Our Love & Hate Relationship with FOOD! Holiday Series: Part 2

Under-Eating & Performance

The term malnutrition is used to describe a deficiency, excess or imbalance of a
wide range of nutrients, resulting in measurable adverse effects on body
composition, function and clinical outcome. (Saunders, etal, 2010)
Malnutrition does affect the function and restorative abilities of every organ system
in the body. The most common reason for an athlete or active adult to under-eat is to maintain and/or lose weight. However, because most athletes aren’t knowledgeable about how nutritional needs and guidelines concerning their
sport/activity, they tend to over-do the streamlining of caloric intake. Usually
cutting the nutrients needed the most.
Due to the high demand of most sports/high level activities, caloric expenditure is
high almost at a rate in which replenishing the body is done fast enough. This
includes loss of macronutrients, water, electrolytes, vitamins and minerals. If these
nutrients aren’t replaced in a timely manner, it could lead to vomiting, diarrhea,
nausea, altered mental status and fainting. Having a poor diet can lead to poor
appetite, decreased energy, decreased performance, and depression in the
athlete/active adult. Decreased nutrient intake can lead to altered metabolic
processes in the body. This can lead to chronic inflammation and the development
of chronic inflammatory metabolic diseases and illness. These diseases and
illnesses can lead the body to have issues properly absorbing nutrients when they
are finally replenished. According to Meijers, etal, “The pathophysiology of
malnutrition consists of the combined influence of over- or undernutrition and
inflammatory activity on body composition and biological function.(2010)
This particular report focused on under-nutrition and its impact on inflammation.
According to their research, Meijers, etal also determined the following: “Because
deficient uptake or intake of nutrition and disease- or inflammation-related
changes in metabolism may lead to altered body composition (decreased fat-
mass, body cell mass), it might be a rational approach to rank changes in body
composition as the most important element in the definition of malnutrition.
Many studies have shown that a lot of these disorders go unnoticed and
undiagnosed. They have found an increased amount of elite athletes with disorders
involving weight control. They found the behavior with varying degrees of
frequency and severity.(Werner, etal, 2013) At the conclusion of their review,
Werner, etal determined the following:“…the examined papers show that there is
some prevalence of pathogenic weight concerns and weight-control behavior in
elite athletes… Only in leanness-sports, where athletes are encouraged to be thin for either appearance or performance, the prevalence of pathogenic weight- control behavior is higher in frequency than in non-athletes.”
(Werner, etal, 2013)
Another review conducted by Ghoch, etal determine; eating disorders have a
negative effect on physical fitness and sport performance by causing low energy
availability, excessive loss of fat and lean mass, dehydration, and electrolyte
disturbance. (2013)
It is important to understand the signs and symptoms of eating disorders and learn
how to combat the problem. It is also recommended that coaches get specific
training to recognize behaviors and symptoms associated with eating disorders in
their athletes.
People with eating disorders signs and symptoms
Judge themselves predominately or exclusively in terms of their shape,
weight, and eating control
Adopt strict dieting characterized by extreme, rigid dietary rules
Not eating with others or in the absence of hunger
Eating less when others present
Not eating food of uncertain calorie content or that prepared by others,
and eating as late as possible.
Shows reduced sport performance
Underweight, fatigue, amenorrhea, or dehydration(Ghoch,etal, 2013)
Ghoch, M. E., etal. Eatind Disorders, Physical Fitness and Sport Performance: A
Systematic Review. Nutrients 2013, 5, 5140-5160;doi:10.3390/nu51255140
Meijers, J.M.M., etal. Basic Nutritional Investigation: Defining malnutrition:
Mission or mission impossible? Nutrition 26 (2010) 432-440;doi:10.1016/j.nut.2009.06.012
Saunders, J., etal. Malnutrition and Undernutrition. Medicine; 2010; 39:1; 45-50
Werner, A., etal. Weight-control behavior and weight-concerns in young elite
athletes- systematic review. Journal of Eating Disorders 2013, 1:18:1-13;doi:10.1186/2050-2974-1-18