Dietary intakes and
eating habits of college athletes: are female college athletes following the
current sports nutrition standards?    

Shriver LH,
Betts NM, & Wollenberg G. Journal of American College Health. 2013, 61:
1, 10 – 16. 

athletics can be very physically demanding, requiring a delicate balance
between dietary intake and energy expenditure. 
The number of female collegiate athlete participants is increasing over
time, and in general, females may be more susceptible to nutrition-related
issues. Unfortunately, their dietary habits remain unclear.  The purpose of this study was to assess and
compare dietary intake and eating habits in female athletes to the recommended sports nutrition minimums. 
Fifty-two female collegiate athletes (mean age = 20 years) from 3 NCAA Division
I teams (i.e., soccer, basketball, and track) completed height, mass, body
composition, and dietary assessments. Athletes recorded their dietary habits in
a food diary over 3 days.  Seventy-four
percent of participants failed to meet the minimum recommended intake of carbohydrates
(5 g/kg/day).  Additionally, 50% of the
participants did not meet the minimum recommended intake for protein.  The authors found that 91% of participants
did not meet their estimated energy intake needs.  Lastly, a majority of these females spent
most of the day in energy deficit. 
Caloric intake was extremely low in the morning hours, and the athletes
did not truly eat a substantive meal until dinner hours.       

this study demonstrates that there may be a much larger problem than we realize
within female collegiate athletes and should be addressed.  As clinicians, we should recognize the
high-risk within the female collegiate athlete, be cognizant of this trend so
we can recognize it, and facilitate a referral if necessary.  Additionally, some of us may be in a unique
position to take preventative measures in efforts to educate this group as they
are developing, so that they understand what is and what is not appropriate.
This education may help prevent them from falling into this unhealthy
behavior.  We want to facilitate the
proper care of these problems through appropriate referrals or educational
programming.   It has been shown, both
anecdotally and in previous research, that female athletes operate under false
impressions of adequate calorie consumption when, in reality, they may be doing
significant harm to their bodies.  These
substantial deficits in meeting energy needs have implications on performance, healing,
as well as long-term health.  The sports
nutrition guidelines reflect an increased need in calories by the athletic
population, but this study has highlighted an extreme problem. Interestingly,
this study did not include sports such as gymnastics or volleyball where body
image issues have been clearly identified. 
This difficult topic affects many different areas (e.g., psychological,
physical, psychosocial) that comprise the whole athlete.  Has anyone encountered these types of
problems in athletes that they work with? 
What are strategies that you use to try to appropriately address
this?  What has been successful or
unsuccessful for you clinically?

Written by:
Nicole Cattano
Reviewed by: Laura

Related Posts:

Shriver LH, Betts NM, & Wollenberg G (2013). Dietary intakes and eating habits of college athletes: are female college athletes following the current sports nutrition standards? Journal of American College Health, 61 (1), 10-6 PMID: 23305540