Auditing the representation of female versus male athletes in sports science and sports medicine research: Evidence-based performance supplements

Date

2022

Authors

Smith, Ella S.
McKay, Alannah K. A.
Kuikman, Megan
Ackerman, Kathryn E.
Harris, Rachel
Elliott-Sale, Kirsty J.
Stellingwerff, Trent
Burke, Louise M.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Publisher

Nutrients

Abstract

Although sports nutrition guidelines promote evidence-based practice, it is unclear whether women have been adequately included in the underpinning research. In view of the high usage rates of performance supplements by female athletes, we conducted a standardised audit of the literature supporting evidence-based products: β-alanine, caffeine, creatine, glycerol, nitrate/beetroot juice and sodium bicarbonate. Within 1826 studies totalling 34,889 participants, just 23% of participants were women, although 34% of studies included at least one woman. Across different supplements, 0–8% of studies investigated women exclusively, while fewer (0–2%) were specifically designed to compare sex-based responses. The annual publication of female-specific studies was ~8 times fewer than those investigating exclusively male cohorts. Interestingly, 15% of the female participants were classified as international/world-class athletes, compared with 7% of men. Most studies investigated performance outcomes but displayed poorer representation of women (16% of participants), whereas health-focussed studies had the greatest proportion of female participants (35%). Only 14% of studies including women attempted to define menstrual status, with only three studies (~0.5%) implementing best practice methodologies to assess menstrual status. New research should target the efficacy of performance supplements in female athletes, and future sports nutrition recommendations should specifically consider how well female athletes have contributed to the evidence-base.

Description

Keywords

women, physical activity, menstrual status, oral contraceptive, nutrition

Citation

Smith, E., McKay, A., Kuikman, M., Ackerman, K., Harris, R., . . . Burke, L. (2022). “Auditing the representation of female versus male athletes in sports science and sports medicine research: Evidence-based performance supplements.” Nutrients, 14(5), 953. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14050953