Britte | Research report: the current food intake of Dutch competitive surfers
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01 Sep Research report: the current food intake of Dutch competitive surfers

Surfing is a growing sport in the Netherlands, currently practiced by 8.000 – 10.000 Dutchies. The competitive side of the sport has developed quickly over the past few years; a series of competitions are organized every year, which form the Dutch Championships. Besides, several national talent teams are popping up, like HSA’s Surf Topsport Centre and SurfBenelux. The facilities for the athletes are increasing, but little attention is paid to the kind of nutrition that is needed to optimize performance. Healthy eating habits are not only necessary for the athletes’ performance, but also for their general long-term health. The goal of this research was to get an eye on the current intake of Dutch adolescent surfers, so sports dietitians know where they can base a sport specific food program for this target group on.

To get this information, I researched the food intake on a competition-, training- and rest day. Fifteen surfers that are members of one of the previously referred national talent teams kept a food diary during these three different types of days. I analyzed the diaries on six important elements – iron, calcium, vitamin C, saturated fat, fruit and vegetables – and compared the intake with the Dutch national recommendations of these elements.

Let’s start with the significant results, since these are the most accurate. It turned out that the boys had a significant lower calcium intake than the recommendations (1000 mg a day) on both the rest- and training day. On a training day, the boys’ intake of saturated fat is significantly higher than the recommendations (<10 energy %). Besides, the fruit intake of the boys is significantly lower than the recommendations (2 pieces a day) on both the rest- and competition day. The boys’ intake of vegetables is significantly lower than the recommendations (200 grams a day) on both the training- and competition day.

The average intake of calcium (70%), fruit (78%) and vegetables (80%) are lower than the recommendations (100%) at all three days. On the other hand, iron (111%) and vitamin C (191%) are above the recommendations (100%) at all three days. Saturated fat is on the border of acceptable (100%) on a rest day, while it’s above the recommendations on the training- and competition day (113% and 108%, respectively). This is the only element that has to be under the recommendation instead of over. It caught my attention that the calcium- and fruit intake are the highest on a competition day (compared to the other two days), while the intake of vegetables and vitamin C are the lowest on this day.

With this being said, I can conclude that the current food intake of Dutch adolescent competitive surfers does not fully satisfy the Dutch national recommendations. Iron and vitamin C easily make the recommendations, while calcium, fruit, vegetables and saturated fat do not. This data tells us that these four elements need attention in the completion of a future food program for the athletes, while iron and vitamin C can be kept in the background since the intake of these elements doesn’t seem to be a problem. Besides, the type of day seems to have influence on the intake of the analyzed elements.

The conclusion of this research can become more valid in the future if more participants are analyzed. This will also improve the chance for more significant results. The results of this research are just valid for the Netherlands, while surfing is an internationally recognized sport, with possible international differences in food intake. To get an international view on the current food intake of adolescent competitive surfers, more countries should be included in future research. It has to be taken into account that the recommendations of food elements vary between countries. During the analysis of the recruited data, it caught my attention that the general energy intake of the participants was quite low compared to the energy surfing costs. This low energy intake could explain why there is a lack of some of the nutrients that were analyzed. During future research, it would be interesting to take the general energy intake into account. Finally, the influence of the type of day on the food intake should be taken into account during the development of a food program. The results of this research can support this.