Date of Award

Winter 12-18-2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Nutrition

First Advisor

Anita Nucci, PhD, RD, LD

Second Advisor

Christine Rosenbloom, PhD, RDN, CSSD

Third Advisor

Robert Murphy, ATC

Abstract

Background: Past studies have shown that optimal nutrition can enhance physical activity, athletic performance, and recovery from exercise. It is important for college athletes to incorporate positive eating behaviors into their daily lives, such as consuming breakfast, eating frequently throughout the day, and not skipping meals in order to maintain energy levels and reach their sports performance potential.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to compare the eating behaviors and dietary supplement use of underclassmen and upperclassmen student athletes at Georgia State University.

Methods: Underclassmen (freshmen, sophomores) and upperclassmen (juniors, seniors, fifth-year seniors) athletes (n=255) completed a nutrition screening questionnaire. Chi-square analysis was used to assess group differences in eating behaviors and supplement use.

Results: Underclassmen student athletes were significantly more likely than upperclassmen to consume breakfast most days of the week (p=0.008). The underclassmen also reported significantly more eating occasions during the day than upperclassmen (p=0.012). The majority of both groups reported skipping meals, and breakfast was the meal most frequently missed. No significant difference was found for supplement use between the classes, but over half of the underclassmen (53%) and upperclassmen (59%) have taken or currently take protein supplements.

Conclusions: The underclassmen athletes at Georgia State University displayed better eating habits than the upperclassmen, but dietary supplement use was the same in both groups. The findings indicate that all student athletes at the university could benefit from learning about ways to improve their eating habits and obtain peak performance through diet, without supplements.