Former Athletes Can Get Stuck in Dietary Habits That Do Not Foster Fat Burning and/or Building Lean Muscle Mass After Their Athletic Careers Have Ended. By Jim Schultz, LMSN
Most of us have been involved in organized sports at one point or another during our lifetime. If you have been involved in any sport, both recreationally or organized, there is a certain type of training and nutrition plan you may have followed. For example, swimmers and cross-country runners will follow a diet that fosters a desirable, functional body composition through the development of long muscle for stamina. On the other hand, a track athlete running the 100-meter or an Olympic body builder will follow a dietary regimen to foster building fast twitch, bulkier muscles for power and strength. The athletes provided in the examples above will in theory have different dietary habits because of their desired body composition for the sport they are competing in, and most importantly to optimize performance. This performance in competition will inevitably end. There is no telling in which nutrition plan will foster better health in the long term, and athletes are not always thinking about the long term when it comes to optimizing their nutrition. The body will age, give way to natural changes, but will the diet of that individual change in conjunction with these various physiological changes that come with age?
What are the routines and eating habits we have formed from undertaking different sports over the course of our lifetime? How well do we know if these habits have stayed, or faded away from each client we see? Have these dietary regimens been optimal for both training and competing in these sports? We must ask ourselves this as NASN Licensed Master Sports Nutritionists (LMSNs), and be sure to consider these details when assessing clients’ previous dietary habits. When we see a client, it may be helpful to take more than a 24-hour food log and ask about lifestyle patterns (sleeping, current exercise levels, etc.) in order to fully gage what they have done and where they have been in the past in regards to nutrition. Just like we will commonly ask for a weight history from a client, we should ask about past sports they have been engaged in, and how they ate or are currently eating according to these individualized training plans and competition schedules.
These old behaviors create an archetype for how we as LMSNs can ask the right questions to get past certain barriers for each client, and change their mode of thinking that can oftentimes be deeply entrenched within the clients’ belief systems. Us humans, being creatures of habit, make it really easy to stay in a routine. When people come to a NASN LMSN, they are assumingly hoping to get direction and guidance with their nutrition. Being able to get information from the client about past sports they have played in will help the LMSN become more relatable to the client, and set a service point from which to tailor a meal plan and personal fitness routine for that client. No matter how much information on nutrition we provide an individual, there will always be old behaviors to consider for each client.
From my time working with Jeff Kotterman, BS, LMSN at The TriSystem Sports Nutrition and Performance Center, I have observed that many of Jeff’s clients are following a nutrition and fitness plan in order to achieve two results: increased lean body mass, and decreased fat mass. This goal does not come without hard work inside and outside of the gym. Jeff incorporates both a nutrition component and personal training component to most of the clients he works with. Everyone is different, but Jeff makes it easier for people who have created dietary habits in the past and stuck with these, that may not foster optimal performance when trying to reach their fitness goals. We must ask ourselves, WHY? The question of why can generate many responses, but it is important to consider the athletic background of the client, because this may help us answer some of the unknowns about the clients’ previous and current dietary habits, and their justifications these routines.
Most LMSNs have a sports background, and I personally believe it would be of great help to be able to relate to our clients on that level. I have had clients ask ME if I played a sport. If they are curious, then I believe WE should be curious. LMSNs can learn a lot from their clients by asking about their sports history, and most importantly how they become or became nutritionally prepared for both training for that sport, and competing in that sport. Once we can establish this, we will have a benchmark from which to help the client better understand how we will approach their goals with relation to nutrition and physical fitness with their best interests in mind.