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A Behavioural Design Thinking Approach to Technology Innovation in Sports Nutrition

Dunne, D (2024) A Behavioural Design Thinking Approach to Technology Innovation in Sports Nutrition. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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Since the early 1900’s sports nutrition research has focused almost exclusively on increasing our understanding of nutrition’s impact on metabolism, physiology and physical performance, facilitating the development of more robust fuelling, recover and performance strategies. The last 20 years in particular has played host to the most rapid period of growth and knowledge creation in the history of the discipline. However, the translation of this knowledge into practice, and ultimately athlete behaviours, remains slow. In parallel to the more recent rise of sports nutrition, the popularity and uptake of smartphones and mobile apps has exploded globally and been ubiquitously accepted as the norm. The need to understand and integrate these advancements in technology to support and enhance service provision, as well as accelerate the translation of knowledge to practice, in sports nutrition has been cited for its potential and is in need of development. Through a pragmatic paradigm and utilising innovation research methodologies, as well as behaviour change theory and design thinking, this thesis aimed to develop and pilot a mobile app digital intervention that caters to the needs of both the athlete and the practitioner in applied sports nutrition.

Study 1 explored, via a sequential mixed methods approach; how social media mobile apps are being used by sports nutritionists (n = 44) as part of their service provision to athletes, as well as capture their experiences and opinions of its use. Survey responses were reported as descriptive statistics. Findings indicated social media was used by 89% of sports nutritionists to support practice, of which 97% perceived its use to be beneficial. Interviews were thematically analysed and the findings demonstrated that, despite sports nutritionists embracing digital technology as an extension of practice, they reported both a lack of time and digital intervention training as challenges to using these technology tools in practice.

Study 2 explored, via a qualitative approach, athletes’ (n = 41) experiences and opinions of communication strategies in applied sports nutrition, as well as their suggestions for future mobile app supportive solutions. Data was analysed using reflexive thematic analysis. Athletes were dissatisfied with the levels of personalisation in the nutrition support they receive. Limited practitioner contact time was a contributing factor to this problem. Athletes cited the usefulness of online remote nutrition support and reported a desire for more personalised technology that can tailor support to their individual needs.

Study 3 explored the design and pilot of an industry specific mobile app intervention implementing behaviour change theory and design thinking methodologies. A 5-step Behavioural Design Thinking approach was utilised. This included a 14-day pilot testing period and with national level athletes (n = 26). Empathy mapping in step 1 identified a fundamental mismatch between what practitioners report they are currently capable of delivering and what athletes describe they need. The behaviour change requirements and solution designed from steps 2 to 4 was a digital behaviour change intervention (DBCI), that enables athletes to create personalised and periodised daily nutrition plans. Pilot-testing, conducted at step 5, revealed participants planned 78.80% (SD = 29.24) of their scheduled training sessions in the app. The app was utilised on 85.96% (SD = 28.26) of the participants planned training days and 62.73% (SD = 32.53) of their non-training days. The average number of engagement sessions per day was 2.53 (SD = 1.84). The mean amount of time each participant spent on the app per day was 3.68 minutes (SD = 2.54).

This thesis provides a proof of concept that the piloted industry specific mobile app DBCI has the potential to address the problems of time and training being experienced by sports nutritionists, whilst also delivering on the personalisation expectations of athletes with a scalable and autonomy supportive solution. Future research should focus on understanding the longer-term trends in the effectiveness, usage and uptake of the developed mobile app DBCI on a larger scale and across both male and female populations. This will facilitate a more representative picture of the longer-term impact of the technology on the nutrition planning behaviours of athletes.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: nutrition; behaviour; technology; design
Subjects: T Technology > TX Home economics > TX341 Nutrition. Foods and food supply
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC1200 Sports Medicine
T Technology > T Technology (General) > T58.5 Information Technology
Divisions: Sport & Exercise Sciences
SWORD Depositor: A Symplectic
Date Deposited: 08 Jan 2024 13:30
Last Modified: 08 Jan 2024 13:30
DOI or ID number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00022147
Supervisors: Murphy, R, Tod, D and Morton, J
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/22147
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