The purpose of this study was to examine the seasonal changes in body composition, nutrition, and upper-body (UB) strength in professional Australian Football (AF) players. The prospective longitudinal study examined changes in anthropometry (body mass, fat-free soft-tissue mass [FFSTM], and fat mass) via dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry 5 times during an AF season (start preseason, midpreseason, start season, midseason, end season) in 45 professional AF players. Dietary intakes and strength (bench press and bench pull) were also assessed at these time points. Players were categorized as experienced (>4 y experience, n = 23) or inexperienced (<4 y experience, n = 22). Fat mass decreased during the preseason but was stable through the in-season for both groups. %FFSTM was increased during the preseason and remained constant thereafter. UB strength increased during the preseason and was maintained during the in-season. Changes in UB FFSTM were related to changes in UB-strength performance (r = .37−.40). Total energy and carbohydrate intakes were similar between the experienced and inexperienced players during the season, but there was a greater ratio of dietary fat intake at the start-preseason point and an increased alcohol, reduced protein, and increased total energy intake at the end of the season. The inexperienced players consumed more fat at the start of season and less total protein during the season than the experienced players. Coaches should also be aware that it can take >1 y to develop the appropriate levels of FFSTM in young players and take a long-term view when developing the physical and performance abilities of inexperienced players.
Bilsborough and Coutts are with the Sport & Exercise Discipline Group, University of Technology, Sydney, NSW, Australia. Greenway is with the Royal Melbourne Inst of Technology, Bundoora, VIC, Australia. Livingston is with the Elite Performance Unit, Carlton Football Club, Carlton North, VIC, Australia. Cordy is with the Western Bulldogs Football Club, Footscray, VIC, Australia.