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Nutritional Knowledge According to Sport Disciplines

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Nutritional knowledge

In a Cross-Sectional study conducted in Nigeria among 110 undergraduate athletes, revealed that 78 % of them do not seek for nutritional advice while rest only 21.8 % seek nutritional advice. More than half i.e. 64 % of the athletes had good NKS and 41.8 % had poor NKS. Slightly more than half 57.1 % of the questions related to NK was answered correctly equivalent to mean NKS of 45.7 ± 4.7 by all the players and the mean Nutritional Practice Score (NPS) among the softball players was 2.8± 1.3, where the score of 5 was the healthiest nutrition practices. The significant relationship was found between the players NKS and quality of their food selection as indicated by Nutritional Choice Score (NCS) for e.g. the lower the players nutrition knowledge, poorer their eating habits. A study done among the college sportsmen (Volleyball Players, Weight Lifters and Runners) to assess the nutritional knowledge, attitude and practice revealed that the elite players are sophisticated and knowledgeable about the nutrition and its effect on the performance. Runners were more aware about the role of nutrition in the performance followed by Volleyball players and least aware were weight lifters. Runners were more aware about the role of vitamins and minerals and sportsmen were aware about the importance of hydration during athletic periods. Awareness of loading carbohydrate was seen among 38 % of the athletes and the consumption of glucose polymer drink was followed by 58 % of athletes during exercise. Nutritional knowledge depends upon the sport disciplines which can be seen in the table below;

Table 3: Nutritional knowledge according to sport disciplines

S.N Nutrition Aspects Volleyball Players (Positive answers %) Weight Lifters (Positive answers %) Runners (Positive answers %)

1 Carbohydrate 56 68 79

2 Protein 42 43 75

3 Fat 35 18 39

4 Vitamins and Mineral 45 23 48

5 Hydration 51 17 43

In a Descriptive study conducted in handball players to access the nutritional practice of athletes in Oman found, players nutritional requirement knowledge was only 23 % correct for total energy intake, 46 % for carbohydrate intake, 63 % for protein, 11 % for fat intake and 83 % for water.

Nutritional Habit

According to a study done among 30 college going female hockey players poor nutritional habits among the female players leads to the development of Female triad Syndrome which comprised the eating disorders, Amenorrhea, osteoporosis and osteopenia. Players are eating more fast foods, junk foods and soda sparingly which affects their health and performance. 60 % of players think snacks as the good source of energy and were involved in eating junk foods. A Cross-Sectional study among 110 Nigerian undergraduate athletes found that 70 % of the athletes do not frequently consume cereals, roots and tubers, the main source of carbohydrate and were not meeting the RDA for macronutrients. Food frequently consumed by majority of the athletes were fish, poultry and eggs/milk.

A study was conducted among 17 Professional Female Volleyball players in Poland revealed that Female volleyball players do not implement the recommendation for rational nutrition fully, the energy provided by the daily diet do not provide the adequate energy to meet daily requirement (mean 1909.6 ± 560.1 kcal). According to WHO the daily dietary fibers requirement is 27-40 g/day but it was inadequate (mean 19.8 ± 5.8 g) among the female volleyball players.

In India, a study done on selected sportsmen of Coimbatore District to assess the nutritional status, nutritional knowledge and impact of nutrition education among the selected 100 sportsmen aged between 20-35 years found that more than half i.e. 52 % of the sport persons had the habit of consuming only two meals per day, 25% had habit of 3 meals per day and 8 % had habit of consuming more than three meals per day, 10 % had habit of consuming 2 meals per day with snacks and the rest 5 % had habit of consuming three peals per day with snacks. 65 % of the sportspeople had habit of skipping of meals, among them who skips meals 15 % skipped breakfast, 26 % lunch and 24 % dinner. And all the players had the habit of eating junk foods. Majority of the players (54 %) consumed bakery items and rest 26 % preferred the fried items. RDA for all the macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein and fat) were not met by about 90 % of the sports players and many of the players were out of the normal range for iron, calcium, and zinc. Only 22 % of the participants had the habit of loading carbohydrate before event and only 22 % restricted the fat intake but good hydration practice was seen among the players.

A study conducted in Jalpaiguri, India to assess the dietary practices among 120 University male sportsmen the change in the nutritional pattern by the sportsmen was observed in 43.33 % during the time of competition and the skipping of meals was seen among 31.67 % of the sportsmen. Consumption of glucose polymer drink was seen in 43.33 % of sportsmen during the time of exercise. More than one-third (34.17 %) of the sportsmen take sports drink before practicing everyday whereas the consumption of rising CHO was observed in 63.33 % at the time of exercise. A study carried out to assess the nutritional practices of Indian female athletes revealed that all the 100 athletes were eating vegetables, cereals and sugar daily followed by milk (94%), curd (91%), pulses (85%), cooking oils (79%), butter (74%), fruits (51%), ghee (38%), green leafy vegetables (37%), oil seeds (17%), cheese (12%) and bakery products (10 %). In a study carried out among 102 college sportsmen in Tamilnadu, India found 63 % of the athletes change their dietary pattern at the competition and 69 % of the players used to skip their meal prior to the competition. Among the total of 102 athletes, 34 % had habit of taking energy bars during exercise, 64 % energy gel. 66 % of the athletes consumed rinsing at the time of exercise. The habit of consuming isotonic sports drink was seen in 44 % of the athletes.

Another study conducted among collegiate freshman football players in Georgia found that the high-school athletes had healthier dietary practices than non-athletes, athletes were more likely to consume more breakfast, dairy products, fruits and vegetables daily. Players eat 3.6 times a day on average and the most choicest place for dining were fast food (55 %), followed by cafeteria/buffet style food (16%), Mexican (10%), American grill (7%), seafood (7%), Chinese (3%), and pizza (3%). The players enjoyed wide variety of food items in their diet and only 26 % avoid sweets, 13 % avoid fried foods, 10 % avoid fats and oils, 7 % avoid fast foods, dairy, and fish and 3 % avoid red meat. 42 % of the players were found to use dietary supplements. A descriptive study conducted in Oman among 35 handball players concluded that 55 % of the players had < 3 meals/day, 51 % add extra salt to their diet, 51 % had luch as their principal meal, 28 % had habit of taking protein supplements daily. It is interesting to know that none of the players had habit of consuming vitamin or minerals supplements. Players had poor nutritional practice, their meal constitutes were rich in carbohydrate, red meat, saturated fats but few intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.


The players think that the lower the body weight, the better you can perform and you have the more chances of being selected in better category. Physical appearance and weight of the players influence the food selection of the female players. Players believes that they must consume lot of Desi Ghee and milk to get extra energy to play.


Performance of athletes and their nutritional status is associated with the nutritional knowledge of Coaches/Trainers so the trainers and coaches should be more aware of nutritional knowledge deficits in players and they should also be competent to formulate the intervention plan through individual counselling, preseason seminars, posters and handouts. In a survey conducted among collegiate freshman football players found that the players were more likely to be influenced and encouraged by coach and teachers for nutritional practices.


The cultural influence was clearly seen in making the food choices. During menstruation the players are not allowed to eat cold foods i.e. mostly all the fruits except mangoes and dates. The male members in the family either of players or non-players gets the best and first choicest foods and females are served later with the leftovers.


Marketing may also be one of the contributing factor for making confusion between healthy and non-healthy food choices.

Exposure to media

A study conducted in Kurushetra University of India among College going women hockey players found that Players were never involved in any nutritional education program and they never tried to get the nutritional information, whatever little they knew were from various sources like; Parents, Magazines, TV and Teammates. Another study done among the selected sportsmen of Coimbatore District, India revealed that most of the nutritional knowledge received by athletes were from parents, coaches, and peers and yet the many athletes knowledge were lacking and inadequate.

Personal Habits

A study in selected 100 sportsmen in Coimbatore District, India found that 60 % of the players do not have habit of smoking, tobacco, alcohol or steroids, and 20 % had habit of smoking, about 17 % had habit of consuming alcohol and few of them were having tobacco but it is interesting that none of the players had habit of using steroids. In a study done in Georgia among the freshman collegiate football players revealed that 52 % of the players avoided alcohol.

Training Time

Timing and composition of meal also plays the important role in the players’ performance, training adaptations and preventing overtraining. Carbohydrate takes about 4 hours to be digested and stored as muscle and liver glycogen. So, the pre-exercise meal should be consumed 4-6 hours before exercise. Light carbohydrate (50g) and protein (5-10g) snacks 30-60 mins before exercise helps to increase the availability of carbohydrate towards the end of an intense exercise and to increase the availability of Amino acid which decreases the exercise induced catabolism of protein. When the exercise lasts for more than one hour Glucose/electrolyte Solution should be ingested by athletes to maintain blood glucose level, reduce immunosuppressive effect of heavy exercise and help prevent dehydration. After the intense exercise, athletes should consume carbohydrate (1g/kg) and protein (0.5g/kg) within half an hour after exercise and high carbohydrate meal within 2 hours after the exercise. This Nutritional strategy has helped the Athletes to accelerate glycogen resynthesis as well as promote recovery. And 2-3 days ahead of competition, Athletes should reduce their training by 30-50 % and consume extra carbohydrate (200-300 g/day). This helps to supersaturate carbohydrate stores ahead of competition and also improves the endurance exercise capacity. Thus timing and type of meal are important in maintaining carbohydrate availability during training and decreasing the incidence of overtraining.

Fluid Consumption

When 2 % or more of the body weight is lost as sweat it will decrease the performance and when it exceed more than 4 % of body weight during exercise it may lead to health illness, heat stroke, heat exhaustion and possibly death. So, it is important that Athletes should consume sufficient amount of water and GES sports drink during exercise to maintain hydration status. Depending on exercise intensity, temperature, humidity, and sweat response to exercise, the normal sweat rates of Athletes ranges from 0.5-2 L/h. To maintain fluid balance, Athletes needs to ingest 0.5-2 L/h in order to recover weight loss. For this, the Athletes should consume 1glass of cold water or a GES sports drink every 5-15 mins during exercise. A study conducted in Georgia among 31 collegiate freshman football players to assess their dietary practices, attitude and physiological status revealed that more than 90 % of players were aware about importance of maintaining proper hydration status.

Peer pressure

A study conducted among football players in Georgia states; due to peer pressure, high expectation, lack of knowledge and higher training may put the young collegiate players at risk of poor nutritional practice.

Body image

Excessive body fat has negative influence in the performance and the players were seen to be aware about that fact, 81 % of the players wanted to gain lean mass, 52 % wanted to reduce their body fat, 13 % wanted to maintain their current body composition, and only 3 % wanted to lose weight. 32 % of the players said it was very easy to maintain their body weight during in-season, 42 % said it was somewhat easy, in contrast 19 % of the players said that it was somewhat difficult to maintain their body weight and 7 % found it was very difficult to maintain their weight. Similarly, 23 % reported that they were very satisfied with their physical appearance, 71 % were somewhat satisfied, and 7 % of the players were somewhat dissatisfied with their current physical appearance.

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