The aim of this study was to investigate the dietary regimens reported by athletes competing at a major international competition and report whether these were based on nutrient composition, religious beliefs, cultural eating style, food intolerance or avoidance of certain ingredients. A questionnaire was randomly distributed to 351 athletes in the main dining hall of the athletes’ village over the three main meal periods during the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games (23rd Sept—14th Oct, 2010). The majority (n = 218, 62%) of athletes reported following one or more dietary regimens, with 50% (n = 174) following a diet based on the nutrient composition of the food. Significantly more athletes from weight category and aesthetic sports (28%, p = .005) and from power/sprint sports (41%, p = .004) followed low fat and high protein regimens respectively. Other specialized dietary regimens were followed by 33% of participants, with avoidance of red meat (13%), vegetarian (7%), Halal (6%), and low lactose regimens (5%) reported most frequently. Significantly more athletes from non-Western regions followed a vegetarian diet (p < .001), while more vegetarians reported avoiding additives (p = .013) and wheat (p ≤ .001). A Western style of eating was the most commonly reported cultural regimen (72% of total with 23% from non-Western regions). Those following a Western diet were significantly more likely to report following a regimen based on nutrient composition (p = .02). As a high proportion of athletes from differing countries and sports follow specialized dietary regimens, caterers and organizers should ensure that adequate nutrition support and food items are available at similar events.
The authors are with the School of Health and Sports Sciences, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore, Queensland, Australia.