Nutrition News: Body Composition

Photo by Sven Mieke on Unsplash

At the 2023 American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting (ACSM;, more than 3,000 sports medicine professionals and researchers from around the globe gathered to share knowledge. Several sports nutrition presentations offered updates that might be of interest you.

Body Composition:
Historically, collegiate and professional runners would routinely have their body fat measured, with the data posted for all to see. Many were praised for their extreme leanness (read anorexia); others were fat-shamed. Hence, many runners experienced intense pressure both internally and externally to have a lean physique.

• Today, we know that athletic performance is not dictated primarily by a runner’s percent body fat but rather by volume of training, mental state, adequacy of sleep, and sufficient food intake—among other factors.

• Today’s recommendations state measurement of body fat should only be done if 1) the runner consents, 2) the measurement is done in private by a trained measurer using the most reliable method, 3) the information is discussed in confidence with the runner and their health care team, and 4) the mental and physical health of the runner is top priority.

• Runners, please understand you will perform better if you focus on getting stronger and gaining power, as opposed to restricting food. If the cost of losing body fat is having to train for weeks with poorly fueled muscles, your performance will suffer and your risk of injuries will increase.

Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD  counsels both fitness exercisers and competitive athletes in the Boston-area (Newton; 617-795-1875). Her best-selling Sports Nutrition Guidebook is a popular resource, as is her online workshop. Visit for info.

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