What is sports nutrition?

The sports nutrition is a branch of nutrition and dietetics that has focus on athletes and people who practice high – level sport. As these people have nutritional needs beyond the general population, there is the figure of sports nutritionist to help them achieve their challenges.

In this post we talk with Dr José Francisco Tornero, director of the Master in Sports Nutrition Real Madrid , about sports nutrition and the importance of nutrition for athletes.

Can you explain what sports nutrition means?

Sports nutrition, like any other discipline that takes the sports hand aside, how sports training would be, is still a discipline which is oriented to a specific topic. What sports nutrition tries to address is the optimization of processes either through diet or through ergogenic aids to complement and thus help the performance of our athletes .

It should be said that one does not always have to talk about performance in athletes . The sports concept is already encompassing any other type of subject that ultimately has a certain goal or objective, in this case, sports.

It could be a person who wants to start running and wants to do their first 10K or the subject who wants to go down the 2:30 marathon. Both subjects, in the sports field, have a sports goal or strategy and sports nutrition will be in charge of helping or optimizing the processes related to food and supplementation by the subject .

What is the importance of nutrition in athletes?

There are three constructs that are basic in relation to the performance of an athlete that would be training, psychology, and nutrition . I see it as a pyramid, in which both training and nutrition are the base, and above we have psychology.

Nutrition is absolutely essential because, just as training is individualized for the subject, nutrition must also be. This nutrition is individualized to the processes: metabolism, training, conditions and situations of the subject as well as the achievement of his sports mind .

When we are talking about sports nutrition we are talking about that we are in a preseason period – to know the percentage of fat of the subject and the conditions that we are in. From there, a nutritional intervention strategy can be carried out that is analyzed during the season, adjusting and optimizing individually.

An analogy that I really like is that a Ferrari does not consume 95 unleaded gasoline. It can, but its performance would not be the same. It has to be unleaded 100 or 98. That is, fuel with much higher quality. It is much more expensive to maintain, obviously. The same can be applied to athletes. They have special fuel needs – in this case their higher quality foods, supplements, and much more specific performance characteristics than other subjects.

When did this discipline of sports nutrition begin? Is it relatively new or has it been around for years?

You can speak perfectly not only about when the discipline of sports nutrition began but also about when sports medicine or sports training began . And it is since we realize the need for individualization . The need for private medical care within the sports field, individualization and the training method, the need to have one’s own psychologist, and in this case the understanding of the nutritional needs of the subject to obtain a sports goal .

If we talk about time bands, we can talk that from 2010 is when the profile of the nutritionist begins to see much more weight in the sports field. In parallel, there was also a boom in the figure of the personal sports trainer, the rehabilitator, the rehabilitation of injuries.

Between 2010 and 2016 is when players and athletes really realize that they need their psychologist, they need their doctor, they need their personal trainer, and they need their nutritionist beyond what the team offers them.

What are the typical functions of a sports nutritionist or what does a sports nutritionist do?

When we talk about the typical functions of the sports nutritionist, I do not like to talk only about nutrition but about the three legs: psychology, training and nutrition . The main mission of the sports nutritionist is to individualize and understand the personal and individual characteristics of the subject.

In the area of ??nutrition, we talk about how the subject is morphologically, structurally, speaking in terms of body composition. More and more we see soccer players and athletes who have not only specific nutritional needs but also intolerances, allergies that complicate even more and need a greater professionalization and specialization on the part of nutritionists to be able to individualize these diets and those nutritional interventions with these players.

What skills are required to be a sports nutritionist?

The skills that a sports nutritionist must have are the same as anyone who works in the sports field, be it as a psychologist or physical trainer. Apart from having a wide range of knowledge, some of the keys are the human factor, emotionality and emotional intelligence .

The player has a nutritionist on his team but is looking for something outside. He does it because he seeks the individual, he seeks to feel cared for, to seek to feel loved. When you have an intolerance or when you want to eat something else, you want your nutritionist to be there and give you an effective, fast and adapted alternative to your needs. You want the nutritionist to be able to put yourself in your shoes and understand your personal situation.

Study sports nutrition at the European University

In addition to the aforementioned master’s degree in nutrition, at the European University we offer you a wide portfolio of programs in the area of ??sports nutrition and nutrition in general. We are aware that you will have personal and professional commitments, and that is why we offer programs in person or online so that you can choose which one is best for you. Some of the programs you can choose from are:

  • Master in Clinical Nutrition Online
  • Degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics in Madrid 
  • Masters in Sports Nutrition Online 
  • Master’s in Sports Training
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