Fueling Victory: An interview with Dr. Werner, PhD, RD, CSSD
Discover the secrets of peak performance & optimal nutrition with exclusive insights from Dr. Emily Werner, team dietitian for the Philadelphia 76ers.
In the realm of professional sports, optimal nutrition and peak performance go hand in hand. That’s why successful teams hire board-certified sport dietitians to ensure that their athletes are properly fueled to compete in their sport as well as provide proper nutrition to recover and support their overall well-being.
Timeline was lucky enough to sit down for an exclusive interview with Dr. Emily Werner, PhD, RD, CSSD, team dietitian for the Philadelphia 76ers. Throughout her career, Dr. Werner has established herself as a leading expert in the intersection of science, nutrition, and athletic performance.
During our conversation, Dr. Werner shares some of the strategies she employs to optimize the nutrition of her athletes, offering unique insights that have contributed to their success. Moreover, she sheds light on her belief in the unique benefits of Mitopure and its potential to enhance athletic performance and support overall well-being.
Whether you are a competitive athlete or enjoy sports recreationally, Dr. Werner offers some great insights into improving performance.
Dr. Emily Werner on Why She Recommends Mitopure for Her Atheletes
Tell us a little bit about how you became interested in sports nutrition and your professional background.
My name is Emily Werner, PhD, RD, CSSD. I hold a Master's in Human Nutrition, a PhD in Kinesiology, and am a registered dietitian (RD) that is a Certified Specialist in Sport Dietetics (CSSD).
In a similar way to most sport dietitians, I became interested in sport nutrition because I was an athlete myself. I grew up playing basketball and even played for two years in college at the Division III level. Through all those years of playing, I knew nothing about nutrition. In my entire athletic career, I can recall only one singular “nutrition” talk from an athletic trainer, which was them showing us a urine-color chart to emphasize proper hydration. So when I was considering what to do for my career path, I settled upon something to do with athletes and sports nutrition because I wanted to do better for future athletes than was done for me. Then, I was introduced to the idea of becoming an RD, PhD, which is a rare combination.
After completing my Master's at Drexel University, I completed my dietetic internship at the University of Michigan. I was fortunate to land a rotation in their Athletic Department, which was my first exposure to being a team sport dietitian.
During my PhD at Michigan State, I was employed by the Athletic Department as the team dietitian for men’s and women’s basketball, which is when my love for being a team dietitian really blossomed. I decided to shift my focus from a career in academia to a career in professional sports because I believed that would be the best environment for my dual expertise in nutrition and exercise science. In 2020, a position for Team Dietitian with the Philadelphia 76ers of the NBA opened up and I was blessed with the opportunity to take on that role. I have now been in that role for three seasons.
I wanted to do better for future athletes than was done for me.Dr. Emily Werner on her passion for sports nutrition
What are the top 3 strategies you use with your athletes to support their health and performance?
Three strategies I focus on with athletes to support their health and performance are an appropriate diet, plenty of sleep, and optimal hydration.
An appropriate diet means that the athlete is fueling in a way that addresses their goals, their training schedule, their health, and their personal preferences. Trying to find a place where all of those things meet can be tough, but it’s absolutely doable. An appropriate diet can also include a tailored supplement strategy to cover any gaps that arise based on the athlete’s preferences.
Plenty of sleep is aiming for 8-10 hours per night. Our bodies recover while we sleep, so getting enough sleep time is crucial for athletes. Additionally, there is very strong evidence showing that sleep deprivation leads to negative health and performance outcomes. If an athlete struggles with sleep, I work to help them develop a strategy to improve their sleep hygiene, and that hopefully leads to improved sleep.
Optimal hydration is absolutely essential for athletes. Research has shown that even 1-2% dehydration in athletes leads to decreased performance. Beyond 2%, dehydration has even further detrimental effects. Considering how often athletes are training and how much they sweat, it’s very important that I’m teaching the athletes how to hydrate before relying on thirst cues to tell them when to drink.
Why is mitochondrial health important for you and the athletes you work with?
As overplayed as this saying is, it’s true: the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell. With over 90% of our energy (ATP) being produced in the mitochondria, it’s vital that the mitochondria are well-functioning.
Everyone’s mitochondria become dysfunctional as we age and experience stress, and this is exacerbated in athletes who are constantly training and competing. So as their mitochondria experience more and more oxidative stress, they are able to produce ATP less efficiently, which then has downstream negative effects on their health, performance, and recovery.
With over 90% of our energy (ATP) being produced in the mitochondria, it’s vital that the mitochondria are well-functioning.Dr. Emily Werner on the importance of mitochondrial health
What about Mitopure is exciting for you as a sports dietitian
Mitopure is exciting for me as a sports dietitian because it addresses mitochondrial health in a way that no other strategy can. There is research showing the benefits of strategies like exercise and intermittent fasting for mitochondrial health; however, both of those strategies have limitations in an athlete population. Athletes are already exercising plenty, and their training/competition schedules may not be conducive to an intermittent fasting dietary pattern. Mitopure can address mitochondrial health through simple supplementation, and the research on it has shown some pretty incredible results for muscle health.
Looking outside of the world of sports performance, how do you help your athletes optimize their health and longevity?
I help my athletes optimize their health and longevity through the power of nutrition. The food we eat is not only the immediate fuel for our body, but our dietary patterns set the tone for our entire lives. Eating a diet that is rich in vegetables, fruit, lean proteins, whole grains, and unsaturated fats is the best way to optimize both current health and future longevity.
Knowledge is power
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