What is a Naturopath as opposed to a Dietitian in Sports Nutrition?

If you have been receiving my emails or reading my blogs for a while, you will know that I am an Australian Naturopath and Sports Nutritionist. I have more than 25 years in clinical practice and have seen a vast array of clients over time. I love working with athletes! Not just pro or elite athletes, but athletes from all walks of life. Weekend Warriors, peeps working towards their first marathon or Ironman and even clients doing multi day challenges in far flung parts of the world. I am always amazed at what my clients are reaching for, and what they can achieve.

Quite often though, I am asked what the difference is between a Sports Nutritionist and a Sports Dietician. What qualifications do they need to hold, and most importantly how can either practitioner help you?

The specialty of Sports Nutrition falls under the umbrella of Dietitians and Sports Scientists. It’s a heavily researched field that combines nutrition, sports science, and biochemistry. Practitioners who undergo specific master’s degrees, or further studies such as the qualification with the International Olympic Committee, get to use the title “Sports Nutritionist”. My personal passion and love for all thing’s sports lead me to be the first Australian Naturopath to earn the IOC Diploma in Sports Nutrition.

You may have also seen the term Performance Nutritionist. This is newer term, which does not link to a specified qualification. Many Australian Naturopaths and Nutritionists with a passion for Sport and Exercise Science and Nutrition may not be able to obtain specific Diplomas or Master’s degrees, but instead mentor under Sports Nutritionist, or devote their Continued Profession Development to the field of Sports Nutrition. Whilst these practitioners may be highly skilled and passionate, they are unable to use the title of Sports Nutritionist.

Finally, we have the Sports Dietitians. These practitioners would have usually started their studies in Dietetics. These practitioners also have a passion for food and nutrition, and for helping the community. The dietetic approach is often used in community health programs, community outreach, and in hospitals. They typically have an undergraduate degree in nutrition and dietetics and to then call themselves a sports nutritionist there is  further post grad qualification done through Sports Dietitians Australia or further post grad studies such as a grad dip or masters on sports nutrition. A dietician may call themselves a nutritionist, but a nutritionist cannot call themselves a dietician.  As a Sports Dietitian, practitioners use their skills to fuel an athlete using very specific food philosophies.

A Naturopath with a passion for Performance or Sports Nutrition will often have to put aside some Naturopathic philosophies for their athletic clients and adopt a more dietetic approach to nutrition. This is because when we look at athletes doing extra ordinary things with their bodies, they tend to have extra ordinary dietary needs. The foods used for fuel and strength, may not always be the foods used to optimized health and wellness or minimize disease states.

If you have previously seen a Naturopath for a chronic health concern, you will have an understanding that they treat holistically, and use foods, herbs, lifestyle, and dietary advice to help manage a concern. If you go see a Naturopath for a Sports Nutrition consult, you may be surprised by their approach. This is because at times for Sports Nutrition you may be asked to consider eating ‘performance foods’ such as glucose gels or sodium chews. This is because the demands for fuel as an athlete are different to the demands for everyday activities.

As an athlete or client engaging with a Sports Nutritionist/Naturopath you will work together to learn the times when food is medicine, and when food is fuel. You will learn he tools and understanding behind utilising your diet to help support and optimize your health, and recognise that sometimes eating foods like white bread, jelly babies, and even soft drinks has a place in your athletic goals. You will work together to know when to ramp up the fuel, and when to pair it back a little.

Regardless as to whether you work with a Sports Dietician, or Sports Nutritionist you will quickly learn that there is a time and place for a variety of different foods in your diet when reaching your training and performance goals.

So, this month I ask you to think about where you get your Sports Nutrition information? Social Media? Instagram? Other athletes?

Of course I offer one to one consultations for all your needs but if you feel you are interested in a path of self discovery with a helping hand on your back then my newly updated fueling for fitness course.

Fuelling for Fitness ebook B1