Barriers to optimal nutrition for elite athletes

The dietary intake of elite athletes is covered extensively throughout the scholarly literature. There is evidence to suggest that the distribution of macronutrient consumption among elite athletes often follows population trends, with higher than optimal levels of fat and protein being consumed over carbohydrate (Heaney, O'Connor, Naughton & Gifford, 2008). Moreover, sub-optimal intake of micronutrients by athletes participating in high risk sports, where low body weight or extreme leanness is desirable (marathon, triathlon, gymnastics, ballet dancing, figure skating and light-weight rowing), is reported. In a recent study, researchers from the University of Sydney examined the barriers influencing the dietary practices of elite level athletes (Heaney, O'Connor, Naughton & Gifford, 2008). In this study it was found that time, financial constraints, food access, physique, shopping and cooking skills, and nutrition knowledge were the key barriers influencing whether athletes ate an appropriate diet or maintained optimal nutrition. For example, it is well understood that elite, amateur athletes, living away from home and attending university, make poor food choices, largely based on time and financial constraints. For this reason, Heaney, O'Connor, Naughton & Gifford (2008) inform athletes that seeking expert knowledge can assist in successfully planning meals on a limited budget, and develop strategies to streamline shopping and food preparation time.

Heaney, S., O'Connor, H., Naughton, G. & Gifford, J. 2008. Towards and understanding of the barriers to good nutrition for elite athletes. International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching, 3, 3, 391-401.

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