Nutrition Knowledge and Dietary Quality in Female Collegiate Cross Country Runners

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Florida Southern College
High dietary quality is important for athletic populations because it may reduce nutritional deficiencies. Female cross country runners are often at risk for deficiencies in key nutrients, such as iron and calcium. Athletes’ nutrition knowledge has been shown to influence their selection of higher quality foods. However, an assessment of nutrition knowledge and dietary practices in female collegiate cross country runners remains unknown. Purpose: To explore and assess sports nutrition knowledge and dietary behavior in collegiate female runners. Methods: Female cross country athletes (n=12) from Florida Southern College completed a 30-item sports nutrition knowledge questionnaire, testing their knowledge of the following: energy intake, macronutrients, and micronutrients. Participants then recorded their food intake for 3 non-consecutive days (within a 1-week time frame). Results were entered into an online dietary tracker, which sorted daily food intake into different nutrient categories. Trends observed within athletes’ nutrition knowledge and dietary habits were analyzed. Results: Results indicate athletes scored at an average (75%) level in sports nutrition competencies, with better understanding of macronutrients versus micronutrients. The food log analysis indicated the majority of runners’ diets were deficient in several key nutrients, especially calories, carbohydrates, and Vitamin D. Conclusions: Athletes minimally achieved the standard for adequate nutrition. Nutrient intake appeared low for most nutrients, regardless of knowledge. These nutrient deficits may impair performance and exacerbate injury risk. Future studies may explore educational interventions that facilitate better dietary practices in athletes.
Honors Thesis Spring 2022
Cross-country runners, Nutrition, Human behavior -- Nutritional aspects