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Authors help athletes tip scales toward sport performance

When determining whether to gain or lose weight, build muscle, cut fat, or control water weight, athletes often don't know how to help their bodies comply with their performance goals. Now experienced registered dietitians Michele Macedonio and Marie Dunford answer athletes' questions and put them on the road to achieving their optimal weight with Athlete's Guide to Making Weight (Human Kinetics, 2009).

The book explains how to avoid quick fixes, crash diets, or shortcuts in order to safely achieve weight loss or gain. “Athletes try these methods and find they don't work and often even hinder their performance,” Macedonio says. “Those who want to gain or lose weight and change body composition to improve performance need to understand that achieving that end is a process.”

Macedonio and Dunford have created a four-step process to help athletes achieve improvements in performance.

  • Step 1: Assessment. Athletes need to compare their physical characteristics with those of successful athletes in their sport, specifically those who play the same position, to determine whether change in body weight or body composition is needed.
  • Step 2: Goal setting. Competitors should set broad goals to stay focused on improving performance. However, they must also take small steps to reach those broad goals by setting specific objectives. Ideally, athletes should set several major goals and numerous objectives. Realistic goals and objectives in performance, weight, and health are the basis for creating an action plan.
  • Step 3: Action plan. Any action plan requires a basic knowledge of nutrition and how muscle is gained and body fat is lost. Understanding these principles will prevent changes that impede progress toward goals or interfere with training and performance. Dietary intake is also a primary focus of any action plan because changing weight or body composition requires modifying the diet. An action plan should include the specific amounts of calories, carbohydrate, protein, and fat that need to be consumed daily.
  • Step 4: Evaluation and reassessment. The last step in the process provides valuable feedback that can lead to adjustments in goals and objectives and modifications to the strategies for meeting them. Changes in weight and body composition cannot be precisely predicted, and even a well-developed action plan will need some adjustment along the way.

According to Macedonio, many athletes are unsuccessful in their attempts at weight loss or gain because they jump into an action plan that is not based on their personal needs or they set goals that undermine rather than enhance their performance. She warns against starting with an action plan since each step of the process builds on a previous step.

For more information, see Athlete's Guide to Making Weight.