Episode 122 - How Much I Invest in My Nutrition Education

How Much I Invest in My Nutrition Education

The sports nutrition landscape is cluttered with self-proclaimed ‘health coaches’ and armchair experts.

In this episode, I'll take you through my personal journey of education. Over the last 20 years, I’ve invested a lot of time and money into my professional qualifications and experience. To me, it’s a no-brainer. 

Listen in as I share what I did to become qualified as a sports dietitian, how much I invest annually just to uphold my qualifications and how much I invest in my ongoing education every month.

Why do I do this? To ensure I can provide my athletes with a high level of expertise and up-to-date, evidence based nutrition advice. My superpower as an Advanced Sports Dietitian is translating the science into practical, easy to implement advice. Reading scientific papers is one thing, but knowing how to apply that knowledge to the food you put into your mouth is where the real magic happens. 

Learn from my journey and let's unpack the importance of investing in your nutrition education.

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Episode Transcription

Episode 122: How Much I Invest in My Nutrition Education

Taryn Richardson  00:00

Welcome to the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. The show designed to serve you up evidence-based sports nutrition advice from the experts. Hi, I'm your host Taryn, Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Advanced Sports Dietitian and founder of Dietitian Approved. Listen as I break down the latest evidence to give you practical, easy-to-digest strategies to train hard, recover faster and perform at your best. You have so much potential, and I want to help you unlock that with the power of nutrition. Let's get into it.

Taryn Richardson  00:41

Welcome to the last month of 2023. How crazy is that? This year has honestly just flown by. I can't believe how fast it's gone. And I'm actually looking forward to slowing down a little bit in 2024 I think. I don't generally do a word of the year but I think 2024 might be the slow down year. I've been full gas, foot to the floor all year long and it's been so good. And I've done so many things and helped so many athletes, but I think 2024 might be a time to stop, sit back, take a bit of a breather and regroup.

Taryn Richardson  01:19

Now today's episode I wanted to put together for you to dive into how much I invest in my nutrition education. It's a little bit of a different one. It's not my usual practical nutrition advice. And I wasn't sure how I was going to go putting it together to be honest. I wasn't actually sure of total numbers but now I have full transparency around the amount that I invest into that. My blood absolutely boils when I see unqualified people give nutritional advice. If you know me, you know that about me. I get all hot and sweaty when people start giving advice that have absolutely zero qualifications. And I think that's really important to highlight, as always, because we tend to not seek nutrition advice and support from professionals in nutrition but yet we'll go to any other professional for the job. We'll get a plumber to fix the toilet, we go to an optometrist for our eyes, we go to a podiatrist for our feet. 

Taryn Richardson  02:15

Why don't we see qualified dietitians for nutrition? And everyone seems to be a friggin expert. There are so many armchair experts out there when it comes to nutrition. Yes, we all eat but it doesn't give us the right and the qualifications to provide advice to others when it's coming from a place for what works for them or you. They may not work for someone else. There is so much information online, right? Like search nutrition and see the number of hits you're getting Google. Search triathlon nutrition and there's millions and millions of results. The number of articles though, on nutrition that I've written on big triathlon websites that I've seen that aren't even written by sports dietitians blows my mind. They are literally written by average punters with zero nutrition qualifications full stop, like literal armchair experts writing and giving nutrition advice. Urgh, makes me so angry. 

Taryn Richardson  03:17

Anyone can start a podcast. God, I did. I got no idea what I'm doing a podcast. Anyone can start a blog, anyone can start a website, anyone can create social media channels, and put information out there. It is so overwhelming the volume of stuff that's being smashed in our face these days. And often, that's really confusing because there's so much conflicting advice. And I know as a triathlete, you probably get a bit of FOMO when there's like the latest thing that you want to do or feel like you should do so that you don't get left behind. But you need to understand how to keep your wits about you when you are faced with marketing messages to see whether it is going to be useful or beneficial and worth investing in or a complete waste of time and money. Normal is a cycle on the washing machine.

Taryn Richardson  04:08

There is no one size fits all with nutrition. You are an individual beast and your nutrition is different to my nutrition. What works for one person may not work for the next. And so we need to be mindful of that. My superpower is translating the science into something that's practical that you can actually do and achieve. You can read research papers and get on Google Scholar till the cows come home. But if you don't know how to apply that, to then what you put in your mouth with the food that you eat in the right timing and the right dosage and all those sorts of things, then it's kind of a waste of time. Also, if you don't know how to tweak and evolve and troubleshoot what you're doing and implementing, how you're going to know if it's working or not? And what to do to change it if you don't feel like it is. So often we mindlessly do something or take something and we have no idea about the impact of what it's actually doing to our bodies. Is it doing anything? Or do we just feel like it's doing something so we keep doing it?

Taryn Richardson  05:11

So I wanted to put this episode together just so that you can understand maybe a little bit of the reasoning behind why my blood boil so much when I see unqualified people giving advice. But I was also really interested myself to see how much I invest in education because for me, education is an absolute no brainer. I love learning. I'm very much a like straighty 180 bit of a nerd burger when it comes to science. But the more I learn, the more I realise that I don't know. And sports nutrition in particular, is a constantly evolving space. There is research happening all the time. And as an evidence based practitioner, it's my job to stay across that. And because I'm a high achiever, I like to be across that before it's actually published. So getting the word from the horse's mouth from the researcher before it lands in a paper to 3 years down the track so that we can be quick and we can be nimble and we can implement things before the rest of the world knows about them.

Taryn Richardson  06:15

So I don't read a blog on the internet, and go, oh, yeah, that's a good idea, and then teach that to my athletes. I use evidence based research to guide my practice. And I've been a dietitian for I think, more than 15 years now. I really should add it up. And before that, I was working in the fitness industry. I did my Cert III in fitness so I've always been in this space. And over the last 15 years, I've worked purely in endurance sport. I never dabbled in team sport or making weight sports or aesthetic sports or anything like that, it was always endurance. It's definitely my jam. And I've worked with triathletes for that entire duration from all walks of life. From grassroot beginners who don't know how to clip into their shoes yet, preparing to do their first sort of baby endurance tri, like the Tri Pink or something like that. All the way up to people that are wanting to go to Kona and wanting to win Kona and winning Kona. And then for 6 years, I also worked for Triathlon Australia and was a sports dietitian for our Australian elite triathlon and paratriathlon team. 

Taryn Richardson  07:20

Now, I don't tell you that to like big note myself and blow my own horn. But I just get so frustrated when people with zero qualifications and zero experience working with triathletes give you know, well meaning but misaligned nutrition advice. I am very much a helping professional and I feel like I have a duty of care to help you in the best possible way as well. So it kind of frustrates me when people don't have that, like, I have to keep insurance and qualification to give advice for nutrition. Because to be honest, you can really 'f' someone up. But people don't seem to care about that. They just want to feel like they know something and they are good enough that they can be telling others about that as well. 

Taryn Richardson  08:06

So let me walk you through, I guess the process that I had to go through to become a sports dietitian in the first place because it was a long journey. It's not something that you can just do in a few week course. So I did an undergraduate degree in Nutrition and Dietetics and that's four years full time. It is hard core. It's basically medicine but for food. So we did heaps of anatomy and physiology, chemistry, biochemistry, research and stats plus a whole heap of stuff around nutrition and food. It was epic. It was intense. It's a different system now to when I went through, I'm showing my age. But it was an OP1 back in the day which is the highest level of number score out of high school to get into the degree in the first place because it is basically medicine.

Taryn Richardson  08:59

Now I have no idea what I paid back then. And I don't actually even know how to find it out. It's like, you know, repressed that whatever. I've paid off that hecs debt, move on. But to do it now, it's $36,000 Australian, not cheap, right, in terms of education. Now there is a difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist in a university degree sense. So a nutrition degree is 3 years and it doesn't go into as much detail around the individualisation of nutrition practice to help in a one on one sense. It's much more global and more population based than nutrition degree. But you can be called a nutritionist without doing a nutrition degree. It's not actually a regulated term, whereas a dietitian is a regulated term and we have our governing bodies and lots of eyes we have I's to dot and T's to cross to be called a dietitian. I did do a podcast episode on the exact topic of what is the difference between a dietitian, nutritionist, and sports dietitian. It was the first episode I did way back in the beginning. So if you are interested in the delineation between those, definitely go and give that a listen.

Taryn Richardson  10:16

Now, don't get me started on health coaches, and personal trainers, and other people that call themselves nutrition coaches giving advice. These people have typically done some sort of certificate or online course or even just nothing and call themselves a coach and provide nutrition advice. Now, technically, they're not qualified to give advice in a one on one sense, but they do because they're not heavily regulated like a dietitian. The number of clients honestly, I probably shouldn't be telling you this, but I had a number of clients when I worked one on one in private practice that were health coaches or personal trainers that did not have their shit together when it came to nutrition and had to see me as their dietitian to sort them out. And then unfortunately, which is why I got rid of them, they were just basically regurgitating everything that I taught them to their clients. So worked out very quickly to say no to people that wanted to come and see me that had that profession. It's not very fair to see my own advice on their social media channels. Don't do that to people, people. Don't be an asshole.

Taryn Richardson  11:24

Okay, so I did my 4 years of undergraduate study to be called an accredited practicing dietitian. And then to become a sports dietitian, it's further study on top of that. You don't qualify from uni as a sports dietitian. So back then, I had to do 2 years of clinical practice first before I could even take the sports nutrition course. So clinical practice was something like working in a hospital which I did, ticks the box, hated every minute, so boring. Although actually I did ICU and TPN which is nutrition through your veins and the trauma unit so worked with great people and great teams and learned a lot about being a dietitian. I studied nutrition to become a sports dietitian. So for me, it was just like a tick box thing so I could move on to the next.

Taryn Richardson  12:10

So as soon as I could, I enrolled in the sports nutrition course which was run by our Sports Dietitians Association Australia to become specialised in sports. It's a $2,000 course and it goes over a few days. But there's a whole heap of work to go into that and a whole heap of hours to go out of that to actually get your piece of paper and be qualified. So $2,000 plus food, plus accommodation, plus travel. So we're upwards of like $3,000 - $4,000 just to do that course, plus countless hours of volunteering to meet the requirements to become a provisional sports dietitian. Totally worth it though, best thing I've ever done and I loved every minute of that course. There was nothing in there that I was like, this is boring, I was like sitting on the edge of my seat the whole time, like give it to me, let's do more.

Taryn Richardson  13:05

Then in addition to that, I did the International Olympic Committee, Diploma in Sports Nutrition. So it's kind of a next level up in terms of qualification. It's something that I think every sports dietitian should do. And it's something you should look for that your Sports Dietitian has done as well. But it's a 2 year online course that costs $10,000, craziness, like a third of what a university degree costs. But again, super valuable definitely worth doing. I do not regret doing it whatsoever. It taught me so many things that I apply on a day to day basis now. Now you can't do that Diploma, that IOC diploma until you've done your sports nutrition course and your undergraduate degree. They don't let any punter in which is good. So so far, we've racked up $50,000 to become a qualified sports dietitian. Holy bejesus! Makes those little nutrition coach programs that you do in a couple of weeks online for you know, $1000, maybe $2,000 seem like nothing. $50,000 that's crazy. So I didn't know that number until I calculate it nd I was like, holy shitballs, that's a lot of cash.

Taryn Richardson  14:17

On top of that, I've done things like my ISAK accreditation to become a qualified anthropometrist to do skinfolds to the international level. I couldn't tell you how much that cost. That was a 3 day course over a weekend plus, you had to do 20 profiles, so 20 people's skin folds. And I have to reaccredit with that every 3 years as well to make sure that I haven't got shit over that time and haven't lost the skill. And I have to keep those calipers regularly calibrated as well which is an investment in itself. Those bad boys are not cheap.

Taryn Richardson  14:48

And then to maintain my professional qualification, it's a bit more than $1,000 a year just to call myself an accredited practicing dietitian. That's $780 to be registered with our national body, the Dietitians Australia. And then to call myself a sports dietitian, it's $275 a year with our professional body Sports Dietitians Australia. Now I'm the next kind of level up in a sports dietitian. So there's just an accredited sports dietitian. I'm an advanced sports dietitian, which means that I've done a certain number of hours of practice, I've got a higher level of professional experience and professional skills to be called the next level of sports dietitian. Oh, it's pretty wanky, isn't it? And then for me to maintain that advanced level of sports dietitian, I've got more continual professional development hours in an annual period compared to somebody that's trying to maintain just an accredited sports dietitian level as well. So over $1,000 every single year just to have those names to my name. And I know that there's lots of other professions that are like that as well.

Taryn Richardson  15:56

So those two bodies govern our practice, as in, we can't just start talking about random shit that's not evidence based and still be called an accredited practicing dietitian. We have a code of conduct, we're not allowed to do things like use testimonials. There's so many things that we cannot do and say because we are so heavily regulated by our governing bodies. And on top of that, I need to have professional insurance which I didn't even look at how much that cost is just like cha-ching, take my money, whatever it's got to happen. But it's about $1,000 a year. And then on top of that, I have to do a certain number of Continual Professional Development or CPD points every year to maintain those qualifications. And you know, the world is your oyster with how much you spend to do that. It is a lot of time. I go to our sports dietitian conference which is on every 2 years and that $700 plus travel, plus accommodation, plus food, plus time away from family and work. Wouldn't miss it for the world though. It is the finest conference ever. Sports dietitians are awesome. And I spend at the moment, a minimum of $1,000 a month on my professional ongoing education, whether that's in sports nutrition, or even sort of business development stuff but that is just a no brainer for me.

Taryn Richardson  17:15

And I think about that in context of all the things that you could do yourself online or where you could go for nutrition education and advice. And it kind of puts the Triathlon Nutrition Academy into context which is the best triathlon nutrition education program in the world. It's where triathletes go to level up their performance. No matter if they're just starting out in the sport and have no idea what you're doing whatsoever, that's actually the best time to jump in. But people don't because they don't know that nutrition is their missing link yet and also for people that have been doing triathlon for many years now. We have one athlete in the program that's been doing triathlon for 30 years and has never sought nutrition advice. So the Academy program is 9 months and there's three different payment options - you can pay up front, spread the cost out over 6 months as a payment plan, or spread it out over 12 months as a payment plan just to make it as accessible to as many triathletes as possible. It's $3,447 Aussie dollars upfront so in US, it's like $2,447. In quid, it's basically free because the exchange rate is so good for you at the moment. It's about $1,700 quid which is not a lot. 

Taryn Richardson  18:26

There are so many things you can spend your money on as a triathlete. Like I 100% know how expensive the sport is, but when the alternative is, you know, $50,000 investment to educate yourself properly then, as cheap as chips mate. And I know that I'll save you so much time and I will save you so much money as well because I can cut through all of the noise and go, do this do that, let's think about doing things this way without having to muck around and wing it trying to figure it out for yourself, like use my knowledge and expertise to your advantage.

Taryn Richardson  19:03

Now if you do want to play with us, the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program opens up in January so next month. You can head to dietitianapproved.com/academy to read all about it now. Have a look at all of our pricing options, have a look at all the inclusions and every single topic that we go through over each phase. What I've done is I've basically condensed 15 years of practice working with triathletes into a framework that gives you everything that you need to have success in the sport. 

Taryn Richardson  19:34

So Phase 1, we go through all of the foundations of what you do on a day to day basis and we build our nutritional cake from the base up so that's kind of our sponge layer. Here we go through your pre-training nutrition, your recovery, nutrition, what you're doing on the bike, what you're doing on the run periodisation, and making sure that your food is matched to your training demands, and your eating to support the different types of training days as well as ticking off some of those big key nutrients that I know that you need as an endurance athlete.

Taryn Richardson  20:06

Then we move up our cake can we start to ice it with some of our race nutrition principles like carbohydrate loading, hydration, your pre race meal. We do your Sprint and Olympic distance race nutrition plans. We start to talk about some of the supplements that we can use here as well that give us a performance advantage. We dive into all different types of sports drinks, we dive into all different types of gels, what they're made up of, and what you're looking for when you're looking at a label to see whether it is a good product for you or not. And then Phase 3, we are putting a thicker layer of icing on the top and putting the sprinkles on the icing on our cake with all of our longer course race nutrition, as well as we retackle our day to day nutrition now that you've been working on it for 6 months. Because like I said, it's not set and forget, it's something that you want to tweak and evolve over time as you get better at it and you become a better type of athlete because of it.

Taryn Richardson  21:02

We do your 70.3 and full distance race nutrition plans, we talk about sodium, we talk about gut training, we do all the things. So you could spend years trying to research and read about every single topic and still have no idea what to put in your mouth and when. So if you do want to come and play, dietitianapproved.com/academy. Make sure your name is on the waitlist now because I've got some pretty special things coming up in this next opening round in January, something I've never done before. But nothing changes if nothing changes, right? So if the Academy is not for you, that's totally fine, not offended whatsoever. Just don't go and get nutrition advice from not a dietitian then I'll be offended.

Taryn Richardson  21:45

But whatever the next chapter is, do something else that is going to move you forwards when it comes to your nutrition. You might want to do something like my Triathlon Nutrition Kickstart course which is kind of a bit of a stepping stone into the Academy program if you haven't got any advice or you're not sure where to start. So you can check that out at dietitianapproved.com/kickstart. It goes through some of those really big rocks that I know that you need to get started in the nutrition space. Perfect for somebody that is new to the sport and just beginning and you know, not ready for that time and financial investment of our bigger beast of a program just yet, or you've been doing the sport for a while but you've never had any nutrition education formally, or you're raring to go for the Academy but you've still got a month or so to wait, you could get started with that now over Christmas so that you are ready to hit the ground running come January.

Taryn Richardson  22:40

So there you go. I hope you enjoyed that episode. I actually really enjoyed putting it together for you. It was nice to put some figures down to that and formalise what I've actually done. And I still don't really know how much I would invest on an annual basis to maintain everything because it does vary a little bit. Like I said, my conference is every 2 years but I always try and do something on that off year as well. But I always have a little underlying $1,000 a month for continual professional development and it would be above that most months. That's the baseline.

Taryn Richardson  23:16

And hopefully you now understand why I get really angry when I see unqualified people giving nutrition advice. I've invested so much time and so much money into my education so that I can give you the right advice for you. Because there's no one size fits all. And my superpower, like I said, is translating that science into the practicalities of what you then do but for that individual person. The Academy program is individualised to you and your needs. And we do that in Power Hours every week. You have access to me, you can pick my brain, you can ask me whatever you want. We sometimes get some pretty curly questions which I love. And anything that I don't know how to answer. I'm also going to say like, I don't know. I'll find the answer if I can but I can also direct you to the better professional to get that answer so that you have the right information. I'm never gonna give you a bump steer. I'm not going to pretend that I know what I'm talking about unless I'm confident that it's correct. That is probably my type A personality coming through nice and strong there. 

Taryn Richardson  24:22

So we are very much getting to the end of the year of the podcast. Next week, I'm going to give you my 2023 wrap up and then I'm going to tell you in that episode where to from here. Have a great week and I'll talk to you next week.

Taryn Richardson  24:37

Thanks for joining me for this episode of the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. I would love to hear from you. If you have any questions or want to share with me what you've learned, email me at [email protected]. You can also spread the word by leaving me a review and taking a screenshot of you listening to the show. Don't forget to tag me on social media, @dietitian.approved, so I can give you a shout out, too. If you want to learn more about what we do, head to dietitianapproved.com. And if you want to learn more about the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program, head to dietitianapproved.com/academy. Thanks for joining me and I look forward to helping you smashed in the fourth leg - nutrition! 

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