Why We Personalize Sports Nutrition Education for Young Athletes

The LA Galaxy, several triathletes from around the world, and a rugby player from the Philippines – these are just a few of the athletes I work with as part of my job at Herbalife Nutrition, which is to help these elite athletes improve their performance through good nutrition.

As exciting as working with professional athletes may be, working with college athletes – such as those competing at the annual football scouting Combine – is special in a different way. I witness the immense effort and joy of these young men who are very close to achieving their long-life dream of playing professional football in the U.S.

And I get to play a part in that journey by providing them personalized sports nutrition education.

All Proteins, No Carbs: A Common Mistake

To date, I have worked with more than 100 male athletes training for the Combine, with the vast majority of them joining the top professional football teams in the country. Despite coming from top collegiate programs I’ve found that most of them are not familiar with sports nutrition education.

For example, I noticed that many rookies make the mistake of thinking that as an athlete, they should only eat protein and avoid carbohydrates.

Focusing solely on protein is not the best way to build muscle. For improved results, protein intake needs to be combined with enough good-quality calories from carbohydrates. The body utilizes protein more effectively if carbs are available. Plus, carbs are important for replenishing glycogen stores.

The Importance of Personalizing Sports Nutrition Education

I believe it’s important to begin sports nutrition education at a younger age, especially for young athletes. This education has to be personalized, not only because every body is different and has unique needs, but because that way, athletes understand that everything that is going in their bodies has a purpose.

This is exactly how our independent distributors are trained to coach their own customers. Whether they are working with folks who only exercise on weekends, teenage athletes, parents, rookies, triathletes or someone looking to make regular exercise a part of their lives, the first thing they do is complete a personalized evaluation to better understand their customers goals. Do they want to build muscle? Improve speed? Endurance?

Whatever their goal is, distributors provide product guidance to help their customers prepare and achieve their fitness goals. For example, we are seeing a lot of interest in specific nutrients, such as BCAAs and creatine. But without proper guidance, you can end up wasting your money buying a product that doesn’t fit your goals or that will provide you too much or too little of some nutrient.

People looking to embark on a health and fitness journey should make sure they are getting what their body needs, and that is something our distributors are trained to help with.

Inspiration to Get Started

Combine athletes are inspiring examples of how far discipline and inspiration can get you. Nutrition goals are often hard and require commitment, but the results are worth it.

If you are looking to become more active, remember you don’t have to change everything overnight. Start small, make little changes, but don’t wait until you feel in super good shape to add in sports nutrition.

As soon as you start working out and stressing your body, you’ll want to make sure you’re fueling and taking care of it properly from day one.

Dana Ryan, PhD, M.A. – Director, Sport Performance and Education

Dana RyanPhD, MBA, M.A. – Director, Sport Performance and Education

Dana Ryan completed her doctorate in physical activity, nutrition and wellness at Arizona State University. Before joining Herbalife Nutrition, she taught exercise physiology and related courses at California State University Los Angeles (CSULA), and has conducted research at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) on the impact of community-based nutrition and physical activity programs on heart disease risk.