When it comes to training, you consult with a coach. For medical issues, you turn to your doctor. It would make sense, then, to seek out a professional when you’re ready to get serious about fueling for your sport. But who? When it comes to nutrition, experts are easy to find—nutritionists, registered dietitians, and nutrition coaches are in abundance in the triathlon community. But though many use these professional titles interchangeably, they’re not all created equal.
“The term nutritionist isn’t regulated, so technically, anyone can call himself or herself a nutritionist, even with no formal training or with a two or three week online course in nutrition,” explains Kim Schwabenbauer, a former pro triathlete and current Registered Dietitian. Same for the title of “nutrition coach”—it’s a term that anyone can use, be it someone with a doctorate in nutrition or a vegan/paleo/keto enthusiast with no formal training.
At best, utilizing the wrong professional can lead to wasted money. At worst, it can cause serious health problems. That’s why it’s important to seek out someone whose advice is backed up by the right kind of credentials.
Registered Dietitians, or RDs, are the only professionals with the education and credentials to provide medical nutrition therapy. To earn this title, a person must have at least a bachelor’s degree (in 2024, this will be raised to require a Master’s degree) with a focus in dietetics,…