Date of Award

June 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Nutrition Science and Dietetics


Margaret A. Voss


Dietary Habits, Dietary Perceptions, Female Athletes, Male Athletes, Nutrition, Sports

Subject Categories

Medicine and Health Sciences



Objective: This study evaluated and compared male and female college athletes’ dietary habits, their general nutrition knowledge, and understanding of their daily metabolic requirements during training and non-training days. The goal was to 1) determine whether a nutritional gender gap existed between male and female college athletes and 2) assess whether the level of nutritional knowledge of student athletes was generally sufficient to meet their sex- specific dietary needs.

Methods: A cross-sectional study design was used to gather dietary data from Syracuse University student athletes. Participants were asked to complete an online survey (Qualtrics Software, approved by the Syracuse University Athletics Department and by the Syracuse University Institutional Review Board. Student athletes recruited to the study were asked to report their dietary habits and to complete a questionnaire to measure their nutritional knowledge. A subset of questions assessed individual perception of the calories and macronutrients required to support athletic performance during training and non-training days. Caloric requirements during athletic training were estimated for each individual using the Mifflin St. Jeor equation. Each formula was adjusted for activity level according to the physical demands of the sport. Macronutrient requirements were estimated by adjusting the current nutrition recommendations to the metabolic demands of each sport and between sexes. The recorded macronutrient and caloric intakes were statistically compared to estimated ideal values for each individual based on sex and sport appropriate activity factors.

Participants: Athletes were recruited from all Division I sports at Syracuse University. Responses were received from students participating in lacrosse, soccer, field hockey, tennis, cross-country, basketball ice hockey, track and field, rowing and football. Respondents included 88 females and 27 males; an additional 10 participants failed to complete the survey.

Results: The level of nutritional knowledge did not significantly differ between males and females (p= 0.4193) or between sports (Χ2=9.48, df=8, p=0.0546). Individuals with high knowledge scores were more likely to have taken a nutrition course. For every 1 point increase in the knowledge score obtained, the odds of having taken a nutrition class increased by about 8.9% (p=0.0305). There were no correlations between the level of nutritional knowledge and dietary habits other than an unexpected positive correlation with fast food consumption. Male and female athletes both appeared to be aware of their increased caloric requirements for training days. No differences were found between estimated total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and actual caloric consumption.

Conclusion: This study found that although both male and female athletes possess a good understanding of caloric needs during training days, their dietary knowledge did not necessarily translate into dietary patterns consistent with best practices. Future research should attempt to identify the reasons why athlete dietary knowledge might not translate into practices that are consistent with maximizing performance.


Open Access



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