Date of Award

Summer 7-13-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Dan Benardot

Second Advisor

Walt Thompson

Third Advisor

Anita Nucci


Background: Studies suggest that there is a relationship between 24-hour and within-day energy balance and body composition. In sports with value placed on weight and appearance, an increased prevalence of energy deficiency has been found, which has multiple health and performance implications. In particular, low energy availability is associated with higher body fat percent and lower muscle and bone mass, all of which negatively influence performance. This study assessed professional cheerleaders on dietary intake, within-day and 24-hour energy balance, protein consumption, body composition, and handgrip strength. Professional cheerleaders have not been previously studied on these factors.

Objective: To assess dietary intake, body composition, and grip strength of professional cheerleaders on an active roster and investigate relationships between these factors. Our investigation focused on assessing if long periods of energy balance deficits are associated with reduced grip strength and higher body fat percent, and if protein consumption patterns are associated with grip strength and body composition.

Methods: The study population consisted of 19 women, ages 18-32 yr. (mean = 25.4 yr.), who were interviewed to obtain a one-day recall of dietary intake and energy expenditures to determine dietary/nutrient intake and hourly energy balance using the USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference and a relative intensity activity scale (NutriTiming® LLC). Multi-current, 8-mode segmental bioelectric impedance analysis was used to predict body composition, and handgrip strength was assessed using a hand dynamometer.

Results: Dietary inadequacies in energy (p<0.001) and carbohydrate (p<0.001) were significantly below recommended values. Subjects with the lowest body fat percent had significantly higher energy intakes (p=0.011), spent more time in an anabolic state (p=0.048), less time in a catabolic state (p=0.048), had more eating opportunities of up to 30-grams protein (p=0.015), and consumed more their protein while in a positive energy balance (p=0.025). Participants with higher body fat mass consumed less total energy (p=0.012), had more severe energy balance deficits (p= 0.032), and spent more time in a catabolic state (p=0.048).

Conclusion: Adequate energy intake that results in less time in a catabolic state and more frequent consumption of moderate amounts of protein (~30 grams/meal) was associated with lower body fat percent and increased muscle mass in professional cheerleaders. It appears from these data that “dieting” behaviors resulting in large energy balance deficits with longer periods in a catabolic state appeared counterproductive, as this was associated with greater body fat percent, lower muscle mass, and lower grip strength.