Athletes, like all people, have special nutritional needs based on their age, lifestyle, health status, level of physical activity, physical conditioning, and type of sport. The diets of many athletes are inadequate due to overly restrictive eating habits, nutrition misinformation, dietary fads, and/or obsession with weight and food. There is a growing need for sports nutrition counseling and education to help athletes improve their eating habits. However, before attempting to develop intervention strategies, sports nutritionists should assess the metabolic changes that take place during exercise and how these changes affect nutrition status. In addition, it is important to consider how psychosocial factors may influence an athlete's eating habits and his/her ability to make positive changes. A two-pronged model is introduced that can be used as a guide for the practitioner in interpreting relevant data and integrating physiological and psychological considerations for the design of individualized nutrition care plans for athletes.
Jean Storlie is with the Department of Clinical Nutrition at Rush University, Chicago, and with JS Associates, 522 Mahogany Way, Vernona, WI 53593.