Nutrition Case Study: The Fourth Discipline

As a registered dietitian (RD), I have always known that nutrition was important for health, disease prevention, and weight loss. Throughout my college years, and during my dietetic internship, this was stressed incessantly, time and again. Clinically, I had learned a great deal of useful information, but my specialized education had never focused specifically on sports-related nutrition.

Although sports nutrition was always of great interest to me, my curiosity only grew as I started my journey through the sport of triathlon. The more that I learned, the more I came to realize that proper nutrition truly is the fourth discipline.

As the length of my races became longer, the importance of nutrition and fueling grew. I also began to observe an ever-growing trend among friends and fellow triathletes—that of walking marathons, ugly race finishes, dehydration issues and a "cramping stagger" at the finish line. Athletes who had made tremendous sacrifices, and logged a ridiculous amount of volume were extremely disappointed by less-than-stellar results, far below the expectations they thought themselves capable.

How could an athlete dedicate so much time to this sport, yet crash and burn at every race distance? I had trained with them, and knew that they had produced far better results on a simple training day than on race day. Could it be that nutrition was becoming more and more of a limiting factor?

I knew that nutrition played a significant role in the above outcomes, but I never really researched its depth until I began dedicating a larger portion of my practice to the field of sports nutrition. Now, the athletes that I work with know, without any doubt, that we focus not only on pre-fueling for a workout, but also on fueling the workout itself and post-workout recovery.

Add to this the importance of day-to-day nutrition that focuses on core diet principles, and the athlete, as a whole, is fully prepared to absorb the rigors of training from a nutritional standpoint.

Part and parcel to this is hydration. Hydration plays an overwhelming role in athletic performance and overall well-being.

Following are two accounts of real people, producing real results, simply by making changes to their nutritional approach.

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