Weight Control for the Active Athlete

Weight management plan low in fat and high in fiber can help athletes maintain muscle

(RxWiki News) In a time where more people are overweight, many young athletes may come to their sport carrying some extra pounds. These athletes may want to lose weight to compete hard and improve performance. But it can be hard to keep off that weight all year round. So, how can athletes maintain a healthy weight?

Eating foods that are high in fiber and low in fat, mixed with a normal training regimen, can help athletes maintain an appropriate weight for their sport and age, a new literature review found.

According to the author of this review, the findings showed how a weight management plan can help athletes avoid rapid weight loss that damages and hinders performance. At the same time, athletes are able to build or maintain their muscle mass.

"Talk to a dietician to create a weight management plan."

This study, led by Melinda Manore, PhD, professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University, looked at how a low-energy-dense diet affects athletes’ muscle mass and weight.

This type of diet is high in fiber and water and low in fat. Those who follow the low-energy-dense diet can consume a higher quantity of food that can satisfy hunger levels while reducing calorie intake at the same time, according to Dr. Manore.

Dr. Manore reviewed several previous published studies on diet and weight management among athletes. In her review, Dr. Manore presented several major points:

  • Eat breakfast.
  • Spread food and protein intake throughout the day.
  • Eat after exercise.
  • Avoid fad diets.
  • Eliminate sweetened beverages.

One of the studies included in her review showed that men who ate breakfast consumed 17 percent fewer calories at lunch. Further evidence from another study showed that 80 percent of individuals who lost 30 pounds or more were breakfast eaters.

Spreading food consumption throughout the day ensures that the body has the nutrients and energy needed for exercise and building and repairing muscle, according to Dr. Manore.

At the same time, eating mini-meals throughout the day can prevent the athlete from becoming too hungry and consuming items not on their diet plan.

Optimal bodyweight for all individuals should promote good health and not necessarily be something that is achieved or maintained, Dr. Manore wrote in her review.

The sport and the weight loss goals should be kept in mind when creating a weight management plan for a particular athlete. The athlete’s coaches, sports dieticians and sports medicine teams should all be considered in the planning process.

“With athletes, as well as the rest of the population, a healthy diet consists of eliminating sugar, flour, and all processed foods,” said Rusty Gregory, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and dailyRx Contributing Expert. “This will lead to a healthy weight and the risk reduction of developing certain diseases and illnesses.”

To help an athlete find out what weight works best for him or her during the off-season, Dr. Manore said that athletes should consider a weight that:

  • minimizes health risks and promotes good health and eating habits.
  • considers genetic makeup and family history of body weight and shape.
  • can be accepted by the athlete or individual.
  • is appropriate for age and level of physical development.

According to Dr. Manore, weight management is an “ever-increasing” challenge with the abundance of relatively inexpensive and convenient food.

“Developing a weight management plan is essential for everyone, including athletes who expend high amounts of energy in their sport,” she wrote in her report. “Weight loss can be difficult and may change body composition unfavorably; thus, managing weight during the off-season is especially important to avoid performance-damaging rapid weight loss during competition.”

The review was published this summer in volume 75 of the Nestle Nutritional Institution Workshop Series.

No financial conflicts of interest were declared.

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Review Date: 
July 28, 2013