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Pre-Exercise Nutrition Habits and Beliefs of Endurance Athletes Vary by Sex, Competitive Level, and Diet.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to determine the self-reported beliefs and practices relating to pre-exercise nutrition intake among endurance athletes of varying ages and competitive levels and examine differences based on sex, competitive level, and habitual dietary pattern.

METHOD: An anonymous online survey was circulated internationally in English and completed by 1950 athletes of varying competitive levels (51.0% female, mean age 40.9 years [range 18:78]). Survey questions included training background, determinants of pre-exercise nutrition intake and composition, and timing relative to exercise.

RESULTS: Prior to morning exercise, 36.4%, 36.0%, and 27.6% of athletes consumed carbohydrate-containing food/drinks before almost every workout, some of the time, and never/rarely, respectively, with significant effects of sex ( p  < 0.001, Cramer's V (ϕc ) = 0.15) and competitive level ( p  < 0.001, ϕc = 0.09). Nutritional intake before exercise varied based on workout duration for 47.6% of athletes, with significant effects of sex (ϕc = 0.15) and habitual diet (ϕc = 0.19), and based on workout intensity for 39.1% of athletes, with significant effects of sex (ϕc = 0.13) and habitual diet (ϕc = 0.17, all p  < 0.001). Additionally, 89.0% of athletes reported using at least some type of dietary supplement (including caffeine from coffee/tea) within 1 hour before exercise.

CONCLUSIONS: Overall, nearly all factors measured relating to pre-exercise nutrition intake varied by sex, competitive level, habitual dietary pattern, and/or intensity/duration of the training session and suggest a large number of athletes may not be following current recommendations for optimizing endurance training adaptations.

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