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No effect of weight cycling on the post-career BMI of weight class elite athletes

Laurie-anne Marquet1*, Morgan Brown12, Muriel Tafflet13, Hala Nassif12, Rémy Mouraby12, Samir Bourhaleb2, Jean-François Toussaint14 and François-Denis Desgorces12

Author affiliations

1 Institut de Recherche bioMédicale et d’Epidémiologie du Sport (IRMES), INSEP, 11, avenue du Tremblay, 75012, Paris, France

2 UFR STAPS, PRES Sorbonne Paris Cité, Université Paris Descartes, 1 rue Lacretelle, 75015, Paris, France

3 INSERM, U970, Centre de Recherche Cardiovasculaire de Paris (PARCC), 56 rue Leblanc, 75012, Paris, France

4 Centre d’Investigation en Médecine du sport (CIMS), Hôtel-Dieu, Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP), 1, place du Parvis de Notre-Dame, 75004, Paris, France

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:510  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-510

Published: 27 May 2013



Repetitions of pre-competition weight-loss diets done by athletes participating in weight class sports can be regarded as periods of weight cycling. The aim of the present study is to identify the long term post-career (22 years) evolutionary profile of athletes’ BMI after such weight cycling.


One hundred and thirty-six retired French athletes who participated in major international competitions in weight class sports (rowers, wrestlers, boxers, and judokas) were included. Former and current body mass, height, dietary characteristics during the career (annual frequency, amount of weight lost), current physical activity, and answers on the eating-attitude test were collected by phone interview (consistency was tested by comparison with measured weight). We performed ANOVA tests for comparison between groups (sport, dieting), post-hoc tests (Bonferroni test) to identify differences within groups. BMI’s changes were treated using a mixed model.


The recorded weight changes did not depend upon time since retirement. Between 18 y and 50 y, athletes’ BMI increased by 3.2 kg/m2 compared to the 4.2 kg/m2 increase in the general population. This increase was independent of the number of diets during the career. Retired athletes declared a mean weekly physical activity of 4.8 h ± 4.3. The eating-attitude test showed low scores for all sports without any correlation to diet characteristics.


Weight cycling during an athletic career does not induce a massive weight gain after retirement, probably due to the high level of physical activity still practiced after retirement by these athletes.

Weight cycling; BMI; Post-career; Elite athletes