Nutrition education (NE) serves as a pivotal tool to enhance athletes’ dietary habits, with its efficacy often hinging on its alignment with athletes’ preferences and needs. A recent study (Solly ET al. 2023) delved into the NE predilections of New Zealand and Australian national and international athletes, revealing key insights that could significantly inform the design and implementation of athlete nutrition education programmes.
Engaging Teaching Methods and Content Relevance
The study, involving 124 athletes across 22 sports, identified that themes such as energy, hydration, and nutritional deficits, alongside pre-exercise nutrition and recovery, were deemed essential. Moreover, skills like adapting meals to performance requirements and crafting meal and snack ideas took precedence over cooking skills and grocery shopping.
Striking a Balance in Session Format and Duration
In the realm of session format and duration, athletes indicated a penchant for a combination of in-person group and one-on-one sessions (25%). Only a meagre 13.3% of participants expressed interest in exclusively online delivery, possibly influenced by screen fatigue during COVID-19 lockdowns. A dominant preference emerged for sessions lasting between 31-60 minutes (61.3% of athletes), held monthly (37.5%).
Credibility and Experience of Facilitators Take Centre Stage
When it came to facilitators, athletes unmistakably preferred performance dietitians or nutritionists who not only had a profound understanding of sports nutrition (85.5%) but also came with a stamp of credibility and trustworthiness (73.4%). The inclination was towards facilitators who were knowledgeable, accessible, and exhibited a non-judgmental demeanour, with a willingness to immerse themselves in learning about the sport in question.
Implications and Future Trajectories in Nutrition Education
This study sets the stage for a deeper understanding of how NE can be moulded to be more attuned to athletes’ preferences and consequently, be more impactful. Importantly, the findings draw attention to the importance of creating engaging, interactive, and practically relevant content, facilitated by experienced and trustworthy professionals. While the current data provides a robust starting point, the exploration of varied athletes’ NE preferences – considering factors like age, sport type, performance level, cultural background, and prior NE exposure – warrants further investigation.
In a nutshell, as fitness professionals curate NE programmes, a synthesis of fun, engaging, and visually appealing content, balanced with reliable information and facilitated through credible, experienced nutrition coaches or dietitians, emerges as a likely formula for success. Engaging athletes in a dialogic, goal-setting process, and providing actionable, practical skills and knowledge seems paramount in crafting a nutrition education journey that is not only informative but also empowering for athletes across the board.
In light of the findings, it’s evident that the practical implementation and subsequent evaluations of such NE designs may pave the way for crafting nutrition education strategies that are not only knowledge-enriching but also behaviour-altering, optimising athletes’ nutritional practices and overall performance trajectories.
- Solly, H.; Badenhorst, C.E.; McCauley, M.; Slater, G.J.; Gifford, J.A.; Erueti, B.; Beck, K.L. Athlete Preferences for Nutrition Education: Development of and Findings from a Quantitative Survey. Nutrients 2023, 15, 2519. Click here to review the full research article
Become a Nutrition Coach
Elevate your athletes’ performance with our exclusive Level 4 Nutrition & Weight Management Course, meticulously designed based on the latest research findings on athletes’ nutritional education preferences! Our course integrates vital aspects revealed in a recent study involving elite athletes from New Zealand and Australia, ensuring your training approach aligns with what athletes truly need and want. Dive into a learning experience that melds essential topics like energy management, hydration, and nutritional deficits with practical, hands-on exercises and real-life examples, as favoured by 47.6% of athletes in the study. Not only will this course empower you with the knowledge to guide athletes in optimising their dietary habits for peak performance, but also equip you with the skills to provide interactive, engaging, and personally relevant nutrition education sessions. This course is engineered to enhance both your expertise and your athletes’ performance on the field, ensuring a win-win scenario for all!
Nutrition Coach Course – Distance Study