I’m new to the Hardwick Life family. My name is Casey Thomas and I am a Performance Dietitian. Basically, that means I tell people what to eat in order to improve their performance (both physical and mental).
I’m super excited to be joining up with Nick to help deliver some high quality nutrition information. In the coming weeks, I’ll be working to address hot topics in nutrition, as well as provide you with some actionable strategies you can use to help you on your journey to peak health and performance.
I wanted to first introduce myself and give you a little information about me so that you know where I’m coming from. I’ll try to keep it short because I hate talking about myself. If this stuff bores you, feel free to skip over this message and wait for next week’s where we get into the meat and potatoes (food pun intended).
First and foremost, I consider myself a nutrition guinea pig. Nutrition has always fascinated me. I can guarantee you that if you have heard of a diet or supplement, I’ve tried it. I have a very strict protocol and I keep detailed notes in a series of mini journals. I’ll give the diet/supplement 30 days and keep notes on subjective things like how I’m feeling and how my workouts are going. I’ll also log quantitative things like body composition and circumference measures. My doctors hate me because I always get blood work before and after to compare (and I do a lot of these). All of this can sometimes be despite my better judgement. Even if I know the diet is going to be terrible, I feel obligated to give it an honest try. One diet in particular took me nearly half a year to get my labs back to normal...
Anyway, I started out pre-med with the goal of becoming a neural surgeon. Once I started working with doctors and saw how they lived, I decided that wasn’t for me. Instead, I thought it’d be awesome to go be on the forefront of scientific discovery. So what did I do? I went and worked in clinical research investigating various supplements and pharmaceutical compounds and their effects on the brain.
During my undergrad and clinical research time I had a private practice where I was a ‘nutritionist’*. My nutrition side gig was simply a hobby at that point, but something I was good at from years of being a guinea pig.
*Side bar: Anyone can be a nutritionist. It is not credentialed. ‘Dietitian’ is the term for a nutrition professional.
Working with supplements and drugs, I started to draw in some high level athletes who were looking for the next ‘big thing’ that wasn’t yet banned. Let me explain. Many people think elite athletes are freakish physical specimens. That’s true, but everyone these days has access to amazing trainers and facilities so everyone is in peak physical condition already. More often than not, what really separates the best from the elite are neurological differences – things like reaction speed and decision making capacity. Supplements that boost neurological functions are not well-regulated and provide a unique opportunity for performance enhancement.
My love for nutrition kept growing as I took on more clients. I soon realized I couldn’t get the job I wanted being just a nutritionist, so I decided to go back to school to become a dietitian. I’ve been working with UCLA Athletics ever since I passed my dietitian exam.
Today, I still keep a foot in the academic world – I’m a published scientific author, expert peer reviewer, and an instructor with UCLA Extension. I also keep a foot in the private practice world – I work with professional athletes, high school athletes, and people simply looking to improve, in addition to consulting for other sports programs, universities, and businesses looking to gain a performance edge.
Looking back, I used to think I wasted my time working in research. However, it has turned out to be my greatest strength. Having a research background in sports nutrition (as a practitioner and not an ivory tower academic) is incredibly rare. I’ve used it to my advantage to help many people improve their body composition, health, and performance (and picked up some championships along the way).
Let’s turn away from my weird professional journey and do a few personal highlights. I grew up watching obstacle course shows on Nickelodeon like Double Dare and Legends of the Hidden Temple. I’m a bit older now, but I still think obstacle courses are one of the funnest things you can do. I love meeting up with people at these events, so let me know if you’re doing one!
I love dogs and we can’t be friends if you don’t. Our dog, Obi (named because we thought his beard made him look like old Ben Kenobi), is still a puppy but he’s earning his keep chasing away the neighbor’s chickens from our yard. He has one unconfirmed chicken kill.
Whew. Nice. We’ve made it through the ‘About Me’ section.
Next week we can get into the juicy nutrition stuff. I love talking about nutrition, so if there is a topic you want to know more about, PLEASE let me know. But be careful…my friends and family are constantly having to cut me off because I get too in to it and talk their ears off.
Casey Thomas, MS, RDN
Basketball Performance Dietitian
UCLA Department of Intercollegiate Athletics