Dietary intake of professional Australian football athletes surrounding body composition assessment

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2018, 15 (1)
Issue Date:
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© 2018 The Author(s). Background: Sports Dietitians aim to assist in improving performance by developing nutrition knowledge (NK), enhancing dietary intake and optimising body composition of athletes. In a high-pressure environment, it is important to identify factors that may compromise an athlete's nutrition status. Body composition assessments are regularly undertaken in sport to provide feedback on training adaptions; however, no research has explored the impact of these assessments on the dietary intake of professional athletes. Methods: This cross-sectional study assessed dietary intake (7-day food diary), nutrition knowledge (Nutrition for Sport Knowledge Questionnaire) and body composition (Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) of 46 professional male Australian football (AFL) athletes during a 2017 pre-season training week (7days) where body composition assessments were undertaken. Dietary intake was assessed against International Olympic Committee recommendations for professional athletes. Results: Overall, no athlete met dietary their recommended energy intake (15±1.1 vs. 9.1±1.8MJ, respectively) or carbohydrate recommendations (6-10 vs. 2.4± Only 54% met protein recommendations. Secondary analyses demonstrated significant associations between education status and energy intake (P<0.04) and vegetable intake (P<0.03), with higher levels of education being associated with higher intakes. A moderately positive association was observed between NK scores and meeting estimated energy requirements (r=0.33, P=0.03). NK scores were also positively associated with protein (r=0.35, P=0.02), fibre (r=0.51, P=0.001) and calcium intakes (r=0.43, P=0.004). Conclusions: This research identified that the dietary intake of professional AFL athletes during a pre-season training week where body composition assessments were undertaken did not meet current recommendations. Several factors may influence the dietary intake of AFL athletes, including lower education levels, poor NK and dietary intake restriction surrounding body composition assessment. Athletes may require support to continue with performance-based nutrition plans in periods surrounding body composition assessment.
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