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Brooke L. Devlin and Regina Belski

Nutrition knowledge is believed to influence nutritional intake, which in turn influences performance in elite athletes. There is currently no published data on the nutrition knowledge of elite Australian Football (AF) players. The purpose of this study was to gain insight into the current level of general and sports nutrition knowledge in elite male AF athletes. Forty six elite male AF players (23.5 ± 2.8 years) answered 123 questions relating to five areas of nutrition knowledge: dietary recommendations, sources of nutrients, choosing everyday foods, alcohol and sports nutrition. Demographic details and perceptions of nutrition knowledge were collected for all participants. The mean nutrition knowledge score was 74.4 ± 10.9 (60.5%). The highest score was obtained in sports nutrition section (17.9 ± 3.0, 61.7%). The dietitian was selected as the first source of information by 98% of athletes, with club trainer and teammates as second choice for 45.7% and 23.9% of athletes, respectively. The majority of athletes correctly answered questions regarding recommendations to increase fruit and vegetable intake and decrease fat intake (95.6%, 91.1% and 93.3% correct respectively). While 80% of the athletes were aware fat intake should predominately be made up of unsaturated fat, they were less able to identify food sources of unsaturated fats (35.6% and 24.4% correct for statements regarding monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, respectively). Broad nutrition messages and recommendations appear to be well understood; however, gaps in nutrition knowledge are evident. A better understanding of nutrition knowledge in athletes will allow nutrition education interventions to target areas in need of improvement.

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Brooke L. Devlin, Michael D Leveritt, Michael Kingsley and Regina Belski

Sports nutrition professionals aim to influence nutrition knowledge, dietary intake and body composition to improve athletic performance. Understanding the interrelationships between these factors and how they vary across sports has the potential to facilitate better-informed and targeted sports nutrition practice. This observational study assessed body composition (DXA), dietary intake (multiple-pass 24-hr recall) and nutrition knowledge (two previously validated tools) of elite and subelite male players involved in two team-based sports; Australian football (AF) and soccer. Differences in, and relationships between, nutrition knowledge, dietary intake and body composition between elite AF, subelite AF and elite soccer players were assessed. A total of 66 (23 ± 4 years, 82.0 ± 9.2 kg, 184.7 ± 7.7 cm) players participated. Areas of weaknesses in nutrition knowledge are evident (57% mean score obtained) yet nutrition knowledge was not different between elite and subelite AF and soccer players (58%, 57% and 56%, respectively, p > .05). Dietary intake was not consistent with recommendations in some areas; carbohydrate intake was lower (4.6 ± 1.5 g/kg/day, 4.5 ± 1.2 g/kg/day and 2.9 ± 1.1 g/kg/day for elite and subelite AF and elite soccer players, respectively) and protein intake was higher (3.4 ± 1.1 g/kg/day, 2.1 ± 0.7 g/kg/day and 1.9 ± 0.5 g/kg/day for elite and subelite AF and elite soccer players, respectively) than recommendations. Nutrition knowledge was positively correlated with fat-free soft tissue mass (n = 66; r2 = .051, p = .039). This insight into known modifiable factors may assist sports nutrition professionals to be more specific and targeted in their approach to supporting players to achieve enhanced performance.

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Gina L. Trakman, Adrienne Forsyth, Kane Middleton, Russell Hoye, Sarah Jenner, Stephen Keenan and Regina Belski

Sports nutrition is an evolving field, but there is a lack of data on Australian athletes’ knowledge of current sports nutrition guidelines. Additionally, several tools used to assess nutrition knowledge (NK) have not undergone adequate validation. The purpose of this study was to assess and compare the sports NK of elite and nonelite Australian football (AF) athletes using a newly validated questionnaire—The Nutrition for Sport Knowledge Questionnaire. Elite AF players (n = 46) were recruited directly from their club dietitian and nonelite AF players (n = 53) were invited to participate via e-mail from their club president or secretary. The mean NK score of elite and nonelite AF players was 46 ± 16% and 51 ± 11%, respectively (p = .041). In both groups, knowledge of macronutrients, weight management, and alcohol was better than knowledge of supplements, micronutrients, and sports nutrition. Nonelite athletes achieved statistically significantly higher scores on the questionnaire subsections testing weight management (elite: 48 ± 18; nonelite: 57 ± 19, p = .019), micronutrients (elite: 39 ± 19; nonelite: 50 ± 16, p = .004), and alcohol (elite: 52 ± 13; nonelite: 71 ± 17, p = .002). While overall NK of Australian athletes was poor, scores varied greatly among individuals (range: 10–70%) and across the six subsections (topics) being assessed. Professionals working with athletes should undertake an assessment of the athletes’ NK so that they can provide targeted education programs.

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Regina Belski, Alex Donaldson, Kiera Staley, Anne Skiadopoulos, Erica Randle, Paul O’Halloran, Pam Kappelides, Steve Teakel, Sonya Stanley and Matthew Nicholson

This study evaluated the impact of a brief (20-min) nutrition education intervention embedded in an existing mandatory coach education course for coaches of junior (8–12 years old) Australian football teams. A total of 284 coaches (68% of 415 coaching course participants) completed a presession questionnaire, and 110 coaches (27% of coaching course participants) completed an identical postsession questionnaire. The responses to the pre- and postsession surveys were matched for 78 coaches. Coaches’ ratings of their own understanding of the nutritional needs of young athletes (6.81, 8.95; p < .001), the importance of young athletes adhering to a healthy diet (9.09, 9.67; p = .001), their confidence in their own nutrition knowledge (7.24, 8.64; p < .001), and their confidence in advising young athletes on nutrition and hydration practices (6.85, 8.62; p < .001), all significantly improved following the education session. Nearly all coaches (>95%) provided a correct response to six of the 15 nutrition and hydration knowledge questions included in the presession questionnaire. Even with this high level of presession knowledge, there was a significant improvement in the coaches’ nutrition and hydration knowledge after the education session across five of the 15 items, compared with before the education session. The results of this study suggest that a simple, short nutrition education intervention, embedded in an existing coach education course, can positively influence the nutrition knowledge and self-efficacy of community-level, volunteer coaches of junior sports participants.