Poster Topical Area: Sports Nutrition

Location: Auditorium

Poster Board Number: 235

P25-004 - Counseling Athletes for Weight Loss, Weight Gain, and Eating Disorders: Sports RDN’s Strategies and Barriers

Sunday, Jun 10
8:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Objective: To gain a better understanding of sports Registered Dietitian/Nutritionists' (RDN) counseling practices with athletes for weight loss/gain and eating disorders (ED).

Scripted phone interviews were conducted with 11 RDN's and qualitatively analyzed by trained researchers to describe counseling practices with athletes.

Participants worked mostly with college and professional athletes and had been sports RDNs for 14.72±9.16SD years. When counseling athletes for weight loss, RDNs reported clients were mostly female from varied sports (i.e., cross-country, diving, gymnastics, and volleyball). RDNs individualized their advice, and recommended small changes to athletes' current diets and slow weight loss to maintain muscle mass. Athletes' unrealistic expectations, nutrition misconceptions (i.e., fad diets), time, and food cost were common barriers to weight loss. RDNs commonly counseled male track/field, football, basketball, baseball, and hockey athletes on weight gain, particularly high school players needing to gain weight to be competitive in college. For weight gain, RDNs promoted individualized plans, aiming to add 500 calories/day via snacks, consistent protein intake, and high-calorie/low-volume beverages (i.e., juice, milk, smoothies, protein shakes). Barriers to weight gain included lack of appetite and nutrition knowledge, time, and food cost and availability. Counseling for EDs occurred mainly with females in appearance (figure skating, gymnasts) and endurance (distance runners, cyclists) sports. Bulimia nervosa was most common in males and anorexia nervosa in endurance athletes. Participants felt that orthorexia affected athletes regardless of sport or gender. Barriers to ED counseling included lack of support from coaches, particularly if training was suspended, and athletes' unwillingness to accept the diagnosis and make changes. RDNs commonly referred ED athletes to multidisciplinary treatment programs when needed.

Types of athletes counseled for weight loss and gain differ, but RDN's counseling strategies and barriers consistently emphasized individualization and a multidisciplinary approach in ED counseling.

Funding Source: NJ Experiment Station

CoAuthors: Carol Byrd-Bredbenner – Rutgers University

Kaitlyn Eck

Rutgers University
New Brunswick, New Jersey