My Story. My Why.
I was always drawn towards working with athletes, even before I realized I wanted to make nutrition a big part of my career. Being the youngest of four siblings and growing up among an athletic family, our family fun night was and still is going to a Philadelphia Flyers games. Growing up in this environment, it was natural to be excited about getting involved in many sports at a young age. Quickly, swimming became my favorite sport at 6 years old. I continued to improve, landing at the top of my age group until high school where I experienced my first plateau in my swimming performance. I was still swimming 6 days per week, doubles 3 days per week, worked hard at every practice, but wasn’t demonstration personal improvement in competition.
Maybe it was my nutritionally unhealthy afternoon pre-practice snack (Cheetos/Doritos, Diet Mountain Dew, + large York Peppermint Patty), maybe it was over training with not enough rest, maybe it was nerves from the pressure to perform created only by me, my hardest critique, or most likely, it was a combination of all three and many other factors.
From my current education and experience, I know now, I could have paid more attention to my nutrition. I loved to eat, and I ate a lot, but I often ate the wrong things at the wrong times.
Imagine enduring going to a 3-hour practice (2 hours of swimming, 1 hour of dryland) on Saturday morning with maybe a cereal bar and water in my stomach.
It was no wonder my entire swim team was beyond hungry after practice and raced to the local brunch spot to engorge ourselves in cinnamon bun french toast and hash browns drenched in ketchup.
French toast and potatoes are not poor carbohydrate options after long practice, but what about the protein piece? What happened to including fruit and vegetables? What about the pre-workout meal (aka the fuel for my practice)? What about the snacks/fluids during the 3 hour practice?
Not one Registered Dietitian, or even a coach, educated my parents or I on how to eat as a competitive athlete. I swam on 4 year-around club teams, summer club teams, a competitive high school team and D3 college team. We got introduced to yoga and meditation at a young age, as another supplement to our training, but what happened to being introduced to sports nutrition and how to fuel our growing and exercising bodies?………..
I came to this realization during my junior year of college, with only 2 years left (out of 16 years total) of my competitive swimming career.
My Aha Moment:
My family signed me up for a nutrition assessment with a Registered Dietitian at our local gym over Christmas break. Little did we know, this 60-minute nutrition session would redirect my life in a whole new direction towards better health and an enormous amount of happiness.
By providing my body with proper nutrition, I finally lost my freshman fifteen and a bit more, and achieved personal best times immediately and throughout my senior year.
I fell in love with swimming again, not just the family that comes with a swim team.
I gained strength, energy, and confidence.
I was not going to allow all the hard work go to waste. I had spent so much time figuring out how I could practice more and harder in the pool, but the missing piece was always my nutrition.
- how to cook quick and easy meals and not always depend on the cafeterias options or fast food
- how to be more aware of what I was eating and how certain foods made me feel physically and mentally
- how important it was to plan ahead and be prepared whether it was a meal plan with a grocery list prior to going to the grocery store or reviewing menus for healthy options prior to going to a restaurant.
- how to make myself accountable such as always having healthy snacks on hand while I was out and about for long periods of time OR studying in weeee hours in the library.
- how to not be influenced by other people’s poor eating habits.
- how to be mindful and still indulge on unhealthy foods by following the 80/20 Rule.
- how and how and how…the list goes on!
Luckily, I was already majoring in health sciences and already had 2 nutrition courses lined up for junior and senior year. After much thought of what I was going to do after college, I envisioned working with competitive athletes and teaching them how to enhance not only their exercise training, but also focusing on the special interaction between nutrition and exercise. I decided to pursue higher education with emphasize in nutrition to help other committed athletes enhance their eating behaviors to complement their exercise training. After taking a graduate nutrition class at Saint Louis University and discussing my career goals with my professors, it became obvious that I should be a Registered Dietitian.
Post swimming college, I quickly found enjoyment in running, which turned into running a 5K to a half marathon to qualifying and competing in the Boston Marathon. After much trial and error, I found fueling strategies that worked for me. With anew home, a new job, and a new training schedule due to different lifestyle, I started to encounter injuries such as plantar fasciitis, which had a lot to do with not allowing time to stretch after all types lengths and types of exercise and allowing my body to rest and recover. A fun weekend ski trip turned into tearing my ACL and started a new journey of learning how to be patient, be in the present, create balance, and be mentally and physically strong.
One of my biggest fears was not being able to maintain my weight while recovering, as my exercise routine was going to change significantly to a lesser intensity and there was going to be a greater possible for emotional eating.
Not only was I able to maintain my weight, I am stronger physically and mentally 1 year later.
I have conquered many obstacles as an athlete and proper nutrition was a big reason for my strength and accomplishments. Scientific research continues prove the benefit of nutrition related to enhancing performance, improving exercise recovery, preventing injury, boosting immunity, and overall creating a life of better health to reduce risk of chronic disease. Sports nutrition has grown significantly over the past decade allowing athletes to become better athletes. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough sport dietitians to educate all universities, club teams, and middle/high schools, which is why Simply Nutricising is an avenue to help athletes and their families, coaching staff, and friends to learn sports nutrition from a nutrition expert. Not only will you be up to date on scientific research, you will learn how to apply that research to your life in a simple and realistic ways, just how I learned as junior in college.
Alyson’s Professional Background:
- Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist (RDN)
- Licensed Dietitian-Nutritionist (LDN) in Maryland and Pennsylvania
- Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD)
- Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM EP-C)
- Level 1 Certificate in Training in Adult Weight Management though Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- Masters of Nutrition and Dietetics at Saint Louis University with emphasis in Nutrition & Physical Performance
- Dietetic Internship at Saint Louis University
- Didactit Program of Dietetics at Saint Louis University
- Health Science Bachelors of Arts at Gettysburg College
Member of Professional Groups:
- Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (AND)
- Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition (SCAN)
- College and Professional Sports Dietitians Association (CPSDA)
- American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
Do you have nutrition related questions regarding how to increase your athletic performance? Ask Alyson for Answers