Sports nutrition experts recommend that team-sport athletes participating in intermittent high-intensity exercise for ≥1 hr consume 1–4 g carbohydrate/kg 1–4 hr before, 30–60 g carbohydrate/hr during, and 1–1.2 g carbohydrate/kg/hr and 20–25 g protein as soon as possible after exercise. The study objective was to compare observed vs. recommended macronutrient intake of competitive athletes under free-living conditions.
The dietary intake of 29 skill/team-sport athletes (14–19 y; 22 male, 7 female) was observed at a sports training facility by trained registered dietitians for one 24-hr period. Dietitians accompanied subjects to the cafeteria and field/court to record their food and fluid intake during meals and practices/competitions. Other dietary intake within the 24-hr period (e.g., snacks during class) was accounted for by having the subject take a picture of the food/fluid and completing a log.
For male and female athletes, respectively, the mean ± SD (and percent of athletes meeting recommended) macronutrient intake around exercise was 1.4 ± 0.6 (73%) and 1.4 ± 1.0 (57%) g carbohydrate/kg in the 4 hr before exercise, 21.1 ± 17.2 (18%) and 18.6 ± 13.2 (29%) g carbohydrate/hrr during exercise, 1.4 ± 1.1 (68%) and 0.9 ± 1.0 (43%) g carbohydrate/kg and 45.2 ± 36.9 (73%) and 18.0 ± 21.2 (43%) g protein in the 1 hr after exercise.
The male athletes’ carbohydrate and protein intake more closely approximated recommendations overall than that of the female athletes. The most common shortfall was carbohydrate intake during exercise, as only 18% of male and 29% of female athletes consumed 30–60 g carbohydrate/hr during practice/competition.
The authors are with the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, Barrington, IL.