Adolescent female team-sport athletes are faced with the challenge of meeting nutrition requirements for growth and development, as well as sport performance. There is a paucity of evidence describing the dietary adequacy of this population in respect to these physiological demands. Therefore, the aim of this study was to comprehensively evaluate the nutrition status of junior elite female soccer athletes.
A total of 33 athletes (15.7 ± 0.7 yr) completed anthropometric assessment, 4-day food records analyzed for macro- and micronutrient intake, and hematological analysis. Energy expenditure was estimated using predictive equations.
Mean sum of 7 skinfolds was 103.1 ± 35.2 mm, and body-mass index was 22.7 ± 2.7. Mean energy intake was 2,079 ± 460 kcal/day, and estimated energy expenditure was 2,546 ± 190 kcal/day. Of the athletes, 51.5% consumed <5g/kg carbohydrate, 27.3% consumed <1.2g/kg protein, and 21.2% consumed <25% of energy intake from fat. A large proportion of athletes did not meet Dietary Reference Intakes for pantothenic acid (54.5%), vitamin D (100%), folate (69.7%), vitamin E (100%), and calcium (66.7%). Compared with recommendations for athletes, 89.3% and 50.0% of participants had depleted iron and 25-hydroxyvitamin D, respectively.
A high proportion of players were not in energy balance, failed to meet carbohydrate and micronutrient recommendations, and presented with depleted iron and vitamin D status. Suboptimal nutrition status may affect soccer performance and physiological growth and development. More research is needed to understand the unique nutrition needs of this population and inform sport nutrition practice and research.
The authors are with the School of Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.