Dietary Behaviors & Perceived Nutrition Availability of Small College Student-Athletes: a Pilot Project

Purpose: The objective of this project was to investigate dietary behaviors and perceived food availability for small college student athletes. Methods: Two-hundred seventy-two student athletes from a Midwestern urban city participated in this study.
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  U.S. Sports AcademyMay 24, 2018 Dietary Behaviors & Perceived Nutrition Availability of Small College Student-Athletes: a Pilot Project /article/dietary-behaviors-perceived-nutrition-availability-of-small-college-student-athletes-a-pilot-project/ Authors:  Anthony Randles Corresponding Author:  Anthony Randles, Ph.D., MPHEducation and Arts Bldg. 22391002 South Esther Street, P.O. Box 7111South Bend, IN 46334-7111Randlest@iusb.edu574-520-4693 Anthony Randles is a Lecturer at Indiana University South Bend, School of Education, Health,Physical Education and Recreation Program ABSTRACT Purpose: The objective of this project was to investigate dietary behaviors and perceived foodavailability for small college student athletes.Methods: Two-hundred seventy-two student athletes from a Midwestern urban city participatedin this study. Students-athletes received an electronic consent form and a dietary surveycontaining question about demographics, food frequency, perceived nutrition environment andfood security.Results: The project indicated that athletes reported eating limited fruit and vegetables. Athletes also reported that fruit was available to them mostly as either “always” (41.9%) or “often” (25%) and responded that vegetables were available “always” (45.2%) or “often”(27.2%). Chi-Square indicated that there were significant differences between male and femaleathletes when reporting specific items.Conclusion: There is a need for continued nutritional tracking to understand dietary habits of  1/18  small-college athletes, and whether they have the available food needed for athletic andacademic success. In addition, effective nutrition interventions are needed to improve dietaryintake: not only for performance, but also for health. Application in Sport: Understanding nutritional behaviors, motivators, and knowledge areessential for coaches and administrators. Tracking of dietary behaviors should allow keypersonnel to develop interventions for a team or identify problematic issues such as eatingdisorders, and injury recovery. Keywords:  Small College, Student-Athlete, Dietary Behaviors, Perceived Nutrition Availability INTRODUCTION One of the many challenges that college athletes experience is eating properly (1-6). Thedemands of daily training, along with classroom work, among student-athletes results in havinghigher food and fluid needs than the average college students (7-8). Eating the right food atthe right time is vital for enabling student-athletes to train, compete, recover, and heal, as wellas to think and learn. Nevertheless, for many student-athletes, quality of nutrition and meetingnutritional demands is not a high priority (9). Schedules are packed with class, teamcommitments; homework and leaves student-athletes with limited time for getting the nutritionthey require. Overextended daily schedules could lead to bad dietary choices: such aschoosing to eat “fast-foods” or skipping meals (8-10). Other factors, such as living situation (onor off campus), availability of healthy food and access to grocery stores could have a factor infood behaviors.In 1991, the NCAA issued nutrition guidelines that allowed schools to feed their athletes onlyone training table meal per day, five days each week. In the 27 years since this rule went intoeffect, knowledge of sports nutrition has grown exponentially, including studies showing thatcollege athletes have a difficult time meeting nutritional needs (1-3, 11). A 2013 study of 52Division 1 female athletes found that 74% did not meet the minimum recommendations for carbohydrate intake, and half were not eating sufficient protein (9). Due poor nutrition amongstudent-athletes, NCAA changed the rule in 2014 allowing student-athletes to receive unlimitedmeals and snacks in conjunction with their athletic participation.The evidence is growing that collegiate athletes practice poor nutrition behaviors (4-5, 9);however, the majority of these studies were conducted in large university setting or NCAA DIschools (1-6, 9, 11). There is limited information for small college (≤5,000 enrolled student or ≤500 student living on campus) program athletes. The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) is a governing body of 250 small athletics programs with about 65,000intercollegiate athletes (12). Sufficient nutrient intake is essential for not only maintaining goodhealth and nutritional status of these young people but also for maximizing their athleticpotential (9, 13). Even though NAIA athletes tend not to be recruited at professional levels,they are still similar to NCAA athletes: balance practice times with class and socialengagements and may be vulnerable to nutrition related issues, more so amongst women (9,14, 15). Despite these similarities, little is known about the dietary behaviors of smaller collegestudent-athlete. 2/18  Student athletes, no matter which level of competition, with poor diets could be at high risk of injury (16). The continued development of muscles, bones, and brain are all stronglyinfluenced by nutrition (17). To understand dietary behaviors of small college athletes further,the investigator sought to investigate the nutritional behaviors and perceived nutritionalbarriers of small college student-athletes. By administering a dietary questionnaire, the studyexamined dietary behaviors and perceived nutrition availability of NAIA student athletes. Thefollowing research objectives were used to guide the project:[RO 1] To assess dietary behavior among of a cohort of NAIA male and female collegiateathletes.[RO 2] To assess perceived access to nutritional resources within the cohort.[RO 3] Examine gender differences in dietary behaviors and perceived access to nutritionalresources.[RO 4] Identify groups of athletes at risk for food insecurity. (This objective is reportedelsewhere). METHODS Recruitment and procedures This study utilized a sample of college athletes from two NAIA universities in a Midwesternstate of the United States. Athletic Directors were directly contacted to explain the nature anddetails of the study. Athletic directors assisted with recruitment of participants from their athletic teams from February 2017 to April 2017. Athletes received three email invitationsduring the data collection period. The first email was to introduce and recruit participants andthe subsequent two other emails were for follow-up and further recruitment. After the athleteconsented electronically, they were directed to an electronic questionnaire. The inclusioncriteria for the study included being a member of a university varsity team and 18 years or older. Both university athletic departments and institutional review boards reviewed andapproved study protocols before student contact and data collection began. Research instrument   A 45-item nutritional survey was compiled from two national survey instruments. Dietarybehaviors and perceived nutrition availability were assessed using elements of the FLASHEadolescent dietary survey instrument, a web-based survey that has demonstrated validity inadolescents age 12-17 (18). Modification of questions took place to accommodate the studypopulation. To maintain the face and content validity of the specific questions, two-researchdietitians reviewed the modified questions. The survey included questions over a variety of nutritional practices such as food frequency (“during past 7 days, how many times did youdrink”), dining out (“frequency per week” and “type of restaurant”), availability of foods, (i.e.,“how often are the following foods and drinks available in your home or campus food servicearea?”), if student-athletes were able to afford the food they needed, (i.e. “The food I bought just didn’t last and I didn’t have money to get more?”), demographic characterisitics and heightand weight. Calculation of BMI was completed from self-reported height (inches) and weight(lbs.).The presence of hunger continues to be a challenge for U.S. health, nutrition, and social 3/18  policy. Often overlooked are the material conditions of college students lives, especially whenit comes to nutrition (21). A study by Broton and Goldrick-Rab (2017), reported that data frommore than 30,000 two- and 4-year college student indicated that half are food insecure, “limitedor uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability toacquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways’’(19). To begin to understanding foodsecurity among student-athletes, a 6-item (short form) 12-month Food Security Scaledeveloped at the National Center for Health Statistics were included in the research instrument(reported elsewhere) (20). STATISTICAL ANALYSIS The investigator used means, standard deviations, and frequencies to describe thecharacteristics of the sample. Evaluation of survey questions were conducted by running adescriptive analysis and using χ2 statistic to test for differences between male and femalestudent athletes. All statistical analyses were conducted using SPSS v. 24 (IBM, Armonk, NewYork, USA), with the level of the significants set at p < .05 unless otherwise noted. Questionabout perceived food security and availability will be reported elsewhere. RESULTS Student Athlete characteristics One hundred sixty-nine females athletes (62.1%) and 103 (37.8%), male athletes completedthe survey with a total of 272 student athletes completing the survey. Twenty-one participantsbeing excluded from the final analyses because of technical issues with the electronic survey.The demographic characteristics of the sample are presented in Table 1. The sampleconsisted of indoor/outdoor track and field athletes and cross-country runners (22.8%),basketball players (16.2%), softball players (10.3%), lacrosse players (10.3%), baseballplayers (8.8%), rugby players (5.5%), volleyball players (5.1%), golfers (4.8%), tennis players(3.7%), and competitive cheer and dance (2.2%). The majority of participants reported asCaucasians (84.2%); Black or African-American (7.4%); Hispanic or Latino (5.5%); other (2.2%) or Asian (.7). The mean BMI for all athletes was 25.9 (SD=4.5), making the averagestudent athlete in this study overweight. Male athletes were more likely to be categorized asoverweight (43.7%) or obese (22.3%). Fruit and vegetable question responses  Among all athletes surveyed, 9% reported eating any fruit 3 or more times per day during past7 days for male-athletes (29.1%) and 2-times per day during the past 7 days for female-athletes (29.6%). About four percent of participants reported eating non-fried vegetables andless than one percent reported eating green salad, with or without other vegetables three or more times per day during the past seven days. The most common response for both male(30.1%) and female (38.5%) athletes were reporting eating green salad 1-3 time per week, thesame for non-fried vegetable (male-athletes 36.9% vs. female-athletes 34.3%). Table 2 showsresponse categories among all participants and men vs. women for fruit and vegetable relatedquestions. 4/18  Protein and fat question responses When comparing male vs. female responses about proteins and fats questions (Table 3), therewere significant differences in how athletes responded to questions. About Forty-five percentof all athletes reported eating fried chicken items 1-3 times per week with 56.3% of male-athletes reported eating fried chicken like items 1-3 time per week compared to only 34.9% for female athletes, χ2 (4) = 10.066, p = .033. Processed meats also had similar responses,46.7% of student-athletes reported eating processed meats 1-3 time per week. Fifty-twopercent of male-athletes reported eating processed meats 1-3 time per week vs. 43.2% for female-athletes: χ2 (4) = 10.597, p = .031. Finally, 39.3% of student-athletes reported eatinghamburgers/cheeseburgers 1-3 times per week during the last seven days. Forty-five percentof male-athletes reported eating hamburgers/cheeseburgers 1-3 times per week vs. 34.9% of female-athletes, χ2 (4) = 10.066, p = .033. As a whole, tacos, burritos, nachos, or other likedishes (58.8%), and fried potatoes (58%) were the most commonly reported food eaten at 1-3days per week during a 7-day period. 5/18
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