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Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: January 2010 - Volume 24 - Issue - p 1
doi: 10.1097/01.JSC.0000367234.76471.44

The purpose of the current study was to assess nutritional habits and behaviors of NCAA-Division III athletes. Varsity athletes (N = 241; Males: n = 119; Females: n = 122; age: M = 19.59 + 1.21yr) completed a questionnaire designed to gather information about nutritional habits and behaviors. Subjects ranged from the 2nd to 10th semester of their undergraduate education. Team sport vs. individual athlete representation was: Males - 73% team sport athletes, 27% individual sport athletes, Females - 66% team sport athletes, 34% individual sport athletes. Team sports represented were: basketball, field hockey (female), football (male), lacrosse, soccer, softball (female), and volleyball. Individual sport athletes came from tennis and track and field. Questionnaires were administered to athletes before or after a team lift or practice session. Differences were assessed between: 1.) males and females, 2.) freshmen and seniors, and 3.) team and individual sports. Independent sample Mann-Whitney U and Chi Squared tests were run. On average, athletes reported eating between 3-6 times per day. Approximately 49% drank 7-8 daily servings of water. Less than one third (28%) of athletes ate a daily breakfast. The following findings were significant (p < 0.05): Males ate more daily servings of proteins (3-4) than females (1-2), while females consumed more vegetable servings (3-4) than males (1-2). More team sport athletes were trying to maintain or gain weight than individual sport athletes. More females (37%) reported trying to lose weight than males (14%). Male athletes consumed more servings of sports drinks than females. Seniors drank more coffee than 1st year student-athletes. Team sport athletes consumed more servings of alcohol more frequently than individual sport athletes. Males consumed more protein supplements, while females consumed more vitamin and mineral supplements. Vitamins and minerals (86%), protein (39%), omega-3 fish oils (10%), and creatine (8%) were the most popular supplements. Proper diet has been found to help athletes improve physical activity and aid in recovery from exercise (1). When comparing results to the USDA Food Guide Pyramid, it was found that collegiate football players need to consume more servings of fruits and vegetables (2), which is similar to the present study where, on average, insufficient servings of fruits and vegetables were consumed. The present study also presented the need for carbohydrate consumption, with only 3-4 servings being taken in throughout the day. Mullin (4) suggested eight 8-ounce daily servings of water would be an accurate estimate for the average person to stay hydrated, with training athletes requiring more. Water loss and dehydration during exercise was a problem for collegiate football players (2,3) and for Division III athletes, as an average of 5-6 eight ounce servings of water were consumed daily. In the current study, 37% of athletes reported taking a dietary supplement. Similarly, Swirzinski (5) found 31% of football players were consuming supplements. Limited knowledge about supplements and ergogenic aids can lead to improper use. Nutritional education is recommended for: 1.) daily food choices, 2.) weekend caloric intake, 3.) hydration techniques, and 4.) supplement usage. Improved knowledge of coaches and availability of certified nutritionists would benefit the nutritional habits of athletes.

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