Scott Littlefield MS, CN, CISSN
More informed interventions. More impactful results. Better athlete performance… It all starts with smarter measurements – measurements that can provide clear data on progress and outcomes, that can inform you as to what’s working and what’s not, that can support the A, D, M, and E in ADIME to guide better interventions.
ADIME: it's not just for one-on-one nutrition. Heck, it's not even unique to nutrition - it's how any problem is solved in the real world.
A group of DI female athletes had their iron levels checked and deficient athletes were put on an iron supplement by the dietitian - theoretically a very beneficial measurement and intervention for health and performance... Compliance wasn’t thoroughly assessed. Levels weren’t rechecked. Follow-ups weren’t completed. Impacts weren’t measured... Multiple athletes discontinued use because they misunderstood that they “shouldn’t take their supplements if consuming dairy”. Others stopped because of GI distress. Others continued intake through GI distress. Others continued high and potentially harmful intake for 2+ years without re-assessment. Those that did benefit (and their coaches) NEVER knew.
Failure to measure proper variables turned a potentially valuable intervention into a waste of time, money, and effort. As nutrition professionals, we have a lot on our plates (pun!). But, when we don’t measure properly, we don’t effectively manage care and we fail to ensure results.
A professional athlete was told he needed to improve his speed-to-weight ratio to keep his spot, but he struggled to reduce fat mass. The team dietitian, maybe busy with other athletes and responsibilities, told him to reduce carbohydrate intake at dinner by eating according to an “easy” day plate. The athlete continued to struggle and was cut before reaching out on his own to my practice… not at all an uncommon experience (he was re-signed with both better body composition and speed about 3 months later, but that’s besides the point). Had the initial intervention, progress, energy intake, timing, or challenges been measured, the athlete could have avoided this stressful process.
Now magnify this experience across large groups of athletes. Are interventions being planned and monitored with measurements beyond subjective spot checks? Are those even transformed into hard, communicable data? Does data even help to inform, prioritize, and evaluate your interventions? You can’t get results, let alone better results, without better measurements. Even public health nutritionists overseeing thousands and thousands of individuals find ways to measure baselines, impacts, and outcomes.
Challenges in measurement have led to innovation: with current tools, we can measure more without excessive time inputs, we can design and evaluate better interventions, and we can provide clear and obvious value to our athletes and programs. How nice would it be to be able to show the improvements in athlete intake/behavior because of your interventions or the extra muscle hypertrophy attained or the impacts on athlete end-points like home run rate or 2k time?.. All things that are now possible and have been done.
And yet how often do you measure body composition and change without associating it with your interventions to quantify the value of your nutrition education? How often do you talk about the importance of carbohydrate intake to athletes without knowing the needs of each athlete day to day and who is meeting needs and who is not and how many are improving and to what extent? How seriously do you talk about the impacts of RED-S without being able to identify your athletes who have low energy availability? How often do you wish for a higher salary, more respect, or another dietitian on staff without being able to point to clear data that shows athlete baselines, your interventions, athlete change, and resulting performance impacts?
Fuelogics provides actionable data from individual to group levels to enhance the practice and impact of performance nutrition.
Scott Littlefield MS, CN, CISSN
Scott co-owns a private practice - ViTL Nutrition - where he works one-on-one with athletes as well as with programs from high school to professional levels across the country. He is a founding member of Fuelogics. These days you'll likely find him testing the boundaries of strength, size, and the mile-run or the limits of human taco consumption.