Introduction

At an international Consensus Conference held at the offices of the International Olympic Committee in 1991, a small group of experts agreed a consensus statement that began with the opening statement: ''Diet significantly influences exercise performance.'' This is a bold and unambiguous statement, leaving little room for doubt. However, the statement went on to add various qualifications to this opening statement. These qualifications reflect the uncertainties in our current knowledge, but are also a consequence of the many different issues that arise in considering the interactions between diet and performance and the diverse needs of athletes in different sports. In the years since that statement was formulated, the world of sport has advanced, with new world records and new champions. The world of science has also moved forward and there have been some important advances in our understanding of the interactions between nutrition and sports performance.

In considering the role of diet in the athlete's life, two main issues must be considered, each of which gives rise to many subordinate questions. The first question is how the demands of training affect the body's requirement for energy and nutrients: this then has implications for body composition (including the body content of fat, muscle, and bone), for the hormonal environment and the regulation of substrate metabolism, and for various disease states that are affected by body fatness, nutrient intake, and other related factors. The second question is how nutritional status influences the responses to and the performance in competition.

Athletes should be encouraged to follow eating plans that maximize the extent of recovery between training sessions, maximize the effectiveness of the adaptations that occur in response to each training session, and minimize the risk of illness and injury that might interrupt training or prevent participation in competition. This involves identification of each athlete's nutritional goals and the formulation of an eating strategy that will allow those goals to be met. There will be special issues in the period before and during competition that will influence nutrition needs, and separate dietary strategies will be necessary for training and for competition.

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