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 by saying that ''Diet significantly influences exercise performance.'' That 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 largely reflect the uncertainties in our current knowledge, but also reflect the many different issues that arise in considering the interactions between diet and exercise. Exercise may take many forms and may be undertaken for many different reasons: as the emphasis on physically demanding occupations has decreased in most parts of the world, so participation in recreational exercise and sport have increased. Even though physical activity programs have been heavily promoted in most developed countries, however, they rarely involve more than about 30% of the population, leaving a major part of the population who seldom or never engage in any form of strenuous activity.

In considering the interactions between diet and exercise, two main issues must be considered, each of which gives rise to many subordinate questions. The first question is how altered levels of physical activity influence 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 of exercise. This has implications for those engaged in physically demanding occupations, and also for those who take part in sport on a recreational or competitive basis.

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