The body composition, nutritional knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, and future education needs of senior schoolboy rugby players in Ireland


Journal Title (Medline/Pubmed accepted abbreviation): Int. J. Sport Nutr. Exerc.Metabol.
Year: 2011
Volume: 21
Page Numbers: 365-376

Summary of background and research design:

Background:Rugby is a high intensity sport that is gaining popularity in the US and other parts of the world. Irish school-age students are given courses on basic nutrition but not sport-specific advice.  

Research goals: To investigate the attitudes towards nutrition, nutrition knowledge, and nutrition practices among Irish rugby players age 15-18 y as well as body composition.

Subjects:Senior schoolboy rugby players (n = 203), age 15-18 y

Experimental design: field study (no intervention) 

Protocol: Each participant was measured for height, weight, and hydration status after a 4 hr fast. Percentage body fat was determined using bioelectrical impedance (in the hydrated state). The participants completed a questionnaire that inquired about position in rugby, training schedule, nutrition and hydration habits, nutrition knowledge and attitudes, and places where they obtain nutrition information (coaches, magazines, etc.)


Summary of research findings:
  • Forwards were significantly larger than backs (p< 0.01). Of the 9.7% of the athletes that were overweight, 13 of the 14 were forwards.
  • Nutritional knowledge was moderate (about 60% of the questions were answered correctly) with more questions about hydration (76.4%) being answered correctly than questions about protein (39.2%).
  • There was a large gap between nutritional knowledge and nutrition practices. For example, of the 168 athletes who claimed they knew that they should eat immediately after practice, only 67.7% reported that they eat within 30 min of exercise.
  • Dietary supplements were used by 64.5% of the athletes, the most common supplements being protein (43.8%), creatine (28.6%), and vitamin and mineral supplements (28.6%).
  • About 60% of the athletes had sought nutritional advice, but there was no significant difference in nutritional knowledge between those who had sought advice and those who hadn’t.
  • Most of the rugby players (97%) thought that they could benefit from nutritional education.

Key practice applications:

This group of athletes, although not completely ignorant, could definitely benefit from nutritional education, especially regarding timing of nutrient consumption and the fact that supplements are not necessary for great performance if they consume healthful whole foods. Creatine was consumed by a large proportion of these adolescents. Coaches should take the time to provide nutrition education for their athletes; it will likely help their performance. There is a large gap between nutritional knowledge and nutritional practices, so it is also important to find ways to translate nutritional knowledge into improved nutritional behavior in these athletes.


 

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