The LA Galaxy, several triathletes from around the world, one of the best Indian cricket players in the world, and The Spanish Soccer League– 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.

Three Rookie Sports Nutrition Mistakes

To date, I have worked with more than 150 male athletes training for the Combine, with many 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.

These are some of the most common mistakes I’ve found when it comes to sports nutrition:

Eating all proteins, no carbs.

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.

Not knowing when to choose a sports drink over water.

While water consumption should be the priority, there are times when our bodies need added sugars and electrolytes to maintain energy levels and hydration status during exercise:

Not timing their workout supplements correctly.

It’s important to consider not only what supplements to take but also when to take them. Here’s a quick guide:

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

Dana RyanPh.D., MA, MBA – Director, Sports Performance, Nutrition and Education

Dr. Dana Ryan is the director of Sports Performance, Nutrition and Education at Herbalife. She is also the Chair of the Fitness Advisory Board. She completed her doctorate in Physical Activity, Nutrition and Wellness at Arizona State University. She earned an MBA from USC and a Master’s in Kinesiology from San Diego State University. Dr. Ryan is also certified in nutrition for optimal health, wellness and performance. Before joining Herbalife Nutrition, she taught exercise physiology and related courses at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA), and conducted research at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA),* on the impact of community-based nutrition and physical activity programs on heart disease risk. A passionate athlete, Dr. Ryan enjoys all water sports, especially rowing. Her favorite Herbalife products are Herbalife24® Liftoff®, Herbalife24® Rebuild Strength and Enrichual Hemp Facial Serum.

*The University of California does not endorse specific products or services as a matter of policy.