Gymnastics is a dynamic, skill-based and high-impact sport that demands a high commitment of training hours from gymnasts from a young age.
Nutrition plays a vital role in fuelling these athletes and ensuring their healthy development, which is why it has become a cornerstone of Scottish Gymnastics' approach to performance development.
Young people and nutrition
As a world champion sprint medallist, Scottish Gymnastics performance manager Jamie Bowie understands the importance of nutrition and recovery.
He says: “We felt it was important to invest in female gymnasts on the pathway given the number of hours they train while balancing school and gym time as well as going through their main growth and development.
"The gymnasts were aged 12 or in their teens and competing at Scottish and British events. At this level of the sport, support was not available through the sportscotland institute of sport.
"We are also aware that as an aesthetic sport, there can sometimes be challenges with body image that can be associated with eating disorders."
To address this, Scottish Gymnastics brought in Renee McGregor, a sports and eating-disorder specialist dietitian with 20 years’ experience in clinical and performance nutrition. Renee has worked with rhythmic gymnastics, wheelchair fencing and basketball teams at Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Renee leads practical sessions for gymnasts, making snacks and giving them ideas to use before, during or after training. Her workshops help to educate parents and coaches on nutrition choices for their child and she provides tips on the best nutrients to eat and how to build these choices into a busy family schedule.
They learn about fuelling bodies for performance and discover that high training loads come with high-energy demands, especially through the adolescent years when the athletes are growing. If the balance is wrong it could lead to period abnormalities, injury, illness or even weakening of the bones.
Nutrition in performance sport
Ahead of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, Renee worked closely with the male and female artistic gymnasts vying for selection for Team Scotland and their coaches. The aim was to prepare them for balancing the increased training demands with their nutritional needs and to maximise performance on the competition floor.
There was also an emphasis on recovery and how to develop a travel strategy for Australia, with nutrition, hydration, sleep and jetlag all playing an important part in Games preparation.
The positive response to the first workshops highlighted the need to support further gymnasts, parents and coaches and Renee is now also working with Scottish Gymnastics' performance pathway programmes in men’s artistic, acrobatic, trampoline, double-mini trampoline, tumbling and TeamGym.
During residential performance programmes at sportscotland national training centre Inverclyde, Renee has helped the performance team to develop “the perfect plate”, which is designed to help fuel gymnasts while on training camps and support their learning and understanding of what they are eating at home.
Scottish Gymnastics allocate a team manager at training camps and international representative events. They have a duty of care for the delegation and are trained by Renee on the right choice of meals and snacks.