Periodized nutrition is necessary to optimize training and enhance performance through the season. The Athlete's Plate (AP) is a nutrition education tool developed to teach athletes how to design their plates depending on training load (e.g., volume × intensity), from easy (E), moderate (M) to hard (H). The AP was validated, confirming its recommendations according to international sports nutrition guidelines. However, the AP had significantly higher protein content than recommended (up to 2.9 ± 0.5 g·kg-1·d-1; p < 0.001 for H male). The aim of this study was to quantify the environmental impact (EnvI) of the AP and to evaluate the influence of meal type, training load, sex and registered dietitian (RD). The nutritional contents of 216 APs created by 12 sport RDs were evaluated using Computrition Software (Hospitality Suite, v. 18.1, Chatsworth, CA, USA). The EnvI of the AP was analyzed by life cycle assessment (LCA) expressed by the total amount of food on the AP, kg, and kcal, according to the Swiss Agricultural Life Cycle Assessment (SALCA) methodology. Higher EnvI is directly associated with higher training load when the total amount of food on the plate is considered for E (5.7 ± 2.9 kg CO2 eq/day); M (6.4 ± 1.5 kg CO2 eq/day); and H (8.0 ± 2.1 kg CO2 eq/day). Global warming potential, exergy and eutrophication are driven by animal protein and mainly beef, while ecotoxicity is influenced by vegetable content on the AP. The EnvI is influenced by the amount of food, training load and sex. This study is the first to report the degree of EnvI in sports nutrition. These results not only raise the need for sustainability education in sports nutrition in general, but also the urgency to modify the AP nutrition education tool to ensure sports nutrition recommendations are met, while not compromising the environment.
Keywords: environmental impact; life cycle assessment; nutrition education; periodized nutrition; protein; sports nutrition; sustainability.