. Most of America is sitting on the couch/at their desk all day eating junk, so most “standard” advice is tailored to that population…

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As luck would have it, my spouse recently (as in last week) switched RDs since their other one was aggressively HIAS and IE and that wasn’t helpful for someone with DE history who needs to lose weight for medical reasons. This new one has a lot of experience with athletes, including local D1 athletes so if my spouse is still happy with them over the next few weeks, I might reach out. GAIGs this year showed I really need to be better about nutrition and muscular endurance training, above and beyond what I already am.

(and I hear you about finding providers who are athletes themselves - I’ve had too many providers who just tell me to “up my cardio” or “use a protein powder and cut carbs” without any nuance. My favorite PT was a marathon runner who had a similar strike pattern and foot shape so could comment on my locomotion, even if my joint problems were all my own. She, unfortunately, moved to another clinic so I’ll need to find someone else when it’s time for another round of PT.)