A Comparison of Pre-Competition Eating Patterns in a Group of Non-Elite Triathletes

in International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism

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Anna Robins
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Marion M. Hetherington
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A qualitative research study investigated food choice by triathletes prior to training and competition, and gauged attitudes towards nutritional management. Five focus groups were conducted with 7 male and 6 female non-elite triath-letes. Sessions were semi-structured, tape recorded, and transcribed verbatim for coding and analysis. Transcripts were coded using grounded theory and higher order themes emerged including: “somatic complaints,” “performance,” “trust,” “preferences,” and “routine.” Food choices, especially those of the more competitive triathletes, were made to maximize performance. Choices were based on past experience and “trial and error” rather than specialist advice. Subjects varied in nutritional knowledge, which appeared to relate to the level of competitiveness. More competitive triathletes were interested in improving performance but distrusted others making their nutritional choices. Less competitive triathletes embraced nutritional manipulation for gains in cognitive and athletic performance. “Trust” became a focus of the study and warrants further investigation, as this is a crucial component of providing nutritional advice to competitive athletes and to the general population.

Robins is with the School of Community, Health Sciences and Social Care, University of Salford, Greater Manchester, M6 6PU, United Kingdom. Hetherington is with the School of Psychology, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow G4 OBA, United Kingdom.

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