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Differences in perceived energy and macronutrient requirements across divisions in NCAA athletes.

BACKGROUND: Sports nutrition is an impactful component to sports performance. The purpose of the current study was to investigate the sports nutrition knowledge of National Collegiate Athletic Association collegiate athletes and assess self-reported perceived requirements for energy and macronutrient intake. A secondary aim was to evaluate the awareness of physical and emotional perceptions associated with mindful eating.

METHODS: Participants included NCAA Division I (DI, n  = 45), II (DII, n  = 31), and III (DIII, n  = 47) athletes. Athletes completed a validated questionnaire designed to assess sports nutrition knowledge and were asked questions about their perceived dietary energy and macronutrient requirements. Daily energy intake values were calculated using a recommended relative energy intake value of 40, 50, and 60 kcal/kg/day for low, moderate, and high activity levels, respectively. Carbohydrate recommendations were calculated using 4, 6, and 8 g/kg/day, protein recommendations were calculated using relative intakes of 1.4, 1.6, and 1.8 g/kg/day, and fat recommendations were calculated from a relative percentage of total predicted daily energy requirements, equating to 15, 25, and 30% of daily energy. Additionally, athletes completed a questionnaire to assess mindfulness regarding eating habits.

RESULTS: Overall, athletes answered 45.5 ± 13.5% of questions correctly on the nutrition questionnaire with significant differences observed between male (48.6 ± 13.6%) and female athletes (43.6 ± 13.2%; p  = 0.044), as well as significant differences observed between DI athlete scores (38.8 ± 14.1%) and DII athletes (47.7 ± 11.4%; p  = 0.002), and DI athletes and DIII athletes (51.71 ± 11.83%; p  =  <0.001). All athletes significantly ( p  < 0.001) underestimated daily energy intake requirements (female, 2,112 ± 575 kcal/day; male, 3,283 ± 538 kcal/day). The mindfulness eating habits total score was significantly higher in male athletes (65.1 ± 6.5) compared to female athletes (60.9 ± 9.5; p  = 0.009).

CONCLUSIONS: Division I, II, and III collegiate athletes have poor sports nutrition knowledge, with Division I athletes having exhibited lower scores compared to Division II and III athletes on the sports nutrition knowledge questionnaire. Athletes from all levels of collegiate sports underestimated their energy and macronutrient requirements. Differences in mindful eating habits among female and male athletes were also evident.

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