ArticlePDF AvailableLiterature Review

Elite athletes in aesthetic and Olympic weight-class sports and the challenge of body weight and body composition

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Abstract

The use of dieting, rapid weight loss, and frequent weight fluctuation among athletes competing in weight-class and leanness sports have been considered a problem for years, but the extent of the problem and the health and performance consequences have yet to be fully examined. Most studies examining these issues have had weak methodology. However, results from this review indicate that a high proportion of athletes are using extreme weight-control methods and that the rules of some sports might be associated with the risk of continuous dieting, energy deficit, and/or use of extreme weight-loss methods that can be detrimental to health and performance. Thus, preventive strategies are justified for medical as well as performance reasons. The most urgent needs are: (1) to develop sport-specific educational programmes for athletic trainers, coaches, and athletes; (2) modifications to regulations; and (3) research related to minimum percentage body fat and judging patterns.
Elite athletes in aesthetic and Olympic weight-class sports and the
challenge of body weight and body composition
JORUNN SUNDGOT-BORGEN & INA GARTHE
Department of Sports Medicine, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway
(Accepted 21 February 2011)
Abstract
The use of dieting, rapid weight loss, and frequent weight fluctuation among athletes competing in weight-class and leanness
sports have been considered a problem for years, but the extent of the problem and the health and performance
consequences have yet to be fully examined. Most studies examining these issues have had weak methodology. However,
results from this review indicate that a high proportion of athletes are using extreme weight-control methods and that the
rules of some sports might be associated with the risk of continuous dieting, energy deficit, and/or use of extreme weight-loss
methods that can be detrimental to health and performance. Thus, preventive strategies are justified for medical as well as
performance reasons. The most urgent needs are: (1) to develop sport-specific educational programmes for athletic trainers,
coaches, and athletes; (2) modifications to regulations; and (3) research related to minimum percentage body fat and judging
patterns.
Keywords: Dieting, weight control, energy availability, fatigue, elite athletes
Introduction
Elite athletes often embody the concept of physical
perfection. However, not all athletes have, or believe
that they have, bodies that are adapted to the optimal
paradigm of their specific sport. Such athletes often
experience pressure to achieve this ‘‘ideal’’ body type
(Drinkwater, Loucks, Sherman, Sundgot-Borgen, &
Thompson, 2005; Sundgot-Borgen & Torstveit,
2010). Also, athletes competing in aesthetic sports
such as gymnasts, divers, and figure skaters, experi-
ence greater pressure to reduce weight than athletes
competing in sports in which leanness and/or a
specific weight are considered less important for
performance (de Bruin, Oudejans, & Bakker, 2007).
In addition to the socio-cultural demands placed on
males and females to achieve and maintain an ideal
body shape, elite athletes are also under pressure to
improve performance and conform to the require-
ments of their sport. They are evaluated by coaches
and judges on an almost daily basis (Nattiv et al.,
2007; Sundgot-Borgen, 1994). Weight-class athletes
have a certain weight to obtain before competition as
a requirement of the sport. These factors may lead to
dieting, the use of extreme weight-control methods,
disordered eating behaviours, and impaired health
and performance (Drinkwater et al., 2005; Nattiv
et al., 2007; Oppliger, Steen, & Scott, 2003; Slater
et al., 2005a). Data on the relationship between sport
participation, use of extreme weight-control meth-
ods, and their effect on health and performance are
inconsistent, varying by sport, level of athletic
performance, and the methodology used in different
studies. Consequently, it is difficult to draw conclu-
sions that can be adopted in elite aesthetic and
weight-class sports as a whole. However, associations
between athletes, extreme dieting behaviours, and
eating problems have been demonstrated through the
development of specific terms, including weight
cycling, anorexia athletica, and the female athlete
triad (Drinkwater et al., 2005; Nattiv et al., 2007;
Sundgot-Borgen, 1994; Sundgot-Borgen & Torst-
veit, 2004; Torstveit & Sundgot-Borgen, 2005).
To achieve fast weight loss, athletes use a number
of extreme methods and place their health at risk.
There have even been deaths among athletes
representing sports in which rapid weight reduction
and extreme dieting are common. A judo medallist
died of a heart attack probably triggered by an
extreme rapid weight-loss regimen while preparing
for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. Furthermore,
Correspondence: J. Sundgot-Borgen, Department of Sports Medicine, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Sognsveien 220, 0806 Oslo, Norway.
E-mail: jorunn.sundgot-borgen@nih.no
Journal of Sports Sciences, 2011; 29(S1): S101–S114
ISSN 0264-0414 print/ISSN 1466-447X online Ó2011 Taylor & Francis
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2011.565783
three collegiate wrestlers died probably related to
extreme dehydration methods to make weight in
1997. However, to our knowledge, none of the
international federations in Olympic weight-class
sports has implemented programmes aiming to
discourage athletes from engaging in harmful
weight-loss procedures. At present, the patterns of
dieting and rapid weight loss among athletes
competing in sports in which extreme leanness or a
low weight is considered important for performance
seem to be as common and inappropriate as those
reported many years ago (Artioli et al., 2010a). Also,
more athletes competing in leanness and weight-class
sports compared with other sports meet the criteria
for clinical eating disorders (Rosendahl, Bormann,
Aschenbrenner, Aschenbrenner, & Strauss, 2009).
Dieting
No general guidelines for energy intake by athletes
exist, but minimum intakes corresponding to 45 and
50 kcal kg
71
body mass for females and males,
respectively, have been suggested for athletes
who exercise 490 min day
71
(Economos, Bortz,
& Nilson, 1993).
The energy and nutrient intakes of weight-class
athletes are not well-documented, but based on
available data and practical experience there is no
doubt that energy intake is below the recommended
level at least during the competitive season (see
Table I). Possible reasons for low energy intake
include: restrictive eating behaviour; lack of knowl-
edge of the energy cost, and thus needs, of high
training volume; the additional energy needed for
growth and development (if applicable) (Nattiv et al.,
2007). On a continuum, dieting may include low
energy availability, including healthy dieting (such as
lowering energy intake by a modest amount per day
to achieve gradual weight loss) and use of extreme
weight loss methods such as extreme restrictive diets
(530 kcal kg
71
fat free mass day
71
) (Loucks, in
press), fasting, passive (e.g. sauna, hot baths) or
active (e.g. exercise with sweat suits) dehydration,
laxatives, diuretics, vomiting, and excessive exercise
(Table II). On this continuum, athletes struggle with
body image, weight fluctuation, eating behaviours,
and performance issues. The female athlete triad
refers to the interrelationship between energy avail-
ability, menstrual function, and bone mineral den-
sity. This triad may have clinical manifestation
including eating disorders, functional hypothalamic
amenorrhoea, and osteoporosis (Nattiv et al., 2007).
Dieting to win
For many athletes, it is desirable to have a high lean
body mass and low body fat mass to achieve a high
power-to-weight ratio. Some sports require horizon-
tal (e.g. running and long jump) or vertical (e.g. high
jump and gymnastics) movements of the body where
excessive fat mass is considered a disadvantage. A
high fat mass decreases efficiency of movement and
could therefore affect performance negatively. A high
lean body-to-fat mass ratio is also desirable in sports
for aesthetic reasons (e.g. figure skating and rhythmic
gymnastics). Judges and coaches are influenced by
athletes’ body type, while athletes experience pres-
sure to diet (de Bruin et al., 2007). In sports with
weight categories such as wrestling, judo, and light-
weight rowing, athletes aim to gain a competitive
advantage by obtaining the lowest possible body
weight with greatest possible strength, power, and
endurance.
Athletes in weight-class sports believe that weight
loss is a necessary part of the sport, and few question
the weight loss methods used (Hall & Lane, 2001;
Marquart & Sobal, 1994). They often compete in
a weight class below their natural body weight
(Oppliger et al., 2003; Steen & Brownell, 1990)
and therefore start to diet due to their experience of
the specific body weight/composition demands in
their sport. In some sports, the weight-class system
and/or the weight categories and weigh-in timing and
procedure during competitive events may lead
athletes to use extreme weight-loss methods. Today,
some sports (e.g. tae kwondo and wrestling) have few
weight classes separated by many kilograms, a long
wait between the weight-in and the start of competi-
tion (which makes it possible to reduce larger
amounts of weight), and only one weigh-in during
tournaments. Thus, for many athletes weight con-
cerns, dieting, and the use of extreme weight-loss
methods become the focus of their athletic existence
and some may be diagnosed with a clinical eating
disorder (Matejek et al., 1999; Sundgot-Borgen,
1993; Torstveit, Rosenvinge, & Sundgot-Borgen,
2008). Also, some younger athletes may unknow-
ingly slip into becoming eating disordered if they are
not aware of the energy demands of their increased
training loads when following identical strategies as
their training peers.
Prevalence of dieting and use of extreme
weight-loss methods
Although a number of studies have reported sub-
optimal energy and nutrient intake among athletes
competing in aesthetic and weight-class sports, the
prevalence in athletes representing aesthetic and
weight-class sports is not known. Most athletes use
a combination of methods, but the methods most
frequently used by weight-class athletes are reduced
energy and fluid intake, fasting, increased training,
and dehydration (passive and active) (Table II).
S102 J. Sundgot-Borgen & I. Garthe
Table I. Reported intake of energy and macronutrients for aesthetic and weight-class athletes.
Study
Population (n), age (years),
body weight (kg) Method/time in season
Mean (+s) daily
energy intake,
kcal day
71
(kcal kg
71
)
Carbohydrate E%
(g kg
71
)
Protein E%
(gkg
71
) Fat E%
Ebine et al. (2000) Japanese female elite synchronized
swimmers (n¼9), 16–21 years,
52.5 +2.7 kg
7-days self-reported dietary records and
doubly labelled water. Period during
moderate-intensity training
2128 +395 (41) N.A.N.A.N.A.
Ziegler et al. (1999) US national figure skaters (n¼18 females,
19 males), 11–18 years,
,: 46.5 +7.1 kg, <: 63.6 +8.9 kg
4-days self-reported dietary record ,:1536+620 (33)
<: 2365 +869 (37)
,: 56 (4.6)
<: 52 (4.8)
,: 16 (1.3)
<: 18 (1.7)
,:29
<:31
Ziegler et al. (2005) US female international figure skate teams
(n¼123), 17.0 +2.1 years, 59 kg
3-days self-reported dietary record 1552 +45 (26) 62 (4.1) 14 (0.9) 24
Sundgot-Borgen (1996) High-level Norwegian modern rhythmic
gymnasts (n¼12), 13–20 years,
33–58 kg
3-days self-reported dietary record 1703 (1200–2374) N.A.N.A.N.A.
Ziegler et al. (2001) US figure skaters (n¼81 females, 80
males), 12–28 years, ,: 47.8 +6.3 kg,
<: 65.2 +8.9 kg
3-days self-reported dietary record.
Training camps in Colorado between
1988 and 1995
,: 1545 (33)
<: 2329 (36)
,:60+10 (5.0)
<:57+7 (5.1)
,:16+4 (1.3)
<:15+3 (1.3)
,:25+9
<:30+7
Cupisti et al. (2000) Rhythmic gymnasts of the Italian national
team (n¼20), 14–18 years,
46.7 +5.1 kg
3-days self-reported dietary record and
clinical interview
1315 +97 (29) 52.8 +6.5 (3.7) 15.2 +1.5 (1.0) 31 +5.7
Jonnalagadda et al. (1998) US female national artistic gymnasts
(n¼28), 12–19 years, 47 kg
3-days self-reported dietary record 1306 +270 (27) 67 (4.6) 18 (1.2) 16
Kirchner et al. (1995) US female collegiate gymnasts (n¼26),
20 years, 54 kg
Food frequency questionnaire 1377 +549 (25) 52 (3.3) 15.5 (1.0) 31
Chen et al. (1989) Chinese elite gymnasts (n¼5 females,
4 males), 18–21 years, ,: 45 kg,
<:59kg
3–5 days weighed dietary record ,:2286+334 (51)
<: 3311 +55 (55)
,: 42 (5.4)
<: 43 (6.1)
,: 16 (2.1)
<: 18 (2.6)
,:42
<:38
Garthe et al. (2009) Norwegian elite weight-class athletes
(n ¼5 females, 5 males), 18–32 years,
,: 64 kg, <:74kg
4-days weighed dietary record.
Weight-stable period before
weight-loss intervention
,:1931+732 (31)
<: 2478 +715 (33)
,: 34 (3.0)
<: 52 (4.7)
,: 13 (1.2)
<: 18 (1.6)
,:25
<:30
N.A.¼data not available.
Elite athletes and body composition S103
Table II. The most frequently used weight-loss methods among weight-class athletes expressed as a percentage.
Study
Method and athletes that regularly
lose weight
Age began losing
weight (years)
(mean +s)
Weight lost (kg)
(mean +s)
Sauna/heat
room
Rubber suit
Fluid
restriction
Food
restriction
Fasting
Laxatives
Diuretics
Spitting
Vomiting
Excessive
exercise
Gradual
dieting
Steen and
Brownell
(1990)
Closed-ended questionnaire, male
college wrestlers, n¼63 (89%)
14.0 +2.0 4.4 +2.1*
7.2 +3.2**
78 90 95 93 73 7 3 — 2
Oppliger et al.
(2003)
Closed-ended questionnaire, male
college wrestlers, n¼741 (84%)
13.7 +3.4 5.3 +2.8** 32 6 21 46 8 3 # 3 # 9 2 # 75 80
Alderman et al.
(2004)
Structured interview, male NWC
wrestlers, n¼45
5.3** 56 49 11 11 0 91
Slater at al.
(2005a)
Closed-ended questionnaire, male
lightweight rowers, n¼58
(92%), female lightweight
rowers, n¼42 (94%)
<: 6.0** <33 <41 <21 <78 <7<11 <0<33 <59
,:4.5** ,58 ,29 ,88 ,94 ,12 ,68 ,0,53 ,94
Artioli et al.
(2010a)
Closed-ended questionnaire, male
judo athletes, n¼607; female
judo athletes, n¼607, (89%) x
12.6 +6.1 1.6 +1.6* (a) 29 (a) 30 (a) 29% (a) 19 (a) 12 (a) 3 (a) 2 (a) 19 (a) 0 (a) 62 (a) 18
4.0 +3.1** (b) 55 (b) 40 (b) 55% (b) 41 (b) 24 (b) 8 (b)6 (b) 28 (b)2 (b) 25 (b) 35
()¼Percentage of athletes that regularly lose weight.
¼Not reported in the study.
* Usual weight loss.
** Most weight lost.
# One time per month or more.
NWC ¼National Wrestling Championship.
xMale and female data are merged due to no significant differences between the sexes.
(a) ¼Always.
(b) ¼Sometimes.
S104 J. Sundgot-Borgen & I. Garthe
Up to 94% of athletes competing in weight-class
sports report dieting and use of extreme weight-
control methods to make weight prior to competition
(Table II). Among athletes representing leanness and
aesthetic sports it is more common to observe
disordered eating behaviour and clinical eating
disorders. When reviewing studies on the prevalence
of clinical eating disorders by clinical evaluation,
there is a significantly higher prevalence of eating
disorders in both male and female elite athletes
representing leanness/weight-class sports than elite
male and female athletes representing sports with less
focus on leanness/weight: the prevalence is 40–42%
in aesthetic and 30–35% in weight-class sports for
females and 17–18% in weight-class and 22–42% in
gravitational sports for male elite athletes compared
with 5% and 16% in ball-game sports and 4% and
17% in technical sports for male and females,
respectively (Rosendahl et al., 2009; Sundgot-Bor-
gen & Torstveit, 2010)
Weight-class athletes lose up to 13% of body
weight, but most of these athletes usually lose 3–6%
frequently during the season (Table II). Athletes in
the lightweight categories practise more extreme
weight-loss behaviour than athletes in the middle-
or heavyweight categories (Oppliger et al., 2003). It
has also been reported that athletes start losing weight
as early as age 9–14 years (Alderman, Landers,
Carlson, & Scott, 2004; Steen & Brownell, 1990)
and that there seems to be an association between the
age at which athletes start losing weight and the
severity of weight-management behaviour (Artioli
et al., 2010a). Most studies investigating the use of
extreme weight-loss methods and clinical eating
disorders show that athletes under-report both the
use of extreme weight-loss methods and presence of
eating disorders (Nattiv et al., 2007; Sundgot-Borgen
& Torstveit, 2010). The prevalence of the triad
components among female athletes in weight and
aesthetic sports is high (Torstveit & Sundgot-Borgen,
2005). The triad components are not well studied in
male athletes, but in a population of male cyclists
25% and 9% were diagnosed with osteopenia and
osteoporosis, respectively (Smathers, Bemben, &
Bemben, 2009). However, further research in male
and female athletes is needed to explore the mechan-
isms and prevalence of the three components.
Performance consequences
The effect of weight loss on performance depends on
the athlete’s initial percentage of body fat, the
magnitude of the weight loss, and the strategy used
for weight loss and recovery (Table III). Most
athletes reduce the amount of strength training in
the weight-loss period prior to competition in favour
of more sport-specific/competition training. Reduced
stimulus for muscle growth combined with negative
energy balance is likely to cause a reduction in lean
body mass and may therefore impair strength and
performance (Koral & Dosseville, 2009; Koutedakis
et al., 1994).
Since most studies on the effect of extreme weight
loss have methodological weaknesses such as small
samples, undefined performance level, unclear and
uncontrolled diet and recovery regimes/strategies,
and questionable test parameters with regard to a
specific performance test, it is difficult to draw
conclusions regarding the effect of extreme dieting
and its effect on performance. Nevertheless, the
results indicate that muscle endurance and prolonged
aerobic and anaerobic work, such as most combat
sports and rowing, are likely to be impaired by rapid
weight loss. To what extent seems to depend on the
time from weigh-in to competition and the recovery
strategy used. For example, Slater et al. (2005b)
found minimal impairment of 2000-m rowing after
rapid weight loss with an aggressive nutritional
intervention during recovery. However, that may
not apply to combat athletes due to the characteristics
of the sport (e.g. rapid movements) and possible
gastrointestinal discomfort with high volume intake.
Other studies indicate that a less aggressive nutri-
tional recovery also prevents performance impair-
ment in an interval-related performance (Fogelholm,
Koskinen, Laakso, Rankinen, & Rukonen, 1993; Hall
& Lane 2001). Athletes report symptoms such as
dizziness, hot flashes, nausea, headache, and nose
bleeds after rapid weight loss (Alderman et al., 2004)
and report that extreme weight-loss methods may
decrease performance. Considering that most ath-
letes have 2–3 h to recover, they should carefully
consider the amount of weight lost by the rapid
method and have an optimal recovery strategy after
weigh-in. Although the intention is to lose body water
over 1–7 days, it is unavoidable to lose some fat mass
and muscle mass during fasting or extremely low
energy intake (Artioli et al., 2010b). When it comes to
gradual weight loss, there are very few studies
available. Both Koutedakis et al. (1994) and Koral
and Dosseville (2009) reported loss of lean tissue as
well as fat mass, while lean tissue was reported by
Garthe and colleagues (Garthe, Raastad, Refsnes,
Koivisto, & Sundgot-Borgen, 2009) to be stable or
increased during the weight-loss period. This result is
most likely due to the additional strength training
during weight loss, stimulating lean tissue growth
while in a moderate negative energy balance. Gradual
weight loss seems to be the method with least
impairment of performance in these athletes. Inter-
estingly, studies indicate that some athletes may even
improve performance during weight loss when using
a gradual approach (Fogelholm et al., 1993; Garthe
et al., 2009; Koutedakis et al., 1994).
Elite athletes and body composition S105
Table III. Rapid and gradual weight loss and the effect on performance.
Reference and
participants Methods (% loss of body weight) Recovery strategy
Performance testing/physical
indicators of performance
Effect on
performance Comments
Rapid weight loss
Webster et al. (1990)
(male intercollegiate
wrestlers, n¼7)
Dehydration (4.9%) using
exercise in a rubberized sweat
suit over 36 h
Strength (5 repetitions of chest
press, shoulder press, knee
flexion and extension),
anaerobic power, aerobic peak
capacity, and lactate threshold
#Impairment in all test parameters.
Although athletes had 36 h to
lose weight, all of the weight
loss occurred within 12 h before
testing
Horswill et al. (1990)
(male wrestlers,
n¼12)
26weight loss (6%) by energy
and fluid restriction over
4 days (one with low CHO
intake and one with high
CHO intake)
Arm cranking ergometer. Eight
bouts of 15-s maximal effort
intervals with 30 s of easy pace
between
!
#
Performance maintained with the
high CHO diet and impaired
with the low CHO diet.
Performance decreased more
the second time of weight loss
Burge et al. (1993)
(male and female
elite lightweight
rowers, n¼8)
Weight loss (5.2%) by energy
and fluid restriction combined
with exercise over 24 h
2 h recovery period
with an intake of
1.5 L water
Rowing ergometer time trial
(2000 m)
#Performance was impaired by 9%
Fogelholm et al. (1993)
(male wrestlers,
n¼7; judo athletes,
n¼3)
Weight loss (6%) by energy and
fluid restriction over 2.4 days
5 h recovery period
with ad libitum
intake of food and
fluid
Sprint (30-m run), anaerobic
power (1-min Wingate test),
and vertical jump height with
extra load
!Athletes regained 55% of body
weight during recovery time
Filaire et al. (2000)
(male judo athletes,
n¼11)
Weight loss (4.9%) by
self-selected energy and fluid
restriction over 7 days (*30%
reduction in energy, CHO,
and fluid intake)
Handgrip strength, 30-s and 7-s
jump tests
!
#
Performance remained unchanged
for left arm strength and 7-s
jump test but was impaired for
right arm strength and 30-s
jump test
Smith et al. (2000)
(male amateur
boxers, n¼7)
Dehydration (3.8%) by
low-intensity exercise for
*2 h in hot environment
Simulated boxing-related task with
363 min rounds with 1 min
rest between on a boxing
ergometer
#One athlete improved performance
whereas mean reduction in
performance was 27% for the
other athletes
Smith et al. (2001)
(male amateur
boxers, n¼8)
Repeated (2 days between)
weight loss (3%) by energy
(1000 kcal day
71
) and fluid
restriction (1.0 ml day
71
)
Repeated (2 days between)
simulated boxing-related task
with 3 63 min rounds with
1 min rest between on a boxing
ergometer
!Performance tended to be lower in
both bouts but did not reach
statistical significance due to
large individual differences
Hall and Lane (2001)
(male amateur
boxers, n¼16)
Weight loss (5.2%) by energy
and fluid restriction over one
week (self-selected weight-loss
strategy)
2 h recovery with
both food and
fluid intake (self-
selected recovery
strategy)
462 min circuit training session
with 1 min recovery between
rounds
!Athletes failed to reach their
subjective expected level of
performance after weight loss
Slater et al. (2005b)
(male and female
Weight loss (4.3%) by energy
and fluid restriction over 24 h
Aggressive
nutritional
4 rowing ergometer time trials
(2000 m) separated by 48 h in
#Performance was impaired by
0.7% during thermoneutral
(Continued)
S106 J. Sundgot-Borgen & I. Garthe
Table III. (Continued)
Reference and
participants Methods (% loss of body weight) Recovery strategy
Performance testing/physical
indicators of performance
Effect on
performance Comments
competitive rowers,
n¼17)
recovery
strategies in 2 h
(2.3 g
CHO kg
71
,
34 mg Na kg
71
,
28.4 ml
fluid kg
71
)
thermoneutral and hot
environments
trials and 1.1% during hot trials
when trials were merged
Degoutte et al. (2006)
(male judo athletes,
n¼10)
Weight loss (5%) by self-selected
energy and fluid restriction
over 7 days
Handgrip strength, maximal
strength, 30-s rowing task, and
simulated competition
(5 65 min bouts)
#Energy intake was reduced by 4
MJ day
71
during weight loss
Slater et al. (2006)(male
and female
competitive rowers,
n¼17)
Weight loss (3.9%) by energy
and fluid restriction and
increased training load over
24 h
Aggressive
nutritional
recovery
strategies in 2 h
(2.3 g
CHO kg
71
,
34 mg Na kg
71
,
28.4 ml
fluid kg
71
)
Three on-water rowing time trials
(1800 m) separated by 48 h
!Environmental conditions were
cool, showing slight variations.
There was a non-significant
increase in time of 1.0 s
Artioli et al. (2010b)
(male judo athletes,
n¼14)
Weight loss (5%) by self-selected
energy and fluid restriction
over 7 days, n¼7 (control
group, n¼7)
4 h recovery period
with ad libitum
intake of food and
fluid. Regained
51% of reduced
weight
Specific judo exercise, number of
repeated attacks (10 s, 20 s,
30 s, with 10 s rest between),
followed by 5 min rest and a
5-min judo combat and three
bouts of upper-body Wingate
test
!
"
Performance remained unchanged
in specific judo exercise
(number of attacks). Both
control and intervention groups
saw a slight improvement in
Wingate test
Gradual weight loss
Fogelholm et al.
(1993)(male
wrestlers, n¼7; judo
athletes, n¼3)
Weight loss (5%) by energy
restriction over 3 weeks
Sprint (30-m run), anaerobic
power (1-min Wingate test),
and vertical jump height with
extra load
!
"
Performance remained unchanged
except for vertical jump, which
improved by 6–8%
Koutedakis et al. (1994)
(female elite
lightweight rowers,
n¼6).
Weight loss (6%) by energy
restriction over 8 weeks
VO
2max
, respiratory anaerobic
threshold, upper body
anaerobic peak power and mean
power outputs, knee flexor and
extensor and isokinetic peak
torques
!
#
Performance remained unchanged
except for a decrease in
respiratory anaerobic threshold
and knee flexor. 50% of weight
lost as fat-free mass
Koutedakis et al. (1994)
(female elite
Weight loss (7.4%) by energy
restriction over 16 weeks
Maximal rowing ergometer test
and upper-body Wingate test
!
"
Improved performance in
respiratory anaerobic threshold,
(Continued)
Elite athletes and body composition S107
Table III. (Continued)
Reference and
participants Methods (% loss of body weight) Recovery strategy
Performance testing/physical
indicators of performance
Effect on
performance Comments
lightweight rowers,
n¼6)
(VO
2max
, anaerobic threshold,
peak power and mean power
outputs), isokinetic knee flexion
and extension
knee flexion, VO
2max
and upper
body anaerobic peak power.
50% of weight lost as fat-free
mass
Koral and Dosseville
(2009) (n¼10 male
and 10 female elite
judo athletes)
Weight loss (4%) by self-selected
energy and fluid restriction
over 4 weeks
Countermovement jump, squat
jump, 5-s repetitions of judo
movements, 30-s repetition of
judo movements, rowing with
additional loads
!
#
Performance remained unchanged
for squat jump,
countermovement jump. and
judo movement repetitions over
5 s, while impaired for 30-s
judo movements
Garthe et al. (2009)
(male and female
elite athletes, n¼13)
Weight loss (5.6%) by controlled
diet intervention combined
with strength training over 9
weeks
Countermovement jump, 1-RM
squat, bench press, bench pull,
and 40-m sprint
!
"
Improved performance in all
parameters except for 40-m
sprint, which was unchanged
Energy intake was reduced by
19% while lean body mass
increased by 2%
Garthe et al. (2009)
(male and female
elite athletes, n¼11)
Weight loss (5.5%) by controlled
diet intervention combined
with strength training over 5
weeks.
Countermovement jump, 1-RM
squat, bench press, bench pull,
and 40-m sprint
!
"
Performance remained unchanged
except for an improvement in 1-
RM squat. Energy intake was
reduced by 30%
¼No recovery strategy.Impaired performance.Improved performance.
S108 J. Sundgot-Borgen & I. Garthe
Health consequences
Dehydration
In a dehydrated state, plasma volume is reduced and
peripheral blood flow and sweating rate diminish.
This impairs thermoregulatory function and may
lead to risks to the athlete’s health (Shirreffs,
Armstrong, & Cheuvront, 2004). Thus, dehydration
combined with exercise in a rubber suit/sweat suit or
sauna, common methods of weight loss, makes heat
dissipation difficult and can even be fatal.
Inadequate intake of macro- and micronutrients
Very low energy intake and fasting place the athletes
at risk of inadequate intake of carbohydrate (CHO),
essential fatty acids, and protein (Table I). Reduced
carbohydrate intake will result in glycogen depletion,
fatigue, and inadequate recovery between training
sessions (Burke, Kiens, & Ivy, 2004). Furthermore, a
reduced protein intake is likely to cause a greater loss
of lean tissue during weight loss (Mettler, Mitchell,
& Tipton, 2010). During weight loss there is also
an increased risk for suboptimal intake of calcium
and iron and other micronutrients (Filaire, Maso,
Degoutte, Jouanel, & Lac, 2000; Fogelholm et al.,
1993; Heyward, Sandoval, & Colville, 1989).
Although this is not likely to cause problems in the
short term, repeated weight-loss periods during
the season may lead to compromised vitamin and
mineral status.
Cognitive function and psychological factors
Dehydration and severe energy restriction will lead
to a general feeling of fatigue and is likely to result in
an increased perception of effort (Horswill, Hickner,
Scott, Costill, & Gould, 1990). Athletes undergoing
rapid weight loss have shown an increase in anger,
fatigue, tension, and anxiety as well as impaired
short-term memory (Choma, Sforzo, & Keller, 1998;
Degoutte et al., 2006; Filaire et al., 2000; Hall &
Lane, 2001; Steen & Brownell, 1990). Some athletes
experience this increased anger as performance-
enhancing, and thus as an essential part of the pre-
competition preparation (Steen & Brownell, 1990).
Increased stress and impaired immune function
Heavy training loads combined with low energy
intake or low carbohydrate intake increase the risk of
chronic fatigue, injuries and oxidative stress, and
may impair immune function (Burke et al., 2004;
Gleeson, Nieman, & Pedersen, 2004; Nattiv et al.,
2007; Yanagawa et al., 2010), which, in the long
term, can lead to more frequent episodes of injuries
and illness for the athlete.
Metabolic changes
It has been stated that weight-cycling athletes have
lower metabolic rate than athletes with no history of
weight-cycling (Brownell, Steen, & Wilmore, 1987;
Steen, Oppliger, & Brownell, 1998). However,
longitudinal studies show that metabolic rate de-
creases during the season but rises to baseline values
post-season, suggesting that the decrease in meta-
bolic rate is not permanent (Melby, Schmidt, &
Corrigan, 1990). These changes may be reversible,
but frequent dieting may have long-term conse-
quences. From practical experience, weight-class
athletes who have used extreme methods for years
experience increasing difficulties in ‘‘making weight’’
and have to use more and more aggressive methods
to reach their competitive weight. Whether this is a
result of metabolic changes or other physiological,
biological or psychological factors is unknown.
Long-term effect
For athletes, the stress of constantly denying hunger,
obsession about food, agonizing over body weight,
and fearing high body weight is mentally exhausting.
Moreover, this preoccupation interferes with the
athlete’s daily activities as well as his or her training
and competition. Longer periods with low energy
availability, with or without disordered eating, can
impair health and physical performance (Nattiv
et al., 2007). Medical complications involve the
cardiovascular, endocrine, reproductive, skeletal,
gastrointestinal, renal, and central nervous systems
(Nattiv et al., 2007).
Disordered eating, hormonal changes, and low
bone density
Dieting athletes may slip into disordered eating,
which in turn can lead to a serious eating disorder,
disruption of the normal menstrual cycle, and
eventually an imbalance in bone remodelling leading
to low bone mass, osteopenia or osteoporosis.
Although any one of these problems can occur in
isolation, the emphasis on weight loss among at-risk
individuals can start a cycle in which all three
diseases occur in sequence. The female athlete triad
has been described elsewhere (Drinkwater et al.,
2005; Nattiv et al., 2007). The consequences of low
energy availability, amenorrhoea, and imbalance in
bone remodelling are more severe for the adolescent
athlete, since imbalance in bone remodelling hinders
high peak bone mass, stature, and the development
of the reproductive system. Although most research
into the triad and its components has been done
exclusively in females, some studies indicate that
male athletes also are at risk for these problems.
Elite athletes and body composition S109
Both reduced testosterone levels as a consequence
of low percent body fat (Karila et al., 2008) and
low bone mineral density (competitive cyclists and
long-distance runners) have been reported (Hetland,
Haarbo, & Christiansen, 1993; Smathers et al.,
2009).
Athletes restricting energy intake, whether inad-
vertently or by intent, could be considered as at risk
for disordered eating. However, it is not necessarily
dieting per se that triggers disordered eating or an
eating disorder, but whether dieting is guided or not
(Sundgot-Borgen & Torstveit, 2010). Controlled
weight-loss intervention in elite athletes seems not
to increase the risk for disordered eating or eating
disorders when guided by a professional sports
nutritionist (Garthe et al., 2009). Also, although
weight-class athletes are considered to be at special
risk for developing eating disorders, this disturbed
eating behaviour and use of extreme weight-loss
methods may exist only in-season (Dale & Landers,
1999; Steen & Brownell, 1990). Eating disorder risk
factors considered to be specific to athletes are:
personality factors, pressure to lose weight leading to
restricted eating and/or frequent weight cycling/
fluctuation, body dissatisfaction, early start of
sport-specific training, injuries, symptoms of over-
training, and the impact of coaching behaviour.
Growth and maturation
Aesthetic-sports training starts early, at pre-school
age, and quickly becomes intense, frequent, and long
lasting, always with a view to maintaining minimal
subcutaneous body fat. Inadequate energy and
nutrient intakes during the growth period, however,
could result in delayed pubertal development and
retarded growth (Soric, Misigoj-Durakovic, & Pedi-
sic, 2008). Delayed menarche, bone growth retarda-
tion, reduced height, weight and body fat have been
reported in gymnasts (Weimann, Witzel, Schwider-
gall, & Bo¨ hles, 2000) and even short-term weight
loss may have marked effects on blood biochemistry
and hormonal parameters (Karila et al., 2008). This
may constitute a special health risk for the adolescent
athlete with repeated weight loss during the season.
Even though it may take months, studies show that
there seems to be a catch-up effect when it comes to
growth of bone and lean body mass after a weight-
reduction period in young athletes (Caine, Lewis,
O’Connor, Howe, & Bass, 2001; Roemmich &
Sinning, 1997). It has been reported that eating
disorders are associated with sport-specific training
at a young age (Sundgot-Borgen, 1994). Some
children start practising sports by the age of 3 or
4 years. At the age of 5–7 years, girls competing in
aesthetic sports report greater weight concerns than
girls in non-aesthetic sports and girls not involved in
sports (Davison, Earnest, & Birch, 2002). However,
controlled studies concerning the long-term effect of
frequent dieting and weight fluctuation on growth
and development are lacking.
Practical implications
Considering the possible detrimental effect of ex-
treme dieting and rules and regulations on perfor-
mance and health effects, continuous preventive and
educational work is needed and further research is
warranted. Since extreme dieting and eating dis-
orders are almost part of the culture within the
aesthetic and weight-class sports, the recommenda-
tions for these sports will be more related to how to
prevent extreme dieting, how to optimize energy and
nutrient intake, and finally education about how to
‘‘approach’’ athletes who need or want to diet and or
change body competition to enhance performance.
Recommendations
There is a lack of sports-specific guidelines for energy
intake and the need for macro- and micronutrients
for athletes competing in gymnastics, diving, figure
skating, synchronized swimming, and weight-class
sports. However, from practical experience we know
that energy intake varies a great deal during the
season and on whether the athlete is dieting/cutting
weight or not. As shown in Table I, dietary intake
among female gymnasts and figure skaters is
characterized by low energy intake, considered the
estimated energy requirement, as well as a modest
carbohydrate and protein intake. However, due to
low body weight, most gymnasts have adequate
macronutrient intakes. In addition, they report
intake of some micronutrients such as iron, zinc,
and calcium below the recommended daily allow-
ance. Under-reporting and under-eating are com-
mon errors of measurement in self-reported dietary
intake and thus such data should be interpreted with
caution (Magkos & Yannakoulia, 2003).
The lack of documentation makes it difficult to
recommend specific guidelines for energy intake
and intakes of macro- and micronutrients for the
different aesthetic and weight-class athletes. Since
the greatest challenge is low energy intake and
increased risk of nutritional deficiencies and hormo-
nal disturbances, it should be emphasized that the
athlete should consume sufficient energy to avoid
menstrual irregularities (Loucks, in press). A fre-
quent meal pattern and optimal recovery strategies
between training sessions may reduce fatigue during
training sessions and may possibly help optimizing
body composition over time (Deutz, Benardot,
Martin, & Cody, 2000). If the diet plan is set to
maintain a low body weight, it should aim to have a
S110 J. Sundgot-Borgen & I. Garthe
relatively high protein intake (1.4–1.8 g kg
71
)to
maintain lean body mass and to induce thermogenic
and satiety effects (Karst, Steiniger, Noack, &
Steglich, 1984; Mettler et al., 2010). Carbohydrate
requirements vary for different sports, but both
aesthetic and weight-class sports (except for light-
weight rowing) can relate to the general recommen-
dation for the non-endurance athlete (ACSM,
2009). Weight-class sports such as lightweight
rowing, wrestling, boxing, and judo have relatively
high energy demands during both training and
competitions and rely on both aerobic and anaerobic
energy metabolism. Diving, gymnastics, and figure
skating involve more short-duration high-intensity
bouts with plenty of rest between exercises and often
have long training bouts (up to 4 h) with modest
total energy expenditure (Deutz et al., 2000). Thus,
both categories can be categorized as carbohydrate-
dependent sports and should aim for a carbohydrate
intake corresponding to 5–7 g kg
71
(ACSM, 2009;
Burke et al., 2004). However, on low-energy diets
some athletes may have carbohydrate intakes corre-
sponding to 4 g kg
71
, and for some athletes that
may be adequate, depending on the type and
duration of exercise. Since carbohydrate and protein
are considered to be important macronutrients for
athletes, diets to maintain a low body weight are
often low in fat. However, it is not recommended to
have a diet containing less than 15–20% of fat.
There is special concern for adolescent athletes
when it comes to the dieting culture in some sports.
Due to the expected consequences related to restric-
tive eating, menstrual dysfunction, and loss of bone
mass, it is the authors’ opinion that adolescent athletes
should not diet except for when medically indicated.
Education
To decrease the high number of athletes representing
weight-class and leanness sports that are dieting and
using extreme weight-loss methods, there is a need
for education among athletes, trainers, coaches, and
parents. The educational part should include opti-
mization of eating behaviour and energy intake, and
healthy body image and body composition. Also,
elite athletes who need to reduce weight or change
body composition should be advised appropriately.
Information and guidelines
Sports governing organizations and federations
should give support to their coaches and provide
education for coaches and athletes regarding health
and performance-enhancing nutrition behaviour,
disordered eating/eating disorders, and the female
athlete triad. Each federation should have position
statements with guidelines related to optimizing
nutrition and body composition and reducing harm-
ful weight-loss methods
De-emphasize weight
The athlete’s weight and body composition should
not be measured unless there are well-founded
health and/or performance reasons. For elite athletes,
weight and body composition are important perfor-
mance variables as well as a necessity in some of the
practical work. However, dieting and weight issues
should never be a theme from the coach, but should
be presented according to the athlete’s wish. In such
cases, the coach should take the athlete’s initiative
seriously and refer to professional help. In this
respect, the possibility of increasing weight and a
change of weight class should also be discussed with
the athlete. The focus should be on performance
enhancement via non-dieting strategies: improved
nutrition, improved health, mental and psychological
approaches, and physical aspects.
Avoid unnecessary dieting
Coaches should avoid telling an athlete to lose
weight. Most weight-class athletes and those com-
peting in leanness sports are fit and lean, but want to
reduce weight to further enhance performance. In
such cases, the coach and health care team (nutri-
tionist/dietitian, exercise physiologist or physician)
should motivate the athlete to improve strength
and power and compete in a higher weight class.
Health-care providers should educate athletes and
coaches that weight loss does not necessarily lead to
improved athletic performance. Furthermore, since
athletes are eager to perform, it is important to
inform them about side-effects of under-eating and
abnormal eating behaviour. If the coach is concerned
about an athlete’s eating behaviour, body image,
and/or weight or body fat level, the athlete should
be referred to a sports nutritionist or health care
specialist for further evaluation and consultation.
Recommendations for appropriate weight
loss/change in body composition
For athletes who should lose weight for medical or
performance reasons, the following recommenda-
tions are offered:
.The weight goal should be based on objective
measurements of body composition (e.g. DXA,
ultrasound, sum of skinfold with protocol from
International Society for the Advancement of
Kinanthropometry (ISAK)). A thorough
screening including weight history, menstrual
history for females, nutritional status, and
Elite athletes and body composition S111
questions regarding motivation, thoughts and
feelings about body image, body weight
and food should be done. If there is a history
of disordered eating/eating disorders, a more
intense and longer follow-up is suggested.
.The weight-loss period should be undertaken
during the off-season to avoid interference with
competitions and sport-specific training loads.
.A dietary registration should be the basis for
the diet plan. If the athlete has a history of
amenorrhoea or other indicators of low bone
mineral density, an objective measure of bone
mineral density is warranted (e.g. DXA). A
blood test should be taken and if it indicates any
specific micronutrient needs (e.g. iron, vitamin
B12), these should be provided and biochemical
changes monitored. A multi-vitamin/mineral
supplement and omega-3 fatty acids should
be provided during the weight-loss period to
ensure sufficient micronutrient intake and
essential fat intake.
.The athlete should consume sufficient energy to
avoid menstrual irregularities and aim for a
gradual weight loss corresponding to *0.5 kg
per week. To induce a weight loss of 0.5 kg per
week, an energy deficit of *500 kcal day
71
is
needed, but there are individual differences.
This can be achieved by reducing energy intake,
increasing energy expenditure, or a combination
of the two.
.A sports nutritionist/dietitian should plan in-
dividual nutritionally adequate diets. The diet
plan should aim at a protein intake correspond-
ing to 1.4–2.0 g kg
71
, a carbohydrate intake
corresponding to 4–6 g kg
71
, and 15–20% fat.
Emphasize recovery meals containing carbohy-
drates and protein within 30 minu after training
to optimize recovery and include dairy food
sources to meet the recommended dietary
intake of calcium. To avoid extra energy by
adding a recovery meal it can be recommended
to ‘‘time’’ the meals so that the recovery meal is
one of the planned meals during the day.
.Strength training should be included during
the weight-loss period to alleviate the negative
consequences on lean body mass and perfor-
mance.
.Lower limits of percent body fat of 5% for male
athletes and 12% for female athletes have been
suggested (Fogelholm, 1994; Heyward &
Wagner, 2004). However, individual evaluation
should be undertaken. An ad hoc IOC working
group is currently looking at body composition
measurements and body fat cut-off values and
will provide guidelines for the appropriate
percentage body fat values for male and female
athletes, as well as the most valid method(s) to
measure body composition in athletes. Change
in body composition should be monitored on
a regular basis including a period of at least
2 months after the weight or body fat goal
has been reached to detect any continued or
unwarranted losses or weight fluctuations.
.Weight-class athletes with frequent competi-
tions during most of the calendar year are
encouraged to be no more than approximately
3% above competition weight and to lose no
more than 2% of body mass in rapid weight loss
(dependent on time from weigh-in to competi-
tion and recovery strategies) to avoid large
weight fluctuations and impaired performance.
Athletes in sports with fewer competitions and
a more defined on- and off-season should seek
out the most important events to reach their
competition weight and to allow a higher fat
mass and body weight for periods with larger
training loads and fewer competitions.
.Normal-weight athletes under the age of 18
should be discouraged to lose weight.
Modification of regulations
1. In sports such as wrestling and tae kwondo, it
would be more difficult for competitors to
rapidly lose a great amount of weigh if a daily
weigh-in and a delay of only 2–3 h from weigh-
in to competition could be implemented.
2. The sport federations should have the same
weight categories at national and international
competitions, and more weight categories,
especially in the low- and middleweight classes,
should be implemented.
3. Accepting weight allowance (e.g. 1–2 kg over
weight limit) during the season in some of the
smaller tournaments might reduce the fre-
quency of weight loss.
4. Organizers should make sure that the weight
scale used for weigh-in is professionally cali-
brated.
5. There is a need for a ‘‘competition certificate’’
where athletes must have a minimum percen-
tage body fat and a safe hydration level.
However, there is a need for research to
decide the minimum percentage of body fat
and most valid and reliable methods for
measuring body fat percentage and hydration
status.
Summary
There is no hard evidence for the causal effect of
the use of extreme weight-control methods and the
development of eating disorders. However, the
prevalence of the use of extreme weight-loss methods
S112 J. Sundgot-Borgen & I. Garthe
and disordered eating is higher among elite athletes
competing in sports focusing on leanness and or a
specific weight, compared with that seen in athletes
competing in sports less focused on weight and/or
leanness. Since the use of these methods is a risk to
both performance and health, proper prevention
strategies are necessary. First, education pro-
grammes to increase athletes’, coaches’, and parents’
awareness about the risks associated with a long
period of dieting and energy deficit and the use of
extreme weight-loss methods, how to implement
healthy nutrition practices, and the use of recom-
mended weight-loss strategies are important and
should be part of any preventive programme.
Furthermore, the coaches, leaders, and medical staff
of teams together with parents must be able to
recognize athletes who are abusing extreme methods
to make weight and symptoms indicating risk for
eating disorders. Lastly, modifications of regulations
in some of the weight-class sports are needed.
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... Naturally, body overheating is conducive to RWL due to dehydration, but it should be pointed out that athletes in higher weight classes are more prone to dehydration and overheating that those from lower weight classes [17,18]. Multiple studies have found that lower weight class athletes use more extreme methods of RWL than those from higher weight class [19,20]. The use of diuretics is constantly monitored by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which in 2014-2016, identified as many as 412 cases of furosemide and 403 cases of hydrochlorothiazide use [21]. ...
... The knowledge of diuretics as agents showing the diuretic effect is significantly higher among young triathletes from lower weight classes, which stands in opposition to reports from other sports. The knowledge of diuretics and their effects on body fluids is significantly higher in youth powerlifters from lower weight classes [19,20]. ...
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Background: Prevalence of dehydration as a method of rapid weight loss (RWL) and related risks point to the necessity of knowledge assessment in young powerlifters in this regard. The aim of this study was to assess practices and knowledge about RWL methods and their potential detrimental effects on health in young powerlifters. Materials and methods: A diagnostic poll was carried out among the participants (n=98) of sub-junior Polish championships (14 – 18 years), in two subgroups: G1 – weight classes up to 75 kg (n=50) and G2 – weight classes above 75 kg (n=48). Results: Dehydration was most frequently indicated by young powerlifters as a method of body weight reduction in young powerlifters whereas diuretics, potentially hazardous to health, were the most popular supplement. Conclusions: Despite popular belief that extreme RWL methods are most prevalent in lighter weight classes, athletes of higher weight classes more frequently indicated the methods with high risk of dehydration. Among young powerlifters, knowledge of the consequences of RWL is inadequate.
... While there are few studies [13,14] that report dieting frequency or history in a sample of heterogenous endurance athletes, the combined frequency observed in our study is similar to that reported in elite Olympic weight-class athletes. [18] Specifically, our study showed that female endurance athletes were more likely to attempt and discontinue a planned dietary strategy, more likely to have attempted ≥ three different dietary strategies, and had a significantly greater number of planned diet attempts compared to male endurance athletes. The extensive dieting frequency in female endurance athletes supports the persistent component of DE evidenced by studies in athletes showing associations between dieting and eating behaviors. ...
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Background Frequent dieting is common in athletes attempting to achieve a body composition perceived to improve performance. Excessive dieting may indicate disordered eating (DE) behaviors and can result in clinical eating disorders. However, the current nutrition patterns that underly dieting culture are underexplored in endurance athletes. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to identify the sex differences in nutrition patterns among a group of endurance athletes. Methods Two-hundred and thirty-one endurance athletes (females = 124) completed a questionnaire regarding their dieting patterns and associated variables. Results The majority of athletes did not follow a planned diet (70.1%). For endurance athletes on planned diets (n = 69), males were more likely follow a balanced diet ( p = 0.048) and females were more likely to follow a plant-based diet ( p = 0.021). Female endurance athletes not on a planned diet (n = 162) were more likely to have attempted at least one diet ( p < 0.001). Male athletes attempted 2.0 ± 1.3 different diets on average compared to 3.0 ± 2.0 for females ( p = 0.002). Female athletes were more likely to attempt ≥ three diets ( p = 0.022). The most common diet attempts included carbohydrate/energy restrictive, plant-based, and elimination diets. Females were more likely to attempt ketogenic ( p = 0.047), low-carbohydrate ( p = 0.002), and energy restricted diets ( p = 0.010). Females made up the entirety of those who attempted gluten-/dairy-free diets (F = 22.0%, M = 0.0%). Conclusions Being a female athlete is a major determinant of higher dieting frequency and continual implementation of popular restrictive dietary interventions. Sports dietitians and coaches should prospectively assess eating behavior and provide appropriate programming, education, and monitoring of female endurance athletes.
... Climbing is categorized as both a lean/aesthetic sport and as a gravitational sport. Athletes in these sports display an increased prevalence of disordered eating and chronically low body-weight (Sundgot-Borgen & Garthe, 2011). Research indicates that elite climbers are generally shorter, leaner, and lighter than non-climbing athletes and they exhibit anthropometric profiles similar to gymnasts, ballet dancers, and long distance runners (Giles, Rhodes, & Taunton, 2006, Watts, Joubert, Lish, Mast, & Wilkins, 2003. ...
Conference Paper
INTRODUCTION: Compression garments are a common intervention to improve exercise performance, but evidence on the effect on sports climbing performance is lacking. Therefore, this study aimed to evaluate effects of compression forearm-sleeves on muscular strength and endurance of finger flexor muscles. METHODS: In a randomized crossover design, twenty-four sports climbers (12 male, 12 female; 29.1 ± 6.6 years; climbing level: 14.8 ± 1.4 IRCRA) performed one familiarization trial and three test trials either with compression forearm-sleeves (COMP), non-compressive forearm-sleeves (PLAC), or without forearm-sleeves (CON). Test trials consisted of three performance measurements (hand grip strength (HG), finger hang, and lap climbing). Near-infrared spectroscopy was used to assess the tissue saturation index (TSI). Additionally, maximum blood lactate, rate of perceived exertion, and forearm muscle pain were determined. RESULTS: COMP significantly affected TSI in mean deoxygenation (p = 0.049, ηp 2 = 0.194) and reoxygenation (p = 0.028, ηp 2 = 0.225) phases of HG measurements compared to CON. No differences occurred between conditions for any of the performance parameters (p ≤ 0.05). DISCUSSION: Compression forearm-sleeves resulted in more pronounced changes of TSI during HG measurements indicating increased blood circulation and venous return, but did neither enhance muscular strength nor endurance of finger flexor muscles.
... In limiting their energy consumption, dancers may be reducing their opportunities to obtain an adequate intake of essential micronutrients. [10,58]. This is particularly the case for iron, as it cannot be synthesised by the body and therefore must be obtained exogenously via dietary or supplemental iron [24]. ...
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Dancers are an athlete population at high risk of developing iron deficiency (ID). The aesthetic nature of the discipline means dancers potentially utilise dietary restriction to meet physique goals. In combination with high training demands, this means dancers are susceptible to problems related to low energy availability (LEA), which impacts nutrient intake. In the presence of LEA, ID is common because of a reduced mineral content within the low energy diet. Left untreated, ID becomes an issue that results in fatigue, reduced aerobic work capacity, and ultimately, iron deficient anaemia (IDA). Such progression can be detrimental to a dancer’s capacity given the physically demanding nature of training, rehearsal, and performances. Previous literature has focused on the manifestation and treatment of ID primarily in the context of endurance athletes; however, a dance-specific context addressing the interplay between dance training and performance, LEA and ID is essential for practitioners working in this space. By consolidating findings from identified studies of dancers and other relevant athlete groups, this review explores causal factors of ID and potential treatment strategies for dancers to optimise absorption from an oral iron supplementation regime to adequately support health and performance.
... Athletes in some sports are classified in the weight category to promote competition between athletes of similar size and strength. In these sports, there is a culture of "weight management" to gain some advantage in the race [56][57]. Training loads vary depending on the sport and can range from high volume/intensity (e.g., lightweight rowing) to long but moderate energy expenditure (e.g., gymnastics). ...
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The main goal of this narrative review was to incorporate the recent scientific knowledge on the special nutritional needs that are necessary for specific populations of athletes and exercisers (e.g., children, females, vegans) under several training conditions and sports, in addition to proper recommendations for safe administration. The association between nutrition, exercise, and health is an essential part of athletes' and exercisers' competitive and training programs. The quality, quantity, composition, and timing of food consumption are significant to make sure that athletes could train more efficiently to decrease the risk of illness and injury. Athletes who deteriorate their energy intake or use uncontrolled weight loss practices, eliminate certain food groups from their diet, or follow other extreme nutritional philosophies, are at greater risk for micronutrient deficiencies. Fluid intake before, during, and after exercise training or/and competition is significant, particularly in specific circumstances such as hot climates, altitude, etc. Vegetarian and vegan athletes may be at higher risk for low energy, protein, fat, creatine, carnosine, omega-3 fatty acids, as well as essential micronutrients such as iron, calcium, riboflavin, zinc, and β12. Athletes should be adequately informed about the proper use of sports nutrition and ergogenic supplements. These products should only be used after careful evaluation for safety, efficacy, effectiveness, and compliance with relevant legislation. The most significant point to achieving complete and effective nutrition among travelling athletes is planning and preparation while eating properly and hydrated could decrease the potential adverse effects of jet lag and long flights. An effective, healthy, targeted, and complete diet among athletes of different sports should make available sufficient amounts of energy, protein, and carbohydrates depending on the specific sport to make certain sustained exercise training performance and to maintain and improve exercise performance. Article visualizations: </p
... However, many also used dehydration techniques (exercising in heat, fluid restriction, and/or sweat suits) and had rapid and short weight-regulating periods. Our results echo previous findings [10] and reveal an unhealthy culture in combat sports, which needs to be addressed, as many applied weight-regulating behaviors are potentially harmful to health (i.e., dehydration, fluid restriction, and purging methods such as laxatives and diuretics) [31,32]. An interview with combat-sport athletes revealed a strong cultural identity linked to such practices, emphasized the mental importance of achieving the feeling of being a "real athlete" and experiencing increased focus before competition [33]. ...
Article
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Background: To explore motives for combat sport participation, weight regulation practices, symptoms of low energy availability (LEA), disordered eating (DE) or eating disorders (ED), and any experiences with sexual harassment (SH) among female combat-sport athletes. Methods: In total, 29 athletes were recruited by social media and in clubs. Participants responded to a questionnaire on health behavior and mental health and completed diet registration and a DXA-scan. Results: Most athletes started combat sports to feel empowered and experienced an inclusive milieu, but the frequency of health issues was high. A total of 21-67% had symptoms of ED, suffered from injuries, had low site-specific BMD, and/or symptoms of LEA. Athletes had insufficient intake of energy and nutrients, and <50% received any dietary information or guidance from their clubs. Most athletes complied with favorable weight-loss strategies; still, >20% used unfavorable methods and rapid weight-loss periods. A total of 70% of the athletes had experienced SH, of which 41% experienced SH within the combat-sport context. Conclusion: Combat sport offers an inclusive milieu, which may increase women's health and confidence; still, our results indicates a need for actions to safeguard female combat-sport athletes' mental and physical health, implying a cultural change within the community of combat sport and a need for increased health and nutrition literacy.
... The technologies used by Bela and Marta Karolyi to obtain this power were analyzed in various studies and brought up different topics. Among these topics there was the issue of dietary restrictions on gymnasts (Barker-Ruchti, 2009;Ryan, 1995), eating disorders (Kerr, 2006;Sundgot-Borgen & Garthe, 2011), injuries and forced training, verbal and psychological abuse and authoritarian leadership ethics . ...
Article
During the Cold War, the Romanian school of gymnastics represented a superpower in the world of WAG and became a part of Romania’s international politics strategy. This ascension started under the supervision of Bela Karolyi, the coach of the Romanian team between 1972 −1981. Bela Karolyi represented the type of coach who used tactics to produce performance. Forced by Securitatea surveillance, the political police of the communist government, Bela Karolyi had to constantly adapt the technologies of power to have the best tactics to win. By using the hierarchical power of communist government against the Romanian Gymnastics Federation, Bela Karolyi was able to build his tactics until the moment it ran against the government strategy. Forced to defect to the other side of the Iron Curtain, Bela Karolyi continued to improve his technologies of power and tactics that transformed the United States WAG team in a superpower.
... It was also well documented that RWL practice negatively impacts the health of athletes, leading to physical and psychological damage and may result in reduced bone density; worse performance of muscles; mood swings; dehydrated body condition; accelerated heart rate; poorer short-term memory, cognitive and mental function; or mounting anxiety, bad temper, weakness, depression, and a feeling of isolation [4,16,20]. Extreme cases of RWL have led to deaths as a result of dehydration and hyperthermia and myocardial infarction [21,22]. The threat of RWL has been recognised by sports bodies and position statements have been issued to reflect their stand [3,23]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Rapid Weight Loss (RWL) is a rapid reduction in weight over a short period of time seeking to attain the norm required for a competition in a particular weight category. RWL has a negative health impact on athletes including the significant muscle damage induced by RWL. This study aimed to identify the association between RWL and body composition among competitive combat athletes (n = 43) in Lithuania. Our focus was laid on the disclosure of their RWL practice by using a previously standardized RWL Questionnaire. The body composition of the athletes was measured by means of the standing-posture 8-12-electrode multi-frequency bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) and the electrical signals of 5, 50, 250, 550 and 1000 kHz. This non-experimental cross-sectional study resulted in preliminary findings on the prevalence and profile of RWL among combat athletes in Lithuania. 88% of the athletes surveyed in our study had lost weight in order to compete, with the average weight loss of 4.6 ± 2% of the habitual body mass. The athletes started to resort to weight cycling as early as 9 years old, with a mean age of 12.8 ± 2.1 years. The combination of practiced weight loss techniques such as skipping meals (adjusted Odd Ratio (AOR) 6.3; 95% CI: 1.3–31.8), restricting fluids (AOR 5.5; 95% CI: 1.0–31.8), increased exercise (AOR 3.6; 95% CI: 1.0–12.5), training with rubber/plastic suits (AOR 3.2; 95% CI: 0.9–11.3) predicted the risk of RWL aggressiveness. RWL magnitude potentially played an important role in maintaining the loss of muscle mass in athletes during the preparatory training phase (β –0.01 kg, p < 0.001). Therefore, an adequate regulatory programme should be integrated into the training plans of high-performance combat sports athletes to keep not only the athletes but also their coaches responsible for a proper weight control.
... Lightweight rowers in this study used weight loss tactics and experienced a 'yo-yo' effect of weight fluctuation. Weight-class sports and leanness sports are associated with an increased risk of athletes using extreme weight-loss tactics and experiencing rapid weight fluctuation, which can be detrimental to health and performance [11]. Individuals in this study felt lightweight rowing negatively affected their relationship with food, and this relationship with food often persisted once retired. ...
Article
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Objective To compete in lightweight rowing, strict limits are placed on the maximum body weight of each individual. As a result, lightweight rowers commonly restrict calorie intake despite high energy expenditure. This can result in Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S). The aim of this study is to investigate the physical and psychosocial impact of RED-S, from the perspective of lightweight rowers. Design Semi-structured individual qualitative interviews. Participants Adults living in the United Kingdom who are current or former lightweight rowing participants and experienced ≥1 symptom of RED-S. Method Audio-recorded semi-structured individual telephone interviews were performed. Data was analysed using an inductive thematic approach, coding was iterative and data-driven, facilitated by NVivo software. Results Twelve current or former lightweight rowers (intermediate to international standard, 67% female, aged 19–32 years) participated. Participants restricted calories and increased energy expenditure to elicit weight-loss in order to meet weight requirements. This resulted in psychosocial implications (reduced social interaction, difficulty maintaining relationships, poor emotional regulation, low mood, poor concentration, disordered eating, guilt and anxiety around food, and a negative body image). Some psychosocial implications persisted after retirement from lightweight rowing. Participants described a range of physical implications, including disrupted sleep, decreased performance and recovery, bowel disruption, menstrual dysfunction, fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, injury and weakened immune systems. Conclusions This study describes short and long-term physical and psychosocial impacts of RED-S from the perspective of lightweight rowers. Findings highlight the importance of effective RED-S prevention and management strategies for lightweight rowers. These findings may be used to educate health-care professionals, coaches and athletes on the personal impacts and serious health consequences of RED-S.
Article
Cross-sectional research has demonstrated the strong influence teammates have on athletes’ eating attitudes/behaviors, but less is known about the enduring nature of such influence or the stability of eating and exercise psychopathology over time. This study aimed to (a) examine whether eating and exercise psychopathology and psychological well-being (anxiety, depression, self-esteem) in athletes remain stable over time, (b) examine which teammate factors predict athletes’ eating and exercise attitudes/ behaviors longitudinally, and (c) explore whether such predictive relationships differed as a function of gender/sport type/age group. Athletes (N = 311, mean age 18.74 years, n = 171 female, n = 134 lean sport athletes) completed a survey at the beginning (T1) and middle (T2; 4 months later) of their athletic season exploring teammate factors, psychological well-being, and eating/exercise psychopathology. Wilcoxon T-Tests assessed stability in variables over time (Aim 1), structural equation modeling tested the cross-lagged relationships among variables (Aim 2), and tests of invariance explored group differences (Aim 3). Levels of eating psychopathology significantly decreased from T1–T2 while levels of anxiety significantly increased. Notably, the cross-lagged model found higher levels of self-esteem at T1 predicted lower T2 bulimia modeling, and higher levels of bulimia modeling at T1 predicted higher T2 disordered eating. Males, those participating in nonlean sports and adolescent athletes are at increased risk of modeling disordered eating. Given the importance of understanding factors that can increase/reduce athletes’ susceptibility to teammate influence, as well as the negative impact of teammate influence, these findings will inform the targeted development of team-based eating and exercise psychopathology prevention strategies.
Article
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ObjectivesTo examine the relationship between dieting behavior and body image in female aesthetic athletes.MethodsSeventeen elite gymnasts, 51 non-elite gymnasts and a control group of 85 schoolgirls, participating in non-elite, merely recreational non-aesthetic sports, completed self-report measures of dieting behaviors and body image.ResultsAfter controlling for BMI, the results showed that elite gymnasts dieted more often than controls, although they were not more negative about their body. Furthermore, non-elite gymnasts dieted as much as controls and had a more positive body image. Despite what general theories predict, the gymnasts’ dieting was not so much related to a negative body image but rather to weight-related causal attributions or perceived weight-related coach pressure.ConclusionsWhereas controls believe that ‘thin is beautiful’, gymnasts seem more convinced or persuaded that ‘thin is going to win’. Future research should take into consideration that dieting and body image are likely to be developed differently in the context of aesthetic sports.
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This review updates and complements the review of energy balance and body composition in the Proceedings of the 2003 IOC Consensus Conference on Sports Nutrition. It argues that the concept of energy availability is more useful than the concept of energy balance for managing the diets of athletes. It then summarizes recent reports of the existence, aetiologies, and clinical consequences of low energy availability in athletes. This is followed by a review of recent research on the failure of appetite to increase ad libitum energy intake in compensation for exercise energy expenditure. The review closes by summarizing the implications of this research for managing the diets of athletes.
Article
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Dieting is an important risk factor for disordered eating and eating disorders. Disordered eating occurs on a continuum from dieting and restrictive eating, abnormal eating behavior, and finally clinical eating disorders. The prevalence of eating disorders is increased in elite athletes and for this group the cause of starting to diet is related to (a) perception of the paradigm of appearance in the specific sport, (b) perceived performance improvements, and (c) sociocultural pressures for thinness or an "ideal" body. Athletes most at risk for disordered eating are those involved in sports emphasizing a thin body size/shape, a high power-to-weight ratio, and/or sports utilizing weight categories, such as in some high-intensity sports. In addition to dieting, personality factors, pressure to lose weight, frequent weight cycling, early start of sport-specific training, overtraining, injuries, and unfortunate coaching behavior, are important risk factors. To prevent disordered eating and eating disorders, the athletes have to practice healthy eating, and the medical staff of teams and parents must be able to recognize symptoms indicating risk for eating disorders. Coaches and leaders must accept that disordered eating can be a problem in the athletic community and that openness regarding this challenge is important.
Article
Purpose: The purpose of this investigation was to examine the weight management (WM) behaviors of collegiate wrestlers after the implementation of the NCAA’s new weight control rules. Methods: In the fall of 1999, a survey was distributed to 47 college wrestling teams stratified by collegiate division (i.e., I, II, III) and competitive quality. Forty-three teams returned surveys for a total of 741 responses. Comparisons were made using the collegiate division, weight class, and the wrestler’s competitive winning percentage. Results: The most weight lost during the season was 5.3 kg ± 2.8 kg (mean ± SD ) or 6.9% ± 4.7% of the wrestler’s weight; weekly weight lost averaged 2.9 kg ± 1.3 kg or 4.3% ± 2.3% of the wrestler’s weight; post-season, the average wrestler regained 5.5 kg ± 3.6 kg or 8.6% ± 5.4% of their weight. Coaches and fellow wrestlers were the primary influence on weight loss methods; however, 40.2% indicated that the new NCAA rules deterred extreme weight loss behaviors. The primary methods of weight loss reported were gradual dieting (79.4%) and increased exercise (75.2%). However, 54.8% fasted, 27.6% used saunas, and 26.7% used rubber/ plastic suits at least once a month. Cathartics and vomiting were seldom used to lose weight, and only 5 met three or more of the criteria for bulimia nervosa. WM behaviors were more extreme among freshmen, lighter weight classes, and Division II wrestlers. Compared to previous surveys of high school wrestlers, this cohort of wrestlers reported more extreme WM behaviors. However, compared to college wrestlers in the 1980s, weight loss behaviors were less extreme. Conclusions: The WM practices of college wrestlers appeared to have improved compared to wrestlers sampled previously. Forty percent of the wrestlers were influenced by the new NCAA rules and curbed their weight loss practices. Education is still needed, as some wrestlers are still engaging in dangerous WM methods.
Article
Purpose: The purpose of this investigation was to examine the weight management (WM) behaviors of collegiate wrestlers after the implementation of the NCAA's new weight control rules. Methods: In the fall of 1999, a survey was distributed to 47 college wrestling teams stratified by collegiate division (i.e., I, 11, 111) and competitive quality. Forty-three teams returned surveys for a total of 741 responses. Comparisons were made using the collegiate division, weight class, and the wrestler's competitive winning percentage. Results: The most weight lost during the season was 5.3 kg +/- 2.8 kg (mean +/- SD) or 6.9% +/- 4.7% of the wrestler's weight; weekly weight lost averaged 2.9 kg +/- 1.3 kg or 4.3% +/- 2.3% of the wrestler's weight; post-season, the average wrestler regained 5.5 kg +/- 3.6 kg or 8.6% +/- 5.4% of their weight. Coaches and fellow wrestlers were the primary influence on weight loss methods; however, 40.2% indicated that the new NCAA rules deterred extreme weight loss behaviors. The primary methods of weight loss reported were gradual dieting (79.4%) and increased exercise (75.2%). However, 54.8% fasted, 27.6% used saunas, and 26.7% used rubber/ plastic suits at least once a month. Cathartics and vomiting were seldom used to lose weight, and only 5 met three or more of the criteria for bulimia nervosa. WM behaviors were more extreme among freshmen, lighter weight classes, and Division 11 wrestlers. Compared to previous surveys of high school wrestlers, this cohort of wrestlers reported more extreme WM behaviors. However, compared to college wrestlers in the 1980s, weight loss behaviors were less extreme. Conclusions: The WM practices of college wrestlers appeared to have improved compared to wrestlers sampled previously. Forty percent of the wrestlers were influenced by the new NCAA rules and curbed their weight loss practices. Education is still needed, as some wrestlers are still engaging in dangerous WM methods.
Article
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The purpose of this study was to examine weight concerns, dieting, body dissatisfaction as well as eating behavior of German high school athletes and to compare disordered eating behavior of these athletes with regular high school students. Five hundred and seventy-six young athletes of Elite Sports Schools in the German state of Thuringia and a reference group consisting of 291 non-athletes from regular high schools completed a questionnaire regarding eating behavior and attitudes, dietary history, body image and demographics. The Eating Attitude Test was used to measure disordered eating. Athletes did not show a higher frequency of disordered eating than non-athletes. A binary logistic regression analysis revealed that gender and dietary experience, but not group (athletes vs non-athletes), were significant predictors of disordered eating. It can be concluded that dietary experience and female gender proved to be important risk factors of disordered eating. Participation in sports seems to be protective for developing serious eating problems, especially in girls. Potentially, regular monitoring of athletic performance by coaches might be a reason for this finding.