Adequate nutrient intake is important to support training and to optimise performance of elite athletes. Nutritional knowledge has been shown to play an important role in adopting optimal nutrition practices. The aim of the present study was to investigate the relationship between the level of nutritional knowledge and dietary habits in elite English rugby league players using the eatwell plate food categories.
General nutritional knowledge questionnaires were collected during the Super League competitive season in the first team squad of 21 professional Rugby league players (mean age 25 ± 5 yrs, BMI 27 ± 2.4 kg/m2, experience in game 6 ± 4 yrs). According to their nutritional knowledge scores, the players were assigned to either good or poor nutritional knowledge group (n = 11, n = 10, respectively). Their dietary habits were assessment using a food frequency questionnaire.
The findings revealed that nutritional knowledge was adequate (mean 72.82%) in this group of athletes with the highest scores in dietary advice section (85.71%), followed by food groups (71.24%) and food choice (69.52%). The majority of athletes were not aware of current carbohydrate recommendations. This translated into their dietary habits as many starchy and fibrous foods were consumed only occasionally by poor nutritional knowledge group. In terms of their eating habits, the good nutritional knowledge group consumed significantly more fruit and vegetables, and starchy foods (p <.05). Nutritional knowledge was positively correlated to fruit and vegetables consumption (rs = .52, p <.05) but not to any other eatwell plate categories.
The study identified adequate general nutritional knowledge in professional rugby league players with the exception of recommendation for starchy and fibrous foods. Players who scored higher in nutritional knowledge test were more likely to consume more fruits, vegetables and carbohydrate-rich foods.