An appetite to win: Disordered eating behaviours amongst competitive cyclists

Roberts, Charlie J. and Hurst, Howard Thomas and Keay, Nicola and Hamer, Jennifer and Sims, Stacy and Schofield, Katherine L. and Hardwicke, Jack (2024) An appetite to win: Disordered eating behaviours amongst competitive cyclists. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching. ISSN 1747-9541

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Competitive cyclists may be vulnerable to disordered eating (DE) and eating disorders (ED) due to perceived body composition optimisation and external influences within cycling culture and from stakeholders. Therefore, this study aimed to assess DE and ED risk in competitive cyclists using the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26), explore differences in responses based on sex, discipline and level of competition, and to gain insights into contributing factors towards DE via open-ended survey questions. In total, 203 participants completed a mixed-method questionnaire. Eating disorders were reported by 5.7% (n = 11) of participants, with three being historic cases. The median (inter-quartile range) EAT-26 score was 8 (12) of a total possible score of 78. Disordered eating risk was observed in 16.7% of participants due to an EAT-26 score ≥20. Female participants had significantly higher scores than male participants (12.5 ± 17.5 vs. 6.5 ± 10.0; p = .004). There was no significant difference between road cyclists and off-road cyclists (7.0 ± 13.25 vs. 8.0 ± 10.5; p = .683). There was a significant difference in scores between novice/club/regional and national/elite/professional cyclists (6.0 ± 11.25 vs. 10.5 ± 12.0; p = .007). Thematic analysis of open-text responses found that the social environment of competitive cycling contributed towards DE behaviours and body image issues. These findings indicate competitive cyclists do appear to be an ‘at risk’ population for DE/ED. Therefore, there is need for stakeholders to enhance nutritional services, nutrition education and create supportive athlete environments.

Item Type: Article
Identification Number:
14 April 2024Accepted
16 May 2024Published Online
Uncontrolled Keywords: Attitudes, body image, diet, health, nutrition
Subjects: CAH03 - biological and sport sciences > CAH03-02 - sport and exercise sciences > CAH03-02-01 - sport and exercise sciences
Divisions: Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences > College of Life Sciences
Depositing User: Gemma Tonks
Date Deposited: 23 May 2024 13:25
Last Modified: 12 Jun 2024 13:01

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