Understanding Sports Nutrition in Mid-Major Division I University Student-Athletes

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Understanding Sports Nutrition in Mid-Major Division I University Student-Athletes

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Competitive athletes, including college student-athletes, strive to optimize their performance and maintain a healthy body composition. However, sports nutrition is often an overlooked aspect of their training programs. This study aimed to evaluate the sports nutrition knowledge of college student-athletes, considering factors such as gender, class level, team affiliation, and prior nutrition coursework. The study involved 123 student-athletes from a mid-major Division I university, representing various sports.

Importance of Sports Nutrition:

Athletes have two primary dietary goals: to enhance their performance and maintain their body composition. While nutrition alone may not directly boost strength, endurance, or power, it plays a crucial role in enabling athletes to train and compete effectively. The demands of sport-specific and non-sport-specific training require a balanced and nutrient-dense diet. However, nutrition education for student-athletes is often lacking, as many universities do not provide comprehensive sports nutrition programs.

The Role of Coaches and Professionals:

Student-athletes often rely on their coaches, strength and conditioning specialists, and athletic trainers for sports nutrition knowledge. However, studies have shown that these professionals may not always possess the necessary expertise. To ensure that student-athletes receive accurate and up-to-date information, it’s essential to evaluate the nutrition knowledge of these coaching staff members.

Challenges in Sports Nutrition Education:

Studies have shown that student-athletes commonly report inadequate sports nutrition knowledge. Their sources of information vary, with some relying on sources like magazines, friends, and family, while others consult athletic trainers or strength and conditioning specialists. The internet can also serve as a resource, but it may contain unreliable information. To address this gap, there is a need to provide student-athletes with reliable and accurate sports nutrition knowledge.

The Need for Improvement:

Improving student-athletes’ nutrition knowledge and behavior is essential. Nutrition not only influences their performance but also their overall health and well-being. Nutrition education must be tailored to the specific needs and preferences of athletes. However, the relationship between nutrition knowledge and behavior is complex, and other factors such as culture, religion, and personal motivation also play a role.

Study Objectives:

This study aimed to assess the sports nutrition knowledge of student-athletes at a mid-major Division I university, considering various factors such as gender, class level, team affiliation, and prior nutrition coursework.

Methodology:

Participants: The study involved 123 student-athletes from a mid-major Division I university, encompassing a range of sports.

Instrument: The sports nutrition knowledge questionnaire used in this study was adapted from a previous study, comprising 19 questions related to nutrition knowledge, demographic information, and prior nutrition coursework.

Data Collection: Data were collected through in-person surveys, with informed consent from participants.

Data Analysis: The data were analyzed using statistical methods to evaluate differences in sports nutrition knowledge scores based on gender, class level, team affiliation, and prior nutrition coursework.

Results:

Overall, the majority of student-athletes had inadequate sports nutrition knowledge, with only 12 participants achieving a score above 75%. Gender, class level, team affiliation, and prior nutrition coursework did not significantly affect sports nutrition knowledge scores.

Conclusion:

This study highlights the need for improved sports nutrition education for college student-athletes. The findings suggest that current approaches are insufficient in providing athletes with the knowledge they require to optimize their performance and maintain their health. To address this gap, universities should consider the inclusion of certified sports dietitians and offer nutrition education programs tailored to the needs of student-athletes. These steps can help ensure that athletes receive accurate and practical nutrition guidance to support their athletic endeavors.

Reference

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5107837/

https://www.mpisd.net/blog/2023-mpisd-athletic-hall-of-fame-inductees/

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