Snacking is an effective nutritional practical strategy in elite athletes. However, no reference of snacking patterns of elite water polo athletes has been reported. The aim of this study was to
explore the role of snacks of elite female water polo athletes in body composition and daily energy intake (EI).
All 20 athletes (23±4 yr, 23±1 kg/m2) from the Chinese Women’s Water Polo Team who took the 2014 spring training session were recruited. The subjects trained 32 hours per wk, and prospectively
completed 6-training-day dietary records including all food, fluid, and supplements consumed. The types, frequency, components of snacks, and their contribution to BMI, body composition, and EI were
also analyzed. Athletes were categorized into light (0 - 3 snacks/d, n = 10) and heavy snacker (≥3 snacks/d, n = 10) according to their snack frequency.
The subjects self-reported snacking 6.2±2.5 types of snacks and snacked 2.6±1.5 times per day. Fresh fruits, milk, high fat grains/cereals/beans/nuts, dried fruit and low fat grains/cereals/beans/nuts
were the top 5 most commonly consumed snacks. The top five contributors to snacking energy intake (EI) were high fat grains/cereals /beans/nuts, fresh fruit, candy/sugar/other sugar foods, dried fruit
and low fat grains/cereals/ beans/nuts. The content (P < 0.01) and the proportion of snack EI from fat (P < 0.01) of heavy snackers were significantly higher than those of light snackers. Snacking
accounted for 13% of daily EI in the full sample. The snack calories (P < 0.05) and the percentage of daily EI from snacks (P < 0.05) of the heavy snackers were significantly higher, but the
percentages of daily EI from meals (P < 0.05) were significantly lower than that of the light snackers. No significant differences between heavy and light snackers were revealed related to total daily
EI, body fat percentage, and BMI.
Snacking sometimes facilitates overeating and body weight gain, but regular intake of snacks can satisfy hunger and help prevent overeating at meals and elevate and meet energy and nutrient intake
needs. In this study, conducted during high volume heavy intensity training days, the elite female water polo players snacking patterns did not significantly increase their daily EI. Rather the
snacking patterns were reflective of their consumption at meals. In conclusion, snack consumption did not significantly increase the daily EI or body weight status of the athletes undertaking high
volume intense training. Snacks had energy compensation effect on meal intake of the athletes.