Individualized Nutrition Support Is Critical to Athletic Performance: Revised Position Paper from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

February 25, 2016

CHICAGO – Nutrition-related factors influence athletic performance, and registered dietitian nutritionists who are also certified specialists in sports dietetics are the best-qualified professionals to assist active adults and competitive athletes, according to a revised position paper from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada and American College of Sports Medicine.

The position paper, "Nutrition and Athletic Performance," will be published in the March issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine that the performance of, and recovery from, sporting activities are enhanced by well-chosen nutrition strategies. These organizations provide guidelines for the appropriate type, amount and timing of intake of food, fluids and supplements to promote optimal health and performance across different scenarios of training and competitive sport.

The position paper "outlines the Academy's, DC's and ACSM's stance on nutrition factors that have been determined to influence athletic performance and emerging trends in the field of sports nutrition. Athletes should be referred to a registered dietitian nutritionist for a personalized nutrition plan," according to the paper.

The position paper highlights new perspectives in sports nutrition, acknowledging the growth of the field as a dynamic area of science and practice that continues to flourish in both the scope of support it offers to athletes and the strength of evidence that underpins its guidelines.

"The position paper recognizes that nutrition goals and requirements for athletes are not static and therefore should be periodized, taking into account the needs of daily training sessions and overall individual nutrition goals," according to the authors. Significant points of the position paper include:

  • Calorie, nutrient and fluid recommendations for active adults and competitive athletes vary before, during and after sporting activities.
  • New perspectives on sports nutrition include individualized recommendations that accommodate the unique issues of individual athletes regarding health, nutrient needs, performance goals, physical characteristics (body size, shape, growth and composition) and food preferences.
  • Optimal health and athletic performance may be affected by appropriate type, amount and timing of food, fluid and supplement choices across different scenarios of training and competitive sports.

The position paper was written by D. Travis Thomas, PhD, RDN, CSSD (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics); Kelly Anne Erdman, MSc, RD, CSSD (Dietitians of Canada); and Louise M. Burke, OAM, PhD, APD, FACSM (American College of Sports Medicine). It is a revision of the position originally adopted by the three organizations in 2009.


Interviews with registered dietitian nutritionists with expertise in nutrition and athletic performance can be arranged by calling the Academy at 312/899-4769 or email

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy at