WEIGHT MANAGEMENT SERVICES FOR VARSITY ATHLETES
The UHS Clinical and Sport Dietitian acts as a member of the Athletic Medicine Staff to help promote optimal health and athletic performance for varsity student-athletes. Individual nutrition counseling and team meetings are available by appointment to address topics including: nutrition for performance, hydration, body composition goals and weight management, muscle gain, supplement evaluation and guidance, in addition to healthy eating on campus, eating on-the-go and much more. The Princeton High Performance Nutrition Handbook provides practical information to athletes on various sport nutrition topics. This can be accessed at the Sports Nutrition link within the UHS Athletic Medicine Site. http://www.princeton.edu/uhs/student-services/athletic-medicine-service/athletic-medicine-varsity/
NOTE: Athletes should first see the Team Physician if experiencing any of the following symptoms - chronic fatigue or low energy, menstrual dysfunction, illness or injury, involuntary weight loss or weight gain. Athletes should also first be seen by a physician for medical conditions including diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or digestive disorders.
WEIGHT MANAGEMENT POLICY
The goal of a medically supervised weight management program is to
- provide nutrition information and counseling for student athletes and coaches
- enhance health and performance, and
- prevent behaviors that jeopardize an athlete’s health and safety.
This policy will provide guidelines related to initial assessment and safe monitoring of body weight and composition, as well as evaluation of appropriate weight goals.
II. WEIGHT & BODY COMPOSITION:
There is no definite link between body weight or composition and performance. For example, a lower percent body fat or weight does not always correlate w/ improved performance and can, in fact, lead to a decrease in performance as well as an increased risk for injury and/or illness. Athletes will often do whatever it takes to reach a weight or body composition goal that may not be realistic. Without the proper knowledge of how to lose or gain weight appropriately, they may resort to unhealthy behaviors with significant health consequences. (e.g. eating disorders, anabolic steroid use, illicit drug use)
Weight does not change rapidly unless the individual is either ill, is severely restricting/dehydrating, binge eating, and/or using anabolic steroids or other ergogenic agents. When weight becomes too important, it can precipitate body obsession and significant emotion, in turn making normal eating much more difficult.
Weighing athletes, punishment for lack of weight control, and linking weight to performance can lead to pathogenic weight control behaviors, disordered eating, and ultimately eating disorders. Furthermore, body dissatisfaction and dieting are often precursors to disordered eating. Disordered eating patterns can negatively impact a student-athlete’s mental and physical well being and ultimately their athletic performance.
Frequent weigh-ins can encourage “competitive thinness,” in which athletes try to be thinner than their teammates and communicates that their weight is more important than things like eating for training, sleeping regularly, hydrating, and recovery. Coaches can have a tremendous influence on athletes, and should be conscious of their attitudes, behaviors, and language that may directly or indirectly contribute to the onset of unhealthy eating behaviors and/or lifestyles.
Based on the important issues raised above, the following recommendations should be followed:
• Determining optimal body weight and composition is best performed by medical personnel, and
must be individualized as there is significant variation to account for different body types, genetics, and other factors both modifiable and non-modifiable.
• A sports dietitian is available and should be utilized early in an athlete’s career at Princeton for any weight or body composition concerns as well as to optimize nutrition for performance.
• Checking weights more frequently than once per week is not useful unless dehydration is an issue or obligatory weight limits are imposed by the sport (wrestling, lightweight crew, sprint football)
• Coaches do not have sole responsibility for monitoring weight control of athletes
• Coaches not involved in weight restricted sports are strongly discouraged from weighing athletes
• If there is concern regarding a particular athlete’s weight gain or loss, this can be assessed by the sports dietitian, along with the athletic medicine staff (team physician, athletic trainer) with input from the coaching staff.
i. If an athlete must be weighed, he/she should be weighed privately, by a healthcare professional, and told the purpose for the weighing. Preferably, it should be for “health” purposes or to monitor progress.
ii. If disordered eating or eating disorders are suspected, athletes should be referred to the team physician for further evaluation and treatment.
• For sports that mandate weight restrictions (e.g. sprint football, wrestling, men’s & women’s lightweight crew), weight management issues should be addressed by the sports dietitian, along with the athletic medicine staff (team physician, athletic trainer) with input from the coaching staff.
i. Determination of an individual athlete’s appropriate weight range should be assessed. The assessed weight range should be used as criteria in determining participation for that respective sport.
ii. If weight loss is desired and considered safe, it should start early, well before the competitive season.
iii Weight loss should be agreed upon by the student-athlete and appropriate medical nutritional personnel, with consultation from the coach.
• Athletes are discouraged from buying dietary supplements on their own and should discuss all supplement use with the Athletic Medicine Staff (sports dietitian, athletic trainer, team physician).
• Weight and body composition measurements are confidential medical indices and require permission from the student athlete in order to be shared. (Certain situation, ie in the event of a life-threatening circumstance, or for weight restricted sports, the medical team may choose to disclose this information to coaches, parents, and other medical personnel as necessary)
• Coaches should promote healthy lifestyle practices which include appropriate rest, stress management, optimal eating choices and behaviors, and avoiding alcohol and other drugs.
Princeton University Athletic Medicine is committed to providing resources for student athletes and coaches. These include but are not limited to medical and athletic training services, individual and team sports nutrition meetings, psychological counseling services, and health promotion services.
IOC Medical Commission Position Stand on the Female Athlete Triad (2005)
Female Athlete Triad Handbook for Coaches; NCAA
Sports Medicine Handbook; NCAA