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Study: Do Young Athletes Make Appropriate Food Choices Before, During, and After Competition?

It is important that the diet of young athletes meets nutritional recommendations. This is what our research team examined at the 2011 Quebec and Canada Winter Games.

Marielle Ledoux Marielle Ledoux, RD, BSc, MSc, PhD

Professor, Department of Nutrition, Faculty of Medicine, Université de Montréal

For your practice:

  • When your services are called on for analysis or advice, determine the qualitative and quantitative nutritional criteria specific to the sports that the athletes practise.
  • Aim to collaborate with food service providers to offer more nutritious meals.
  • Provide nutrition training to coaches and share credible online sources of information (e.g., the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport).

The objectives of this study were to determine the factors that influence food choices among young Canadian athletes before, during, and after major competitions, to analyze whether their food choices meet nutritional recommendations, and to examine the coach’s role with regard to sports nutrition.

First, the diets of participants were examined during the 2011 Quebec and Canada Winter Games. Data collection was performed by taking photographs of the athletes’ trays in the area where they normally ate. The analysis of the athletes’ food choices was based on nutritional criteria that defined optimal food choices during meals as well as according to the time between meals and exercise (before and after exercise). To evaluate whether the food choices corresponded to the nutritional recommendations, three components were analyzed per meal: macronutrient distribution and variety, energy, and liquid intake. Data were also collected on the nutritional recommendations provided by these sporting events. During the Quebec Games, athlete nutrition was guided by a nutrition policy, whereas during the Canada Games, no such policy was implemented.

Second, a survey was conducted among the athletes and coaches to validate the collected data and determine which factors would be favourable to an optimal transfer of nutrition knowledge between young athletes and coaches.

Our observations and analyses showed that there is a need for nutrition training among young athletes, mainly regarding their food choices before and during competition, regardless of the level and type of sport. Also, the development of nutrition policies to provide athletes meals that meet nutritional recommendations established by scientific authorities (ACSM, ADA, DC and AIS*) should be considered. An approach is also needed to tackle problems related to athlete nutrition among this age group. Lastly, there should be a focus on providing nutrition education to coaches, since they can provide the most accessible information to athletes.

*ACSM: American College of Sports Medicine; ADA: American Dietetic Association; DC: Dietitians of Canada; AIS: Australian Institute of Sport.

References

  1. Ollier F et al. Apports alimentaires et dépenses énergétiques d’adolescents footballeurs de haut niveau: comparaison de deux méthodes d’évaluation des apports. Cah Nutr Diét 2006;41:23-31.
  2. Long D et al. Personal food systems of male collegiate football players: a grounded theory investigation. J Athl Train 2011;46:688-695.
  3. Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport. www.cces.ca.
  4. Coaching Association of Canada. www.coach.ca.
  5. Australian Institute of Sport. www.ausport.gov.au/ais.

Keywords: sport


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