Ask the Expert: Renee McGregor

Renee is a leading Sports and Eating disorder specialist dietitian with 20 years experience working in clinical and performance nutrition, with Olympic (London, 2012), Paralympic (Rio, 2016) and Commonwealth (Queensland, 2018) teams. She is presently working with numerous national governing bodies, including Scottish Gymnastics, The GB 24 hour Running squad and The England Ballet company. She is the best-selling author of Training Food, Fast Fueland Orthorexia: When Healthy Eating Goes Bad. She is the co- founder of #TRAINBRAVE a campaign raising the awareness of eating disorders in sport; is on the REDS advisory board for BASES (The British Association of Sport and Exercise Science) and sits on the International Task Force for Orthorexia.

  1. What has led you into youth sport?

I didn’t specifically set out to work in Youth sport but prior to working in sport, my specialist area in clinical dietetics was paediatrics. When I started working in sport in 2010, I covered all sports gymnastics, football, athletics, triathlon and swimming just to name a few. It was my knowledge, ability to work with and get engagement with younger athletes through innovative strategies that has meant that I have a place within this population.

2. What has been your biggest influence in your practice in youth sport?

My main ethos when working athletes regardless of age is to ensure balance so one of the key influences has actually been trying to provide credible and accessible education that counteracts so much of the pseudoscience available on social media.

3. What is your particular area of interest?

My main area of interest is supporting growth and development while also ensuring an athlete progresses through their sport, particularly with regards to hormones and bone health.

4. How do you think this particular area applies to youth athletes?

I think this has a really important place to play in youth athletes who are laying down 90% of their bone mass during adolescence. Puberty can particularly be a challenging time for many as the body changes shape which can impact sports performance. Supporting an athlete through this time both nutritionally but also helping them to manage their expectations and look at the long game is something I’m very passionate about.

5. What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

Sometimes you have to be a little selfish in order to look after yourself.

6. What advice would you give to coaches working with youth athletes?

The main advice I would give is think about your communication and particularly the language you use. Athletes tend to be a certain type of personality that can be highly self critical and sensitive meaning they often interpret information differently to how it was intended. Set realistic goals and help young athletes to think about the bigger picture so they have a sustainable career.

7. Can you recommend any particular resources for youth sport coaches?

I think a lot of the individual national governing bodies are putting out some great resources for their coaches, like Scottish Gymnastics.

8.Where can people find out more about you and your work? (Social media links, websites etc.)

Instagram: @r_mcgregor Twitter: @mcgregor_renee

Thanks to Renee for sparing her time and expertise!

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