Eat fit footballer illustration (Chris Barker)Eat fit footballer illustration (Chris Barker) © Copyright

How to be a sports nutritionist

Saracens are the undisputed kings of rugby union in 2016, winning the Premiership and European Cup double. George Morgan is a performance nutritionist with the club who takes great pride in their success and the marginal gains the right nutrition can bring. He tells us why he loves his job.

We Are Scientists

I come from a medical family, my mum and dad were always talking about the impact of different drugs on the body and the similar effects that food can have. There was a kid at school who had a nut allergy and that interested me; why his immune system acted in that way. It made me question why food affects us like that.

Starting out

All work experience in the field is valuable, you learn something from every job you do and it gives you something to talk about in an interview. Saracens offers work experience places, we love to see people coming in and asking questions, whether they’re thinking about studying nutrition or they are studying it. You could also contact your local amateur team and offer to help out.

The new in nutrition

I’ve been at Saracens since 2012 and there are always new developments in nutrition, such as the more crucial use of vitamin D or understanding how much protein athletes need compared to the non athletic population. With more and more measured sports performance happening, new ideas are always coming out; we’re very fortunate to have lots of good researchers asking the right questions.

Mexican mole

I did some research into South American food, and I discovered a Mexican casserole called ‘mole’. It’s a savoury chocolate sauce, with some chicken. Dark chocolate is full of flavonoids, which are good for your immune system. For some people, seeing chocolate and chicken in the same dish took a bit of getting used to but it’s now become a squad favourite.

Urine for a surprise

One of the stranger parts of the job, that I wasn’t quite ready for when I started, is the morning hydration test for the players, when we check their urine. We have a thing called an osmolality reader which shines a light through the sample and gives a reading to indicate how dehydrated they are. That way we can catch any kind of dehydration early on.

One of the team

I think it would be hard to be so heavily involved in the sport if I didn’t love it as much as the players do.

 

JOB SPEC

Hours

A lot of early mornings, often starting at 6.30am. 

Salary

Between £20-25k when starting out, increasing with experience. 

Location

Mostly based at the training ground with some travel.

Benefits

• Working with elite rugby players every day and being part of the team’s success

• Seeing your advice translate into gains on the field, no matter how small

Responsibilities

• Plan full menus for hotels and training camps.

• Advise players on what they should be eating, when and why.

• Keep up-to-date on latest ideas in performance nutrition.

Skills

• Good listener – everyone has their own dietary requirements.

• Understanding of complex nutritional science and able to explain it.

• An ability to convince someone to come around to your way of thinking.

Qualifications

Relevant science degree, or postgrad in sports nutrition.

Want to get a physique like a Rugby player? Check out James Haskell's monster workout or find out how Maro Itoje bulked up

Optimum Nutrition is a proud sponsor of Saracens RFC, to find out more visit onacademy.co.uk

Artwork: Chris Barker

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