There is a lot of information out there about nutrition and healthy eating. Often this information is conflicting and it can leave us feeling confused and overwhelmed about what to eat and drink to help us with our running and fitness goals. Who should we trust? Alex Cook is an experienced dietitian with a sports speciality. We had a chat with her to find out what is a dietitian?
What is a dietitian?
Dietitian’s are the gold standard of health and nutrition professionals. Our work ranges from tube feeding in intensive care setting, managing paediatric allergies to helping sportsmen and women reach their performance potential.
Choosing the right person to seek help and advice from can sometimes be a confusing task. Many people claim to be experts in nutrition yet have very limited knowledge and offer no protection to the public.
The title dietitian is protected by law, and only those registered with the health care professional council (HCPC) can use the title.
What made you interested in studying to become one?
My first degree was a BSc (hons) in Sport & Exercise Science at the University of Birmingham. I was lucky enough to study with one of the world’s renowned sports nutrition Professors Asker Jeukendrup.
My passion for nutrition and performance was born from that. I also had an interest for all things medical, so nutrition in a clinical setting seemed the perfect profession for me – hence my nutrition and dietetics post grad .
How long did you have to study for?
To be a dietitian you need to do either the direct 4 years undergraduate degree in Nutrition and Dietetics or 3 years BSc (physiology based) and 2 years post grad in Nutrition and Dietetics! It was 5 years in total for me!
What working experience have you gained over the years?
I have worked in a number of wonderful settings. I did my first 3 years with the NHS in London working in the acute hospital setting and out in the community.
I then met a soldier, got married and moved to Germany. Here, I became the dietitian for the families and soldiers as part of British Forces Germany.
Since then, I have done a research job with the Institute of Naval Medicine and started my own business. Although I do still see clinical clients, I specialise now in endurance sports nutrition.
I also write for quite a few well-known running magazines as well such as Trail Running, Athletics Weekly and Running Fitness.
What’s the best part about working in this field?
I love people and I meet so many of them in this job. Mostly though I love helping people achieve their goals. I build up really good bonds with some of my clients and helping them get the best out of their everyday life and sports performance is so satisfying.
What are you most proud of?
Being a dietitian and a mummy at the same time! That is enough to be proud of I think!
How has your knowledge helped your own running?
I would say they have both helped each other. As a runner having competed over various distances since I was in my teens I can pretty much say I have faced every single type of nutrition dilemma there is…bad tummy’s, injury, loosing weight, gaining weight, running through pregnancy, fuelling ultra marathons to name a few.
I get to practice what I preach which is vital to be able to advise other runners properly. My knowledge does help my running as well. I would pretty much say I can give myself a perfect marathon nutrition strategy….just so long my tummy decides to go along with it on the day!
What do you eat on an average day?
I have not eaten meat since I was 12 but I do eat fish. A typical day may look like this (and please read between the lines..I do have biscuits and chocolate…just not all the time!)
Breakfast – Weetabix or porridge with dried or fresh fruit.
Tea and glass of water
Mid-morning (post run) – Peanut butter on toast or and a banana and a coffee
Lunch – Egg or tuna with quinoa/rice and lots of salad (rocket, spinach, avocado, seeds etc..) or a wrap with the same inside! Piece of fruit (and sometimes a biscuit or cereal bar)
Mid Afternoon – Toast/oatcake and honey or fruit
(and yes I do pick at the children’s tea…everyone does that don’t they??!
Dinner – Salmon or quorn mince and pasta with a large serving of salad (of course!)
Plain yogurt with fruit and granola.
What do you eat before a long training run?
If I am getting up early I will only have a banana and a coffee. I have been long distance running since I was in my late teens (my first London marathon I was 19) so just so long I am fuelling during my runs with gels and bars my energy levels keep up..I am used to it.
If I have time or if I am racing, I will have a normal breakfast of Weetabix or porridge.
Do you drink?
Yes, but not much. I am a real light-weight. If I do drink I love pinot noir or bubbles!
What is your favourite naughty treat?
This is tricky! It has to be chocolate or pancakes with maple syrup! Though to be honest I don’t view anything as naughty, if I fancy it I don’t deny myself, I just try to do it mindfully!
Do you drink litres of water?
I have to make a real effort to drink enough like anyone, but when I am hydrated I feel so much more alive! I don’t have a great thirst reflex and come in from a run reaching for tea rather than water.
I find a glass of water with lemon in makes me drink more and also I am starting to really love herbal teas!
If you would like to hear more from Alex Cook come to our Run Mummy Run Spring in her Step event. We have teamed up with Running Adventures again for this exciting event for our Run Mummy Run members. Join us for this fantastic afternoon of inspirational talks, running advice and socialising. Don’t miss out. Book now!
Alex Cook will happily talk anyone through how she and Dupl can help with any goals big or small. Just go to the Dupl Website. Alex is offering 50% off for the first month with no obligation continue after the first month. Quote ‘RMR-Dupl-fifty’.
Alex is a sports and clinical dietitian, she works for herself and for the online Fitness and Nutrition company Dupl (Dupl.me). She loves nothing more than talking running and nutrition. Alex has a passion for helping everyone from beginners to advanced athletes achieve positive changes in their daily lives as well as achieve their goals. As a runner herself, and having two children and a career, she understands how easily daily life can impact health, fitness and food choices.
You can follow Alex on her Facebook page too. All the nutrition information she provides you with will always be backed up by the latest scientific evidence
• Sports Science BSc (Hon), University of Birmingham, Pg.Dip RD Nutrition & Dietetics, Edinburgh University
• Competitive distance runner – won the Endurance Life Exmoor Marathon, beating the course record by 14 minutes!
• Writes for Athletics Weekly, Running Fitness, Fit & Well, Woman Magazine and Trail Running
Other Run Mummy Run nutrition blogs you may be interested in are…..