The Link between Nutrition and Athletic Performance
By Mike McPartlin, Headmaster, Bridgedale Academy
Studying the Link between Proper Diet and Athletic Performance
In May of 2016 I published a blog entitled “Is there a link between Proper Diet and Athletic Performance?” It was my attempt to analyze that question generally. Since today virtually ALL professional and college sports teams include proper nutrition as an integral part of their programs, it is clear that athletic performance and nutrition go hand in hand.
In researching the topic online, however, I noticed that although I was able to find some excellent articles (I provided some links at the end of that May 2016 blog), there didn’t really appear to be any comprehensive scientific studies on the subject.
This was especially true when it came to youth athletes and, from my perspective, youth hockey players in particular.
Proper Nutrition is crucial to a student-athlete’s development.
Developing the entire student-athlete is what Bridgedale Academy is all about. We are a sports academy, a prep school for hockey players, and we regard proper nutrition as crucial not only to athletic development, but also to academic performance, because as a rule youngsters who eat well have better focus.
And we believed there was more that we at Bridgedale Academy could do to help our student-athletes better understand proper nutrition.
Looking for a Scientist Partner to help us learn more about Nutrition.
And so during the summer of 2016 I began looking online to see if there were any local colleges that had graduate programs dedicated to the study of nutrition.
With our student-athletes in something of a captive environment here at Bridgedale during the school day, they would be perfect test-subjects for any graduate students looking to do a research study on nutrition as it relates to youth athletes and athletic performance.
The added benefit of course was how valuable we knew it would be to all our student-athletes to be “immersed” in a bona fide scientific research project studying the link between proper nutrition and athletic performance in young athletes.
Benedictive University’s Graduate Program in Nutrition Fit the Bill
To my surprise, I learned that one of the most prominent nutrition graduate programs in the entire nation happened to be at the college located closest to Bridgedale, Benedictive University (a proverbial “stone’s throw” away in Lisle, Illinois).
And so during the summer of 2016 I reached out to BenU’s Nutrition and Wellness program, to see if anyone there might have an interest in studying the effects of nutrition on the athletic performance of our youth athletes.
What eventually emerged from discussons was a collaborative effort that would benefit both BenU’s Nutrition graduate program and Bridgedale Academy’s student-athletes.
On the one hand, BenU graduate students would be presented with the opportunity to develop research material for their Masters Degree theses. And on the other, Bridgedale Academy would be presented with a fantastic opportunity for our student-athletes to learn first-hand about the importance of nutrition to athletic development.
"As a hockey prep school, we are excited for this opportunity to partner with such a prominent graduate program as Benedictine University has," said Christina Di Pauli, Bridgedale's Academic Dean. "Our student-athletes call it their 'hockey nutrition' study and they are very excited to be taking part in it."
The Partnership between Benedictine University and Bridgedale Academy.
And so Bridgedale Academy has partnered with Benedictine University to conduct a graduate level study on the effects of nutrition on athletic performance.
Seven graduate students from BenU, all candidates for Master’s Degrees in Nutrition and Wellness, will be conducting the study under the supervision of Dr. Bonnie Beezhold and Dr. Laurie Schubert.
Renowned exercise physiologist Dr. Craig Broeder will be assisting in the physical activity measurements.
All of Bridgedale’s 7th and 8th graders are being given the opportunity to participate in this study, which is described as:
“Investigating the link between sports nutrition knowledge and diet, health and performance in middle school hockey players at Bridgedale Academy.”
This nutrition study at Bridgedale Academy has already gone through BenU’s approval processes requisite for such graduate studies, including of course to include measures that protect the privacy of all the participants.
A nutrition education session will follow initial measurements. Eight weeks of support for dietary improvement based on that session will then be provided for the student-athletes and their parents, as well as for Bridgedale Academy staff. Measurements will include a survey, body composition, and three days of diet and physical activity measurements, at both the beginning and the end of the study.
An initial “pilot” study has already been completed, with two of Bridgedale’s 8th graders having served as volunteers for some pre-testing.
The pre-testing was to ensure that the devices being used to measure the boys’ physical activity will operate properly when the actual baseline measurements are taken, and to lay the groundwork for any baseline parameters that will need to be considered and/or adjusted.
An automatic "diet recall" method was also piloted.
The full study will run from February to May of 2017.
The full study began this week, with the first of beginning-of-study measurements having been taken on February 13, 2017.
On Friday, February 17th, parents of participants will have the opportunity to attend a group nutrition education session and to learn to assist their sons with diet recalls and staying on task during the course of the study.
The end-of-study measurements (the same ones) will be taken during the week of May 7th. The team of graduate students will then analyze their data and report back with their results.
If this topic interests you and you would like to discuss it further, please click the button below so we can schedule a time to chat.
You might also enjoy reading our blog at: "Top 7 Reasons for a Sports Academy Like Bridgedale Academy"