Meet Simone Austin. She’s been a sports dietitian for over 20 years. That’s a whole lot of nutrition knowledge (and premierships).
Where do you practice?
I’m lucky enough to split my time between elite team sport at Hawthorn AFL Football Club and corporate, in my role at Swisse Wellness. I also balance that with speaking events and private practice for the general community.
What is an Accredited Sports Dietitian?
In Australia you have to be accredited as an Accredited Practicing Dietitian registered with the Dietitians Association of Australia. To be eligible you need a Bachelor of Science and a post graduate degree in nutrition and dietetics. On top of that, there’s further training and practical experience, with continuing professional development in the area of Sports nutrition. Then, you can become a member of Sports Dietitians Australia. Phew.
What’s the best skill to have on the job?
Planning and flexibility. Planning is important in any job, together with the ability to adapt to change. In sport, this is critical. You may plan education or cooking sessions with players then the coach decides to give rest days or change training times that clash with your schedule. Or worst case, a player gets injured and has to pull out all together. I am the queen of rescheduling!
And when you reschedule?
When I do get a chance to have access to players - ‘access’ might sound a strange way to describe it - but that is what it is like. Physiotherapists, doctors, coaches, fitness staff, psychologist, massage therapists and media all need time slots with the players also, it’s a little crazy! We’ll cover one or two relevant topics over 10 minutes. I’ll also take an opportunity with the players in corridors, the kitchen, the gym or at games in the room where I have prepared the food. The reserves players often hide out in there and grab a snack or two. Perfect timing for a quick check on their nutrition!
What happens in a consultation?
We might take skinfold measurements first and then talk about modifications to their diet depending on whether these need to increase or decrease. I’ll ask how their energy levels are and modify food timing and quantity to support this. We’ll also review their supplement regime.
What strategies do you use?
Education is a gradual process over the many years of their careers for most players. I mix practical sessions like a cooking session in the club kitchen, with offsite sessions, where we visit the supermarket to look at label reading, foods to purchase and quick meals to prepare.
What surprises people most about your job?
I do NOT set diets for players. They learn about what foods are suitable when and how to make these food choices for themselves. They learn to listen to their appetite and energy levels, think about what training they have undertaken and the recovery required and their body composition goals to modify their food intake each day. Food is fuel and an important part of their tool kit. There is no dieting, just fueling correctly for themselves.