A Mismatch Between Athlete Practice and Current Sports Nutrition Guidelines Among Elite Female and Male Middle- and Long-Distance Athletes

in International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism
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Contemporary nutrition guidelines promote a variety of periodized and time-sensitive recommendations, but current information regarding the knowledge and practice of these strategies among world-class athletes is limited. The aim of this study was to investigate this theme by implementing a questionnaire on dietary periodization practices in national/international level female (n = 27) and male (n = 21) middle- and long-distance runners/race-walkers. The questionnaire aimed to gain information on between and within-day dietary choices, as well as timing of pre- and posttraining meals and practices of training with low or high carbohydrate (CHO) availability. Data are shown as percentage (%) of all athletes, with differences in responses between subgroups (sex or event) shown as Chi-square x2 when p < .05. Nearly two-thirds of all athletes reported that they aim to eat more food on, or after, hard training days. Most athletes said they focus on adequate fueling (96%) and adequate CHO and protein (PRO) recovery (87%) around key sessions. Twenty-six percent of athletes (11% of middle vs 42% of long-distance athletes [x2 (1, n = 46) = 4.308, p = .038, phi = 0.3])) reported to undertake training in the fasted state, while 11% said they periodically restrict CHO intake, with 30% ingesting CHO during training sessions. Our findings show that elite endurance athletes appear to execute pre- and post-key session nutrition recovery recommendations. However, very few athletes deliberately undertake some contemporary dietary periodization approaches, such as training in the fasted state or periodically restricting CHO intake. This study suggests mismatches between athlete practice and current and developing sports nutrition guidelines.

Heikura is with the Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Australia. Stellingwerff is with the Canadian Sport Institute Pacific, Victoria, Canada. Mero is with Biology of Physical Activity, University of Jyvaskyla, Finland. Uusitalo is with the Dept. of Clinical Physiology and Nuclear Medicine, HUS Medical Imaging Center, Helsinki, Helsinki University Central Hospital and University of Helsinki, Finland. Burke is with the Mary MacKillop Institute and Dept. of Sports Nutrition, Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra, Australia.

Address author correspondence to Ida A. Heikura at ida.heikura@myacu.edu.au.

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