How much do you really know about what to eat to get the best results from your workout or the best performance while running, playing tennis or doing any other competitive sports? Well, when you are the Director of Performance Nutrition for UCLA Athletics, the answer is, you know an awful lot, and lucky for us, Beth Miller is willing to share. Welcome to She’s Fit To Lead, Beth, we look forward to getting a lot more of your great advice!
What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
No day is the same, which makes it fun. I wear a lot of different hats in this role; I do a lot of team talks with our olympic sports teams as well as one-on-one counseling for individual athletes for any of their nutritional needs, medically and sports performance-based. I also manage our fueling station that we have here on campus. A lot of budgeting goes along with that. I organize and manage all of my student intern volunteers and coordinate with the medical team which includes physicians, medical trainers, sports psychologists, and athletic performance coaches. I have meetings throughout the day with various sport coaches, and I do a lot of body composition assessments. Again, no day is the same. It’s all of that stuff mixed up.
Your bio says you ran cross country and track for the University of Tennessee Tech. How did nutrition play a role in your success there?
It played a huge role. I came into college as a softball player. I played softball my freshman year of college and also was a nutrition major. At that time, I did not know I wanted to do sports nutrition. I just knew I wanted to do nutrition in general. Then, between freshman and sophomore years of college, I made the the transition from being a softball player to a cross country runner. Because of the different training involved in cross country, I needed to use all of my forces to get me to where I needed to be for that level. Nutrition was a huge part of that. I applied what I was learning and saw it work, and fell in love.
What factors made you want to become a nutritionist?
I had an interest through high school. We were doing some career searching and I got to job shadow a community dietitian. That’s when I decided I wanted to get into nutrition. Then it was college when I knew I wanted to do sports nutrition.
Is there a difference between a dietitian and nutritionist?
Yes, our new credential is RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist, but I still go by RD. Registered dietitians are those who are medically trained, as well. You have to go through an undergraduate program and then a long, extensive internship program to get all of your practice hours to become a dietitian. Nutritionists can go through some other smaller programs, but they cannot do any medical counseling.
What was your path to becoming a sports dietitian?
After I decided in high school that nutrition was what I wanted to go into, I began looking for schools where I could be an athlete and do a dietetics program. I went to Tennessee Tech University and got my Bachelors of Science in food, nutrition, and dietetics. From there I went to Florida State where I did a combined master’s program. It was master’s and my dietetics internship combined.
How did you get this job specifically and what made you take it?
When I was finishing up with my master’s program, I worked as a volunteer for University of Tennessee and Florida State, so I had already worked in sports nutrition for 4 years. I knew that college is where I wanted to get my start. At the time, I was a student member and a student chairperson for the Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitian Association. Then, this job opened up, and I knew someone who had previously worked here, so I applied for it and went through the interview process, and here I am!
What advice do you have for someone who wants to pursue a career in nutrition?
Definitely gain a lot of experience in all areas because nutrition is such a broad career. You can go into so many avenues. Start volunteering and getting jobs in different areas to see where your niche is. Network and don’t be afraid to ask questions to those who are already in the field because there are a lot of great experiences out there.
What advice would you give to someone preparing for an interview in this field?
Be confident in your skills and the experiences that you have had. Go prepared to show your work. It’s one thing to tell people what you have done and what you can do, but it’s really important to show it. Prepare a portfolio of projects you have done in the past and bring that along with you. Go in with a very open and applicable mind. Nutrition is an ever-changing science field, and they want to know that you can take the science and knowledge that you have and apply it to the people who you are working with.
How do you keep building your knowledge in this field?
Having professional organizations and listservs are huge ways to get started. There are a lot of articles and new science topics that are brought up, so I need to make sure I stay on top of it. Each day you can get bogged down with the day-to-day and everything you need to do, so it is important to not get lost. You are not going to know everything, but when you do get a question that you don’t know, it’s important to take a step back and say, ‘I’ll look into that more and get back to you.’