Gymnastics is a dynamic sport that incorporates seven disciplines; men's & women's artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, trampolining, sports aerobics, sports acrobatics and cheerleading.
- Even from an early age, these athletes have very individual requirements to nourish their developing muscles and bones, whilst maintaining the aesthetic body for the sport.
As gymnasts mature, male and female requirements differ due to physical changes and different competition peaks. For instance, artistic females peak earlier in the sport (before puberty) which makes this prime bone-laying time and physical maturation, while rhythmic gymnasts peak in their late teens/early twenties, where lean body mass needs to be balanced by healthy eating and regular menstrual function.
Males generally peak in their early twenties when muscle mass peaks, and nutrition strategies tend to focus on maintaining and increasing lean body mass (muscle).
Gymnasts require a well-balanced nutritious training diet. Gymnasts are usually quite young with many preferring small frequent meals to meet nutritional requirements and to fit into their busy schedules of school, training and homework.
Low iron stores can be a problem with female gymnasts, particularly elite gymnasts who train long hours. If you get tired ask your doctor for a blood test to check your iron levels. Also see our Iron Depletion in Athletes Fact sheet.
Eating Disorders can be an issue with gymnasts. Care should be taken to encourage gymnasts to eat healthy but not be restrictive in their eating. A wide range of foods should be eaten so that all nutrients are obtained regularly. Advice from a Sports Dietitian may be helpful. Also see our Eating Disorders in Athletes fact sheet.
Author: Simone Allen, Accredited Sports Dietitian (WA)