Grace White, Jill Joyce, Bree Baker, Shawn Allen and Allen Redinger

Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK

PURPOSE: To our knowledge, no literature exists regarding dietary quality (DQ) of diets of collegiate athletes or its relationship with performance. Thus, the purpose of this study was to determine the DQ and adequacy of macro- and micronutrient intake of track and field (TF) and cross-country (CC) athletes at a Midwest NCAA Division 1 university.

METHODS: This cross-sectional study was completed over spring and fall 2022 seasons. The study involved a convenience sample of TF and CC athletes. Assessment tools included ASA24 automated, multi-pass electronic 24-hour food recall for nutrient intake, which was then scored for dietary quality using the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) 2015 scoring. Percent Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) achieved was determined using nutrient intake data, age, and sex for nutrient adequacy. Statistical analysis included descriptive statistics (mean, standard deviation, % max score) and inferential statistics (t-test, Mann-Whitney U).

RESULTS: Fifty-six student-athletes participated in the spring and fall 2022 assessments (27 TF, 29 CC). Average (SD) HEI scores were 76.0 (19.2) combined, 64.7 (15.8) for TF, and 83.9(17.5) for CC. There was a significant difference between TF and CC (p<0.001) and between male and female (p=0.014) athlete HEI total scores. For DRIs, athletes are meeting 185% of their micronutrient needs. For macronutrients, 55% were within the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) for carbohydrates, 98% met AMDRs for protein, and 50% met AMDRs for fat.

CONCLUSION: With an overall HEI score of 76/100, athlete’s diets are nearing good dietary quality but need improvement (51-80/100), with CC and female athletes appearing to have better dietary quality than TF and male athletes, suggesting potential between sport and sex differences in how healthfully athletes eat. Micronutrient intake appears sufficient; however, macronutrient intake appears deficient on carbohydrates and fat, especially considering these are AMDRs for the general public and not athlete-specific ranges. This analysis was to describe the dietary status of these athletes. Future analyses with this group will include comparing actual intake to athlete specific recommendations for macro- and micronutrient intake and determining associations between dietary quality and performance.

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