A comparison of eating patterns and nutrition knowledge of athletes and non-athletes at Northern Illinois University
Shields, Thomas J. (Student of family, consumer, and nutrition sciences)
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Objectives. This study compared eating patterns, basic nutrition knowledge, patterns of food label utilization, and dietary supplement use of athletes and non-athletes at Northern Illinois University (NIU). Methods. A questionnaire was administered to volunteers from NIU5s men’s swimming (n=19), women’s swimming (n=21), and women’s gymnastics teams (n=13), as well as a control group of males (n=17) and females (n=41). Results. Nearly all of the athletes (92.5%) reported that their physical activity level was either heavy or exceptional, while only 58.5% of FC and 58.8% of MC subjects reported similarly. The MS group reported eating most often, at 3.1±0.9 meals per day. Members of the WS, GT, and MC groups reported meal numbers at 2.8±0.9,2.8±0.9, and 2.8±0.6, respectively. The FC group consumed the least number of meals per day, at 2.7±0.8. There were positive correlations between level of physical activity and number of daily meals for all groups (MS=0.2, WS=0.2, FC=0.1, MC=0.6) except the GT group (-0.2). In the nutrition knowledge section, the FC group had the highest total mean percent correct (76.7%), followed by MC (69.8%), WS (66.8%), MS (64.9%), and GT (62.3%) groups. Conclusions. There appeared to be minimal differences in eating patterns between groups of athletes and the control groups, and only a very small correlation between number of meals consumed per day and level of physical activity. In addition, the hypothesis that the athlete groups would demonstrate superior nutrition knowledge was rejected, as each athlete group scored lower than controls in overall nutrition knowledge. The results of this study provide useful information for those individuals working with elite athletes, specifically of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I level.