London Calling: Sports Dietitians Help Prepare
World-Class Athletes for Olympics

For Release July 17, 2012

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics members are 
helping propel athletes to achieve the Olympic motto:
Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger).

(CHICAGO) As more than 10,500 of the world’s most elite athletes prepare to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics members are helping ensure Team USA athletes have the nutritional support they need to compete and win. In fact, the United State Olympic Committee is sending more sports dietitians to London than any previous Olympics, according to a recent article in the Academy’s Food & Nutrition magazine.

“For athletes, nutrition has been described as one leg of a three-legged stool. Genetic endowment coupled with sport-specific training and coaching cannot stand on their own without proper food and fluid intake,” says registered dietitian Christine Rosenbloom, author of the article and editor-in-chief of Sports Nutrition: A Manual for Professionals 5th ed. (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2012). “In recent years a shift has taken place in nutrition tactics in fueling athletes. Athletes seek every edge they can get, and proper nutrition can help provide it.

“Registered dietitians have the ability to show athletes how to tweak their diets to get the most out of the training without giving up all of their favorite foods. We provide real world solutions for the busy, competitive athlete,” says Rosenbloom.

Registered dietitians are finding creative ways to feed athletes to help them get the most out of their training. Shawn Dolan, senior USOC sport dietitian, provides nutrition coaching for team sports including volleyball, beach volleyball, water polo, field hockey, rugby and archery. Many of her athletes focus on achieving and maintaining lean body mass to have the endurance, agility and skill they need.

“I find that blanket nutrition recommendations are not always helpful, as different athletes on the same team have different nutritional needs,” says Dolan. “The field hockey goalie is different from a midfielder who might run several miles during a match, so altering dietary intake based on physiological demands of the position is important.” 

“Athletes and their nutrition needs can differ significantly from the general public’s,” says Rosenbloom. “Michael Phelps was eating 8,000- to 10,000-calorie-per-day diet while in training for the 2008 Olympics, while most moderately active males need between 2,000 and 2,800 per day. Carbohydrate and protein-rich diets are needed for athletes to help maximize muscle glycogen stores and promote muscle protein synthesis.”

Jennifer Gibson, USOC’s sport dietitian for acrobat and combat sports, works with athletes who compete in weight class sports like judo, taekwondo, boxing and wrestling. Working with each athlete, she develops a “body weight code of conduct” to identify the competition weight weeks before the event, so weight loss can be done in a healthful way.

USOC sports dietitians must have dual degrees in dietetics and exercise physiology, be a registered dietitian and hold the CSSD credential.

Nutrition, Islam and the Olympics

More than 3,000 Muslim athletes will participate in the Olympic Games and this year, Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, will coincide with the competition. (Olympic Games are July 27-August 12 and Ramadan is July 20-August 18.) Food or fluid intake is allowed only before sunrise and after sunset which could impair athletic performance. Athletes may choose to postpone the fast until after the Games to perform at their best. A recent article in the Journal of Clinical Sports Medicine studied athletes running middle distances (5000 meters) while fasting and found changes in muscular performance and oxygen kinetics could affect performance during middle-distance events. Sports dietitians working with athletes who fast for Ramadan can help provide the right balance of energy and nutrients before sunrise and after sunset.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at

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