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November 17, 1956


JAMA. 1956;162(12):1120-1126. doi:10.1001/jama.1956.02970290016006

• The performance of an athlete can be impaired significantly by a faulty or inadequate diet, even before clinical signs of a deficiency are manifest. But the manipulation of an already adequate diet does not enhance performance. The composition of a meal preceding single-effort events like the high jump has little effect on performance, but performance in tests involving prolonged muscular work is enhanced if carbohydrate stores are replete at the beginning of the test. Obesity is a mechanical handicap in most, though not in all, forms of athletics. The average corporeal density of athletes is higher than that assumed for the general population; therefore the usual height-weight tables give the misleading impression that an athlete of given height is too heavy and presumably obese. Placing him on a reducing diet would be a mistake. Ordinarily he will spontaneously ingest food in amounts sufficient to maintain his weight. Performance is generally influenced by motivation, skill, and other neuromuscular and psychological factors. The training table provides the athlete with the foods on which he has learned he can rely; it also provides some of the sense of security generally obtainable by the practice of rituals. The best diet for him is a balanced one consisting of a variety of the foods he enjoys, in amounts that maintain his weight at an optimum level.