Weight control on restricted energy budget
Penelope is an elite-level gymnast who has just turned 15 years old. She is training for the World Championships next year in the hope of making the Olympic team the following year. Recently, Penelope started worrying about what she was eating as her weight had increased by 2 kilograms over the past 6 months, with a slight increase in body fat (skinfold measurements). She started weighing herself every morning before training, which only made her more confused as her weight changed from day to day. She thought skipping breakfast before training might help decrease her weight. The only problem was that this tended to make her very hungry at dinner and overeat. Penelope's coach encouraged her to see a sports dietitian to assist her in losing the unwanted weight she had gained.
The sports dietitian assessed Penelope's usual dietary intake and found she was not meeting her carbohydrate, protein, calcium and iron requirements. Many of her snack choices during the afternoon tended to be high in fat such as potato crisps and chocolate, and her evening meals were often prepared with high-fat cooking techniques. Most of her foods were eaten late in the day which partly explained her apparent lack of energy and inability to recover after training.
It’s important to consider the consumption of nutrient-dense foods regularly throughout the day to help control appetite and, importantly meet nutrition needs for health and performance. Breakfast was included as a pre-training snack in Penelope’s eating plan and incorporated cereal, milk and fruit. Nutritious snack foods were added after her morning session, serving as morning tea and replaced the high-fat snack choices she was making later in the day. Penelope and her mum attended a supermarket tour that highlighted nutritious snack choices such as low-fat fruit yoghurt, muesli bars, wholegrain crackers and fruit. They also attended a cooking class to learn about low-fat cooking methods for their evening meal and were provided with an athlete specific, low-fat cook book.
After discussion with Penelope, her parents and her coach it was decided that he weight would be best monitored fortnightly when reviewed by the dietitian with body fat assessed (using skinfold measurements) each eight weeks.
Realistic goals and timeframes were set for Penelope’s weight loss and within three months, she was on the road to success - her weight and body fat level had decreased to her usual training values and her performance during training had improved.
Written by AIS Sports Nutrition, last updated June 2010. © Australian Sports Commission.