Nutrition knowledge, dietary intake and nutritional status of elite Kenyan athletes
Kenyan athletes are renowned the World over for their outstanding performance in middle and long distance races. Sometimes the performance of some athletes has been impaired by injuries possibly traceable to nutritional deficiency. This study was therefore designed to assess the nutrition knowledge, nutritional status and dietary intake of energy, protein, iron and calcium of a selected group of elite Kenyan athletes. The study took place at the Moi International Sports Complex, Kasarani, Nairobi during a training camp held between 26th July - 9th August, 2009. It involved 30 elite middle and long distance runners, both men and women who had been selected to participate in the World athletics championships to be held later in Berlin, Germany in August 2009. A previously pretested structured questionnaire was used to collect information on socio-demographics and nutrition knowledge. A Weighed Food Record was also conducted to assess intakes of energy, protein, calcium and iron. Anthropometric measurements of height and weight were used to calculate BMI and determine nutritional status of the athletes. Nutri-survey software was used to analysis the dietary intakes. SPSS 16.0 and Ms-Excel 2007 soft-ware was used for analysis. The participants were aged between 18-32 years and 60% were male and 40% female. Only 8.4% females had normal nutritional status (BMI ³ 18.5) The remaining majority were either moderately or severely malnourished. About 66.7% of the males and 66.7% of the females reported possessing nutrition knowledge. Of the female athletes 33.4% reported carbohydrates, 55.7% reported minerals and vitamins and 11.2% reported proteins to be the most important nutrient for distance runners. The male athletes had 38.5% report carbohydrates, 30.8% report minerals and vitamins and 30.8% report proteins to be the most important nutrient for distance runners. About 67% of the female athletes had suffered injuries that had affected their performance, only 28% of the male athlete had suffered similar injuries. Those who after the injury did not participate in their events were 16.7% and were mainly female athletes. The study established also that dietary intake was inadequate. The energy (kcal) intake indicated 22.2% males and 33.3% females above the recommended dietary intake. In conclusion the nutritional knowledge possessed by the athletes was low, their nutritional status was poor and their dietary intake of the essential nutrients especially carbohydrates, protein, calcium and iron was below the recommended.