“My route into sports nutrition came through my background in Sport and Exercise Science. My undergraduate degree was in Sports Studies at Stirling University and during this time I was involved with the athletics club and sports union and began to learn more about how diet could affect an athlete’s performance. I found myself discussing diet and nutritional strategies with a number of athletes and realised just how many basic nutrition mistakes many athletes were making and how few of them were implementing strategies that would positively impact their performance. During the last two years of my course I began to narrow in on sports nutrition as my main area of study and then went on to study Sport and Exercise Nutrition at Loughborough University.
Loughborough was a great place to study not just because of the standard of the course but the number and variety of sportsmen and women at the university that I could learn from and help develop my nutritional understanding of various sports. Following my MSc I took a position as a nutrition intern at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield. This post provided me the mentoring that I needed to apply my knowledge in an elite sport setting. I remained in Sheffield for the following two years working with the Olympic Judo and Boxing teams. Weight category sports are highly demanding sports to work in and nutrition plays a crucial role with each of the athletes in order to manage their weight and maintain a sufficient intake to train, adapt and compete.
Following the 2008 Olympic Games I moved to work with Scottish Rugby as their Lead Nutritionist. Working with rugby players is very rewarding and I enjoy the variety of nutritional demands I am exposed to within a very physically demanding sport. As I write this, we are preparing for the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and the current energy demand on the players is so high that we often run out of time in the day to feed them everything we want!
My best piece of advice to anyone embarking in a career in nutrition is to read, then read some more and then read again! Nutrition is such an evolving and dynamic subject that it’s difficult to keep current let alone ahead of the game, so reading and learning have to become your close friends. The second most important piece of advice is to put yourself in positions to learn. Opportunities to learn are all around us and never dismiss a piece of information just because it contradicts something you previously believed or followed. By putting yourself in positions to learn you also interact and network with people who may come in handy later in your career.”
Richard is a Registered Nutritionist working at Scottish Rubgy as their Lead Nutritionist.