Oct 02, 2023
Shawn Pitcher is a registered sports dietitian based in Atlanta Georgia, with eight years’ experience working with athletes from a range of levels in the US (high-school, D3, D2, D1 NCAA, Pre-Olympic, IMG Academy NFL combine Prep and NBA). Shawn regularly recommends Beet It Sport to his athletes and says the following:
“We encourage athletes to intake one or two Beet It Sport Nitrate 400 shots 1-3hrs prior to training - nitrates can help by vasodilating the blood vessels which encourages increased oxygen and nutrients to the muscle, increased exercise capacity, improved muscle contraction, improved performance, and immune health benefits.”
1. How did you first get involved in dietetics?
• My interest started in high school. I started in athletics at 7 years old. I was quite overweight at the time and was trying to find an everything and anything on the internet on how to improve my fueling for sport. In high school we had a teacher who taught cooking, nutrition, and home economics. Her daughter was a dietitian. My teacher, her daughter and my school counsellor made me aware that this was an opportunity I could pursue in college. I was able to find a school that I could play football and do dietetics and nutrition which was at Buffalo State University. My first exposure to sports nutrition was through one of my professors. She got me in contact with several sports dietitians at the time which springboarded my knowledge on how to carve into the field.
2. What type of sports and at what level have you worked in?
a. Sports I’ve worked with: Football, M Soccer, M Lacrosse, M/W Basketball, M/W Golf, Softball, Baseball & Track
b. Levels I’ve worked with: Middle school/High school (13-19 years old), D3, D2, D1, Pre-Olympic (Garrett Appier), IMG Academy NFL combine Prep, and the last 2 years at my previous job our team developed 5 players to the NBA.
3. What do you like most about working as a dietitian in sport?
The lightbulb moment and watching athletes apply what you recommended to them in real time. To see them succeed, improve, and help them as they transition to future levels of sport, and I was lucky enough to be a piece of their puzzle along that journey is very satisfying as a practitioner.
4. What are some of the key nutritional takeaways that athletes get from you?
40-60% of your day is spent doing 3 things: Eating, Sleeping and Hydrating. Each of these can have a direct impact on your performance, injury risk and overall health. You must do them every day, and you can’t stop doing them. Invest in these tools now so that it fosters the behaviours and nutrition skill acquisition that’ll help you throughout a lifetime.
5. What advice do you have for athletes who do not have access to a sports dietitian?
a. Utilize free resources that are available for athletes (AND, SHPN, USOC, CPSDA, AIS, SDA, nutrition.gov, dairy alliance/food organizations, Eat 2 win app by Tavis Piattoly)
b. See if you booster, athletic director, coach, parents, or school is willing to invest in a sports dietitian. Weather it’s simply 1:1, group talks or focusing on 1 sport at a school to start.
c. Reach out to local sports dietitians in your area (private, college, pro) and see if they would be willing to do a free or low-cost talk for your school/team. You’ll never know the answer if you don’t ask.
6. What advice do you have for someone looking to become a sports dietitian?
a. Get as much hands on experience as you can early on. Go to a school that has a sports dietitian and volunteer. Learn as much as you can so when you apply for a graduate or fellowship position you’ll be ready to tackle and question or scenario they throw at you because you’ve already experienced it.
b. Communicate, communicate, communicate!
c. Ask a lot of questions. Don’t stay stuck behind the counter stocking and making smoothies.
d. Have a growth mindset. You can learn from everyone. Even if that’s from the custodian up to the CEO
e. What value can you bring to a program that no one else can. How do you stand apart
f. Get a masters degree that compliments what you’ll do on the job (business, psychology, exercise science/kinesiology, social media)
g. Mistakes are OK. They’re how you learn, develop, and become and better practitioner.
h. Know your worth
7. The world of sports supplements can be very confusing and difficult to navigate - how do you communicate the use of sports supplements to athletes?
a. Make sure you’re getting your information from a high-quality source that’s providing research backed information or experience to back up their claims.
i. Registered/Licensed Dietitian or a PhD (Nutrition/dietetics or related degree preferred)
b. Don’t believe everything you hear on social media. Just because someone has 100,000 – 1M followers doesn’t mean they are an expert. They could just be doing it for money and clicks.
c. Always choose a supplement that is third party tested. We want to reduce the risk for inappropriate substance that could negatively affect an athletes health or cause them to be positive on a drug test. That can result in loss of money, scholarships, games played or in the worst cases your career
i. NSF For Sports, Informed Choice for Sport, BCSG, USP, Examine.com, or natural medicines database
8. Which sport would you most like to work in and why?
a. Football will always be near and dear to my heart because I played from 7 years old into college. In the fall time you’ll find me watching college and NFL football.
b. At the end of the day regardless of sports for me it comes down to how I can make an impact on an athlete to become a better human and role model through nutrition
9. Why are you such a fan of our Beet It Sport products?
a. When I was originally pursuing my PhD at Ole Miss. I was going to conduct a study utilizing beet juice with our Olympic sport power-based athletes to determines its performance effect on their resistance training, during practice or competition. When I was doing a literature review of all the studies on beet root/beet juice, Beet Its name consistently popped up as one of the main products used amongst within the studies. Since 2006 their product has been used in over 250 published research papers, which goes to show the lengths they are going to finding out how this beet can play a major role in health athletes.
10. What role does Beet It Sport play for the athletes you manage?
a. I regularly recommend it to my athletes. Based on schedule and timing of their activity we encourage they intake it 1-3 hours prior to training, 300-600mg of nitrates. Nitrates can help by vasodilating the blood vessel which encourages increased oxygen and nutrients to the muscle, increased exercise capacity, improved muscle contraction, improved performance, and immune health benefits.
b. Alongside the product I always encourage my athletes to increase their intake of leafy greens, and beets to maximize the other nutrients they’ll get from eating those whole foods.
c. Beets can be very earthy in flavor, so we have come up with solutions that are palatable to the athlete like mixing it with Gatorade, other juices or in a smoothie. Other athletes could care less and will drink it as is because of he benefits they feel during training.