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Sports Nutritionist: Position, Role and Requirements Report

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Updated: Jun 7th, 2020


In the modern world, sports science and technology has become an important discipline in higher education, especially due to the increasing role of sports in social, economic and cultural development. In fact, sports have become not only a form of culture, but also a major economic sector that contributes heavily to the economy of various nations and populations (Lawrence and Kirby 299).

Athletes have become assets or human resources important for generating income for their companies, clubs, societies and nations, raising the need for specialists in sports science and technology. In particular, the nutrition for the athletes is an important factor in enhancing their performance. Institutions of higher learning and research have contributed to the development of the sports sector through research and innovation in dietetics, which improves the performance of the athletes. Thus, the role of sports nutritionist is important in almost all sports and games, especially those that require the application of the physical and mental aspects of the human body (Maughan 21).

The input of the sports nutritionist comes in terms of providing advice on nutrition, food and their impacts on health and performance (Lawrence and Kirby 299). Sports nutrition is an important discipline in enhancing the sports sector.

This paper presents a detailed report of the needs for a sports nutritionist, the roles played, academic backgrounds and requirements and the entry salary level for this position. In addition, it elaborates the appropriate governing agencies and the necessary practice setting for the sports nutritionist.


In the United states, a person willing to work as a sports nutritionist must hold at least a Bachelor’s degree in clinical nutrition or food and nutrition or their equivalent. The degree must be obtained from a regional, national or international university or college that should also be accredited. Above the bachelor’s degree, a Master’s degree in the same field is normally preferred, especially at the research and administration levels of the sports sector. To be accepted as a credited sports nutritionist, an individual must have a minimum 2-year experience in nutrition, especially in nutrition counseling (Lawrence and Kirby 303).

Regulatory authorities/certification

In the US, Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE) is responsible for supervising and accrediting the completion of a degree in this field. It is a department of American Dietetic Association. CADE is responsible for certification or licensing of the individuals who have accomplished the program and is actively involved in the practice. However, the relevant state laws and regulations must apply.

Practice setting

Sports nutritionists are important in determining the right diet and dietary information for athletes as well as other individuals seeking to improve their physical performance, including students in schools and universities. A typical setting for practice is a university sports club such as soccer, football, baseball, hockey, and basketball or track athletic clubs. In this case, the client population includes the athletes themselves as well as their support staff such as the coach, team doctor and other professionals. In such a setting, the sports nutritionists play significant roles in providing individual and group/team nutrition counseling and interventions. For instance, they must access and analyze the dietary practices, energy balance and body composition of the athletes in context of their physical performance and health (Lawrence and Kirby 302).

They must also counsel their clients on optimal nutrition for exercise and training by matching the nutrition intake to the particular phases and goals of training. In addition, it is the role of the sports nutritionists to counsel the athletes on dietary aspects and roles in improving competitiveness, recovery from exercise, management of body weight, immunity, supplementation and disordered feeding (Maughan 22).

The nutritionist is required to devise and provide personalized meal and plans for feeding in order to promote the athletes’ ability to achieve both short-term and long-term goals in their physical performance and good health (Maughan 25). The personnel is also responsible for addressing any challenges facing the optimum performance of the athletes. For instance, they must address the issues of allergies or disturbances in the gastrointestinal system. Other problems include depletion of iron in the blood, disturbances in the bones and iron-deficiency anemia.

The sports nutritionist must be able to develop and deliver the right nutrition education in terms of demonstrations, presentations and events to improve the overall knowledge of the right diet for the members of athletic teams and clubs. The nutritionist must also have the ability to recommend the appropriate feeding programs for the athletes before, during and after exercise. Finally, it is the role of the nutritionist to serve as the chief source of nutritional information for coaches, trainers and other supportive personnel for the team members.

To provide the above services, the sports nutritionist must be aware of the type, nature and composition of the client population. In athletic teams and clubs, the clients are the team members and their support staff. In particular, the athletes have a homogenous set of nutritional needs because their performance requirements are uniform. In most cases, they perform similar functions on the track and are in the same age group, which means that their bodies require similar nutrition, relatively similar body shape, mass, weight and muscle mass.

The role of nutritionist in managing glycogen resynthesis after exercise

A Glycogen supplement exceeding the normal limit by 1.0g xkg-1 must be consumed immediately after exercise. The aim is to maximize resynthesis of glycogen immediately after the athlete completes training or active involvement in competition. It is the role of the sports nutritionist to ensure that the protocol is followed.


Statistics obtained in 2013 indicate that the average annual wage for new entrants in the field is about $56,000. It also indicates that the annual wage is about $27.07 (ADA 32). According to the report, this annual average was the typical salary level for new entrants in the profession. This means that other factors play a significant role in determining the level of wages. For instance, factors such as level of formal education, experience in years, specialized training, geographic location and the industry of employment determine the wage level for the professional nutritionists in sports. It was noted that states like California, Nevada, Maryland, Hawaii and Connecticut had the highest salary levels for the sports nutritionists (ADA 32).

According to statistics, the American labor market provides employment for more than 67,400 professional nutritionists and dietitians, with about 32% of them working in the sports sector (ADA 32). Colleges, universities, athletic clubs and sports organizations are some of the leading institutions that provide labor for the professional sports nutritionists and dietitians.

Despite the attractive salaries and working conditions in sports nutrition, professionals in this sector face a number of challenges. For instance, they are expected to take care of the body weight, mass, fat, muscle mass and the general health of the individual athletes and teams, which is difficult because athletes have diverse preferences for foods (Maughan 21).

Works Cited

ADA. Job Descriptions: Models for the Dietetics Profession. New York: American Dietetic Association, 2013. Print

Lawrence, Marvin E and Donald Kirby. “Nutrition and Sports Supplements Fact or Fiction.” Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology 35.3 (2002): 299-306. Print.

Maughan, Ronald J. “Sports Nutrition: What Is It?” Journal of Nutrition & Physical Activity 17.3 (2001): 21-26. Print.

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