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Sleep duration, body composition, dietary profile and eating behaviours among children and adolescents: a comparison between Portuguese acrobatic gymnasts

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Sleep, body composition and dietary intake are crucial for athletes’ health and performance but have never been investigated in acrobatic gymnasts. Thus, this study aimed to evaluate sleep, body composition, dietary intake and eating behaviours of acrobatic gymnasts. Using a cross-sectional study, 82 Portuguese acrobatic gymnasts (12.8 ± 3.1 years, 61 females and 21 males) were evaluated during the competitive period to collect training data, sleep duration, body composition, dietary intake and eating behaviours before, during and after practices. Most of the gymnasts (91.5%) slept less than 8 h/night. Female adolescents slept significantly less on weekdays than female children (P = 0.024). Female adolescents’ mean body mass was below the normal and 60.0% showed menstrual irregularities; 4.9% of females bases were overweight and 2.4% obese. Male adolescents slept significantly less on weekdays than male children (P = 0.001); significant differences were shown for fat-free mass (P = 0.014); however, 3.7% were overweight. All daily energy and macronutrient intakes were significantly different according to age and gender, with exception for fibre and energy intake in females (P = 0.057 and P = 0.052, respectively), and for protein in males (P = 0.068). Female and male adolescents demonstrated significant lower energy availability (32.8 ± 9.4 kcal/kg FFM/day and 45.1 ± 14.7 kcal/kg FFM/day) than children (45.8 ± 8.7 kcal/kg FFM/day and 53.8 ± 9.1 kcal/kg FFM/day), respectively. Significant low intakes of important vitamins and minerals were reported. Most of the participants did not eat or drink during or immediately after training sessions.

Conclusion: Acrobatic gymnasts revealed low BF, short sleep duration and macro- and micronutrients inadequate intakes. The Female Athlete Triad was demonstrated by female adolescent gymnasts.

What is Known:

Adequate dietary intake is an important resource for athletes’ short and long-term health and performance.

• There are no published studies in acrobatic gymnasts’ sleep, body composition or dietary intake.

What is New:

This study provides the first data on significant differences in energy intake and availability between acrobatic gymnasts; overweight and obesity were present in females.

• Macro and micronutrients were inappropriate. Female Athlete Triad was observed in female adolescent acrobatic gymnasts.

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Acrobatic gymnastics


American College of Sports Medicine


Basal metabolic rate


Body fat


Body mass


Body mass index


Energy availability


Energy intake


Exercise energy expenditure


Fat-free mass


Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique


Food and Nutrition Board/Institute of Medicine


Low energy availability


Recommended Dietary Allowances


Total body water


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The authors thank the gymnasts for their participation in this study and coaches and parents for their collaboration. This study was carried out at the Faculty of Health Sciences, University Fernando Pessoa, Oporto, Portugal and at the Research Centre of Anthropology and Health, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal. This work was supported by National Founds from FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology under Grant: PEst-OE/SADG/UI0283/2015. The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Funding sources

This work was supported by National Founds from FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology [grant number: PEst-OE/SADG/UI0283/2015].

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Authors and Affiliations



All authors were responsible for the conception, design, data analysis and data interpretation of the study and writing of the manuscript; M.-R. G. Silva was also responsible for data collection. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Maria-Raquel G. Silva.

Ethics declarations

Informed written consent from each participant was obtained in accordance with the principles expressed in the Declaration of Helsinki guidelines for human subjects. The current study was reviewed and approved by the Ethical Committee of the University Fernando Pessoa (Oporto, Portugal). All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Conflict of interests

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Additional information

Communicated by Mario Bianchetti

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Silva, MR.G., Silva, HH. & Paiva, T. Sleep duration, body composition, dietary profile and eating behaviours among children and adolescents: a comparison between Portuguese acrobatic gymnasts. Eur J Pediatr 177, 815–825 (2018).

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