Our Role at the AIS
AIS sports dietitians conduct a range of activities and services including:
- Individual consultation
- Group education
- AIS Dining Hall
- Team travel
- Developing resources
- Servicing our partners
- Commercial services
- Professional development
- Multidisciplinary teams
At the start of a nutrition program at the AIS, most AIS athletes attend an individual screening session with their team dietitian to assess their eating patterns and important nutrition issues. Throughout the year, athletes may attend follow-up sessions with their dietitian to discuss specific dietary concerns or questions. Issues that require individualised attention include nutrient deficiencies (e.g. iron deficiency), weight management, failure to recover well from training sessions, and specialised competition eating plans. The athlete may initiate their own appointments or may be referred by other sports science/medicine professionals, their coaches, or house parents from the AIS residence.
Nutrition education sessions are presented to AIS teams, as well as sporting groups visiting the AIS through the National Sports Program, or on commercial camps. The topics are individualised to the group and can range from a general overview of eating well for sport, to specialised topics such as bulking up, eating for post-exercise recovery, fuelling and hydration strategies for competition, and eating on the run while travelling. Sometimes, education sessions are conducted in a traditional lecture format. On other occasions we include creative activities such as a game show format, role playing, food taste testing, video clips and group discussions.
Practical activities provide an informal and true-life way to develop nutrition knowledge and skills. Cooking classes are one of our most popular and useful activities. These classes teach athletes how to plan menus, organise catering for a group house, and feel comfortable in the kitchen. Recipes are taken from the AIS Sports Nutrition cookbooks. All our meal ideas are quick to prepare, full of carbohydrate for refuelling, low in fat, and taste delicious.
The AIS Dining Hall caters up to 1000 meals a day, feeding AIS athletes with residential scholarships as well as visiting groups. The service hours are breakfast (6:30 am - 10:00 am), lunch (12:00 pm -1:45 pm) and dinner (5:45 pm - 8.45 pm). Our food service dietitian develops seasonal menus, which operate on a 4 week cycle. The mission statement of the Dining Hall is to "feed athletes for today, and educate them for tomorrow". Our education strategies include providing nutritional information cards for each dish or food provided on the menu. Each card describes the nutrient content of a serve of food, and points out important nutritional features. As a quick guide we also use a traffic light system to rate the food and assist athletes to make good choices. All new residential athletes attend an orientation session to explain how the Dining Hall operates and how to make best use of the food service at the AIS.
AIS Sports Nutrition has summarised their experience in the AIS Dining Hall to produce a resource book on large quantity cooking: Cooking for Champions: a guide to healthy large quantity cooking for athletes and other healthy people.
National and international travel is a way of life for top athletes. The dietitians in the AIS Sports Nutrition recognise the challenges posed by having to eat on planes, trains and automobiles, rely on hotels and restaurants, and deal with foreign foods and destinations with risky food and water supplies. Sometimes we are included on the team, and travel with them to competitions or specialised training camps. On other occasions we work from the AIS home base and make arrangements that will streamline the catering for the travelling team. Our services include pre-arranging menus and meal requirements with airlines, restaurants and hotels, or organising food supplies to accompany the team to make up for the lack of important and favourite foods in the country of destination. It is important to organise sports drinks to consume during workouts and competition, and recovery snacks and drinks to consume afterwards. We also arrange education sessions to make athletes aware of the travel nutrition plan, or alert them to the special challenges they will face.
AIS Sports Nutrition has an active research program, investigating nutritional strategies to enhance performance, or the special nutritional requirements and concerns of athletes. Many of our projects are undertaken in partnership with the Sports Medicine or Physiology at the AIS. We also collaborate with colleagues at Deakin University, RMIT University and the University of Melbourne. Our research interests include dietary supplements and nutritional ergogenic aids, carbohydrate metabolism and endurance performance, fat adaptation strategies, post-exercise recovery, fluid balance during training and competition, and dietary assessment techniques for athletes. Our goals are to find practical nutrition strategies that our athletes and coaches can use to achieve optimum performance. Often this will involve examining metabolism during and after exercise to discover how complex systems work. We publish our results both in peer-reviewed journals and in lay level coaching and sports magazines. More information about our research projects can be found in the Research section of our website.
It is important to have state-of-the-art education tools to teach sports nutrition to athletes, coaches, parents, trainers and other sports scientists and medicine professionals. We develop special resources for our work at the AIS. Many of these are well suited to life outside our walls - for other elite athletes, recreational sports people, and members of the general public who are physically active and interested in eating well. Other resources present our experience and expertise to other professionals who want to develop a career in sports nutrition. Our books, videos, fact sheets and booklets are used internationally as well as around Australia. Many of these resources can be found or purchased on this website. See the Resource section of our website for further details.
Many of our resources are developed with the support of our partners.
AIS Sports Nutrition enjoys partnerships with a variety of companies and organisations. The support of our partners helps us to achieve important servicing and education activities for AIS athletes and coaches. Their funding is often used to develop education resources or undertake research projects. We are able to assist our industry partners by developing special sports foods or other food products that end up on your supermarket shelf. Sometimes we help them to prepare education and marketing strategies for everyday foods that stress the role of healthy eating in an active lifestyle.
We have also developed a strategic alliance with Deakin University in Melbourne, to collaborate in undertaking state-of-the-art sports nutrition research, and to develop and deliver 'cutting edge' opportunities for undergraduate and postgraduate education in sports nutrition. More information on our partners can be found in the Sponsors section of our website.
When circumstances permit, the AIS Sports Nutrition can provide a range of innovative nutrition services to non-AIS sports, including school and university groups, community and professional sporting teams, and private businesses. Services range from nutrition lectures, cooking nights, school and other education resources to the writing of publications. Our ability to provide commercial services depends on our workload and commitment to AIS servicing.
Attending conferences and professional meetings is an important way to keep up-to-date with the latest in sports nutrition. It also provides an opportunity to present our own research to the wider sports science or coaching community. Two annual meetings that we support are the Sports Medicine Australia (SMA) conference and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) scientific meeting.
AIS Sports Nutrition conducts a 4 day Continuing Education Course in Sports Nutrition for dietitians, on behalf of Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA). Experts in exercise physiology and sports nutrition provide a comprehensive overview of the science and practice of sports nutrition. Workshops and contact with athletes from the AIS provide a practical insight into the issues facing dietitians who work with athletes.
Together with the Physiology, Medicine, Physical Therapies, Strength and Conditioning and Performance Psychology we provide a multidisciplinary service to assist the well-being and performance of AIS athletes and some national teams. Often special issues are targeted for a multidisciplinary approach - for example, to develop the AIS Sports Supplement Program , or to manage the multi-faceted issue of recovery. The Alcohol and Recreational Drug Education Program has involved the input of sports science and sports medicine (SSSM) staff as well as other experts in athlete welfare from the AIS and beyond. Major research interests benefit from the collaboration of the SSSM team.