What is a CSSD?

Pittsburgh Dietitian Blog Posts
February 20, 2023

Written by: Ava Elliott, Marketing Intern & Future Dietitian

Reviewed by: Allison Wade MS, RDN, LDN, CSSD & Lisa Balestrino MS, RD, LDN, CSSD

What is a CSSD?The Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) is a professional credential for registered dietitians (RD) with experience in sports dietetics. The components of a CSSD encompass sports nutrition and performance optimization, diet and exercise for chronic diseases management and eating disorder intervention and prevention. This advanced credential is vital to look for in a dietitian if you are seeking advice on sports related topics.Who would benefit from working with an RD who has their CSSD credential?Anyone from the weekend warrior to the collegiate athlete. An RD can help those with their fitness goals while providing professional insight into all things sports dietetics related. Maybe you are wondering about which supplements for hydration are best. Maybe you have diabetes and you are active, and need help managing your blood sugar levels. Maybe you are an advanced athlete or a high school football player. Maybe you need help to fuel your body to perform your best at your sport or competition. A sports dietitian can help you be fit as you age and help you meet your health goals during all stages of life.CSSD vs Personal Trainer, Nutrition Coach…Look for the CredentialsDietitians in practice for at least two years with documentation of 2,000 hours of sports dietetics practice are eligible for the CSSD credential. All dietitians have background knowledge in all disease states, metabolism of the body, and so much more. But, when seeking professional advice on anything sports-dietetics related, the RDs with the CSSD credential are the preferred professionals. Think about the difference between a “nutritionist” and a registered dietitian nutritionist here...RDs have a minimum of a bachelor's degree or master's degree in nutrition and dietetics and graduated from an accredited program in dietetics. They also have completed their dietetic internship with 1200 hours of supervised experiential learning under a dietitian, have passed their national board certification exam to become a dietitian, and became licensed to practice in their state. On the other hand, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist because there are no mandated requirements. I don’t know about you, but I’m choosing a dietitian over a “nutritionist” 10/10 times.Similarly, a dietitian with their CSSD is going to be a qualified health professional to help you on your fitness, disease management, and sports journey. A personal trainer is a certified fitness professional, but a dietitian with their CSSD will have the expertise on tying nutrition with fitness. They will be able to provide medical recommendations and evidence-based research advice regarding your health and fitness goals. Dietitians always are grounded in science and practice with evidence-based scientific knowledge. A sports dietitian can help you bridge the gap between in-season and out of season nutrition, help with muscle cramping, overtraining syndrome, balancing your electrolytes, and so much more!More About Allison & LisaAllison Wade, Founding Dietitian and Lead Dietitian at the Raleigh office is very passionate about sports and how food can modify the body. Allison obtained her CSSD credential about a year ago and her passion for sports stemmed from her youth. Growing up, Allison loved watching and playing sports. She was always interested in how food made her feel and affected her performance and energy levels for marathons or competitions. Allison was inspired by Leslie Bonci, former sports dietitian for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and saw just how important food and exercise were tied together. In college, Allison was fascinated with how the RDs helped fuel athletes at the fueling stations and during practice and began to study the role of a dietitian in sports. Now, Allison works with a lot of athletes and enjoys weightlifting and helping others fuel properly for performance.Lisa Balestrino, Lead Dietitian at the South Hills office grew up an athlete on a farm with homegrown food. She quickly realized if she fueled and ate a certain way then she'd feel better for workouts. Lisa grew up in a very active family and has done half marathons, CrossFit, and a bodybuilding competition, to name a few activities. Lisa experienced disordered eating habits and started learning she needed to eat more to fuel her body; she saw connections between underfueling (underfeeding) and fueling for performance. Lisa began learning more about sports dietetics and the value of having a qualified credential, like the CSSD. Now with her experience and credentials, Lisa uses tools and training to help others have better outcomes that are tangible. For example, working to educate clients about food and nutrition for shaving off mile time helps her clients to see how food connects to performance.You can connect with Allison and Lisa via email by scheduling an appointment at scheduling@casespecificnutrition.com. If you would like to work with a sports dietitian like Allison or Lisa, it can be a great experience to work with a qualified professional to fuel your body for your health and fitness goals.

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