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Kayla Steffen ’14

Dietary intake patterns and eating competence in male and female collegiate swimmers 

Eating disorders among female collegiate swimmers is reported at 6.7% and subclinical eating disorders at 20.9%. Swimmers can experience pressure to be lean to look their best in a tight fitting swimsuit; however, leanness might be accomplished at the expense of adequate nutrition (Hoogenboom, 2009). 

Purpose: To compare eating attitudes, behaviors, diet records, and body composition of male and female collegiate swimmers at the beginning and the peak of the season. 

Methods: IRB approval was received; 12 female and 13 male collegiate swimmers were recruited to participate in the study, but complete data was only available for 10 females and 8 males. Three-day diet records, ecSatter Inventory (ecSI), height and weight measurements were completed in October and again in late January.  The ecSI is 16 statements with a score of ≥32 being "eating competent" (Satter, 2007). The data was analyzed using paired t-tests.
Results: The average number of total calories consumed in a day at the beginning of the season for men was 3,459 ± 750 kcal and for women 2,227 ± 638 kcal and calories at peak season did not change (3,169 ± 700 kcal and 2,382 ± 624 kcal respectively).  Swimmers were deficient in calcium (16%), potassium (80%), vitamin D (92%), magnesium (33% females, 23% males), choline (61% males, 66% females), and 25% of female swimmers had inadequate diet intake. ecSI scores between male and female swimmers were not statistically different with an average score of 33.9 ± 6.78; 64% of the swimmers were eating competent at the beginning of the season compared with 67% during the peak season.  BMI significantly declined in the swimmers during the season (p= .047). Positive correlations occurred between weight satisfaction and eating competency scores (p=0.000) and between their weight satisfaction and calories consumed (p=0.017). 

Conclusion: Caloric intake did not increase as the season progressed. Energy needs for swimmers are estimated to be 4,000-5,000 calories in season (Hoogenboom, 2009).  Females did not have a statistically significant change in weight (p=0.081), but on average experienced a 3.68 lbs weight loss. The time of season does not significantly affect swimmers eating competency scores.  Eating competency was not related to the swimmers' diet adequacy. Swimmers who feel comfortable with their body weight have a more positive relationship with food according to their ecSI scores. This indicates a lower risk for eating disorders in swimmers satisfied with their body weight.

Kayla Steffen presented her research at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics annual meeting April 24, 2014.

To view Poster, click on link below:
Dietary intake patterns and eating competence in male and female collegiate swimmers

Research advisor: Jayne Byrne, MS, RDN