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Nutrition and sport: an inseparable tandem

 Nutrition and sport: an inseparable tandem

Nutrition and sport: an inseparable tandem

It is no longer necessary to point out the close link between nutrition and sport in a preventive approach to health and well-being, both physical and mental.  We cannot talk about regular exercise or sport without talking about a proper diet and, conversely, we cannot talk about diet without including exercise in an overall approach, two inseparable elements.

According to the ARS, "nutrition is an important factor for health. A healthy, varied and balanced diet at all ages contributes to good health. On the other hand, inadequate nutrition, which deviates from the recommendations of scientific expert groups, is a risk factor and can lead to the development of chronic diseases of civilization such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and most forms of cancer. We should not forget the consequences of these diseases in terms of public health costs.

If, on the other hand, we look at sport, many studies and recommendations from scientific and learned societies have highlighted the benefits of regular physical activity and sport in terms of increasing disability-free life expectancy, preventing obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and controlling certain cancers to prevent their recurrence. Not to mention the social and psychological benefits.

Therefore, we can conclude that nutrition and sport are two important factors for health and prevention.

The PNNS 2019-2023, which focuses mainly on nutrition, works within this general logic by promoting physical activity as a factor in the prevention of health and physical and psychological well-being. 

Sport and nutrition: two components that must be combined to benefit from the positive effects of sport.

It is now widely accepted that nutrition alone can contribute up to 70% of the objectives of regular sporting activity.

If we take the example of a car, but do not give it enough good fuel, it will not go very far. The same is true for the human body. Therefore, proper nutrition, both in quantity and quality, is an ESSENTIAL factor in order to be able to perform a sports activity in the best conditions. And this applies regardless of the level of practice. Neglecting nutrition means exposing oneself to the risk of sport becoming a "danger" in the medium and long term (injuries, overtraining, weakening of the immune system, muscle catabolism, bone demineralization, etc.), even if the initial objective is diametrically opposed.

Therefore, it would be easy to believe that all athletes have a sufficient and deep knowledge of nutrition. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Many athletes claim to be "nutritionists" without having received serious training beforehand. Nutrition is rarely, if ever, included in the frame of reference for training in the sports sector.

Too many nutritional mistakes are made by athletes and perpetuated by influencers whose sole objective is to make money.

In the end, the sports consumer, who thinks he or she is doing the right thing, no longer knows who to believe. Common sense gives way to the miracle product.

Covid19, the economic crisis and the explosive growth of individual sports coaching

It is only since the Covid19 pandemic that the sports sector has been hit hard by the economic crisis and has experienced a significant decline in business. Due to the lack of access to sports facilities during imprisonment, the social distancing obligation and the recent introduction of the health passport, we have witnessed an explosive growth of individualized sports coaching. During the first prison sentence, sedentary activities resulting from the severe restriction of freedom of movement also led to some weight gain (+3 kg on average), which greatly contributed to the development of sports practice, especially online.

Following the progressive restrictions imposed by the government and to cope with the economic crisis, sports operators had to ask questions, adapt and innovate to continue to maintain their activities.

Most of them developed outdoor training while it was still possible, others had to learn new digital techniques (repetitive videos, live classes) and offer online sports, while other sports practitioners resorted to other types of cross-cutting services, in particular nutritional advice to offer general support to their customers.

Finally, as with all entrepreneurs, it is advisable for sports coaches to follow a strategy of monitoring and building customer loyalty, particularly through additional training that allows them to keep up with market trends. In this context, nutrition seems to be an excellent opportunity to complement customized training.

The problem: athletes' lack of knowledge about nutrition.

Like dietitians who must promote physical activity (PNNS), athletes must also promote good nutrition and do so with full legitimacy. Although Article L 4371-1 states that only dietitians can give dietary advice, this is actually not the case.

In fact, as the director and founder of the educational organization PERFODIET, I have been working with and educating athletes for more than 10 years. Over the years, I have observed that many athletes have taken it upon themselves to develop dietary programs with nutritional weights without necessarily having the necessary knowledge, as nutrition is not part of training in sports education. As evidence, one can use the certification frameworks of the various degrees in the field (BPJEPS, DEJEPS, STAPS field, formerly BEES).

It is obvious, and I am not saying anything new, that all sports professionals who care about the health and well-being of their clients will sooner or later, either spontaneously or at the request of their clients, have to talk about food hygiene.  And after restriction, this practice tends to increase (social networks, influencers...).

What is the added value of food education?

  • Being able to adapt to changes in demand for personalized guidance from professionals while maintaining high attractivenessś.
  • Develop new soft skills for the sports coaching profession (mental preparedness, health/nutrition, digital marketing...).
  • Be able to refer to a dietician or physician if necessary.
  • Teach sports coaches the basics of food hygiene and good coaching practices so that they can follow ARS recommendations, in accordance with the Public Health Act (PNNS).
  • Raise awareness of the importance of individualization of services.
  • Measures to prevent risks associated with nutritional excesses (overconsumption or restriction of one or more food and/or nutrient groups).
  • Measures to prevent doping and doping behavior among professionals.
  • In line with the health prevention discourse.

In response to these many comments, I have made every effort to ensure that sports practitioners who want to help their clients in the field of nutrition can do so with full legitimacy.


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