Definition and Overview
A sports nutrition evaluation is an assessment of a person’s health and nutrition to determine whether or not he is fit for athletic performance. This is a must for any person who is or plans to be an athlete. At the end of the evaluation, any areas that require improvement should be detected and addressed to achieve the patient’s individual goals. The evaluation is facilitated by a nutritionist or a fitness coach who will assess the patient’s health based on several factors including his basic metabolic rate, body composition, and exercise level, among others. Failing to undergo an evaluation prior to an athletic performance may increase a person’s risk of injury especially if his body is not in an optimum condition to perform.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
Any athlete or person planning to become an athlete should undergo a sports nutrition evaluation. Together, the patient and the nutrition or fitness coach will work to determine whether the body is capable of performing athletically or not. At the end of the assessment, it should be clear whether a person is in an optimal state to do sports. If not, any problem areas should also be identified so that the fitness or nutrition coach can recommend the necessary steps, such as supplementation or modifying some lifestyle habits, to achieve the patient’s fitness goal.
How Does the Procedure Work?
A sports nutrition evaluation is performed by fitness coaches, dietitians, and nutrition specialists. It begins with a detailed assessment of the patient’s current state of health, which will check his/her:
- Daily schedule
- Lifestyle habits
- Eating patterns and preferences
- Exercise or activity level
- Basic metabolic rate – this refers to the amount of energy a person expends while he is resting
- Thermic effect of food – Also known as TEF or as specific dynamic action (SDA), the thermic effect of food refers to the amount of energy above the resting metabolic rate
Body composition – The ideal body composition tends to vary depending on the sport involved. This is, however, influenced by the same set of factors, such as dietary habits, exercise habits, and genetics.
The information collected will then be used to:
Assess the patient’s current health and physique
- Detect areas that need improvement
- Develop a nutrition plan customized to the patient’s needs and goals
Determine whether health supplements are necessary
The evaluation will also include a detailed recommendation on the patient’s ideal eating patterns. In most cases, a standard dietary record is established; this record includes important nutritional details such as:
The right types of food to eat
- The ideal amount of food to eat
- The correct eating schedule
- The effect of food on the body
- The effect of food on lifestyle
The appointment ends with the nutrition specialist giving recommendations on how to improve the patient’s health and how to achieve his goals. Thus, a sports nutrition evaluation may also require a follow-up visit so that the specialist can check on the patient’s progress.
Possible Risks and Complications
The sports nutrition evaluation will also help prevent the common problems that plague many athletes nowadays and may get in the way of their athletic goals. These include:
- Being overweight
- Being underweight
- Eating disorder
- Irregular menstrual cycle (for female patients)
- Food allergies
- Low bone mineral density
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Stress fractures
In order to perform at his best, an athlete not only has to train hard; he also has to prepare his body and give it the fuel it needs to perform. Otherwise, he is placing himself at risk of an injury. Thus, regularly seeking a sports nutrition evaluation is an important part of health care for any athlete.
American Dietetic Association; Dietitians of Canada; American College of Sports Medicine, et al. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Nutrition and athletic performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 Mar;41(3):709-31.
Bird R. Nutrition. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 30.