Dietary intake and diet quality in Men’s and Women’s NCAA Division I cross country teams during a competitive season

Published: 21 May 2024| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/r8z6bbcmn3.1
, Aaron Harris,


The objective of this study was to characterize dietary intake and diet quality during a competitive season in female and male NCAA Division I cross country student-athletes. The study was registered at Clinical (NCT04079322). Females and males (n=14/sex) from the Florida State University cross country teams completed 9-d of food records across their competitive season. Nutrient intakes were determined from USDA food and beverage databases. Diet quality was assessed according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) using the 2020 Healthy Eating Index (HEI-2020). Total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) was estimated from training records collected across the entire 14-week season.


Steps to reproduce

Dietary intake: 9 days of food records were analyzed for each participant (regular season: 4 days, championship season: 5 days, Figure 1), except one female did not record for visit 4 (1 day missing) and two males did not record for visit 7 (3 days missing each). Nutrient data from food records were generated in Food Processor version 11.9 (ESHA Research, Salem, OR) and matched by nutrient composition to food and beverage items sourced from the USDA’s Food & Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies (FNDDS) and National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Legacy (2018, SR-Legacy) (21, 22). If exact matches were not found, similar foods or ingredients were selected from these databases based on macronutrient composition. Nutrition labels, restaurant menus, university dining hall menus, and athletic department snack station inventories were referenced to match nutrient compositions in Food Processor. As dietary supplements are not included in FNDDS and SR-Legacy, nutrients from dietary supplements were added to analyzed diet records after export from Food Processor. For each participant, mean nutrient intakes were calculated across all food records. HEI-2020 scores were calculated to assess diet quality according to the DGAs. HEI-2020 component scores were calculated using nutrient data from the FNDDS and SR-Legacy databases and food group data generated by converting FNDDS and SR-Legacy items to the 37 USDA food pattern components. HEI-2020 component and total scores were calculated in SAS version 9.4 (Cary, NC) using the National Cancer Institute simple scoring method. Training data, estimated energy expenditure, and energy balance: Training records were collected from consent until the end of the championship season (14 weeks). Training journals were cross-referenced for completeness with coaches’ training plans and records of completed training sessions. At the end of the season, an online questionnaire (Qualtrics, Seattle, WA, USA) was administered to determine typical training habits across the competitive season and intensities for running (pace), resistance training, and cross-training (cycling, swimming, etc.). Training time and intensity from each session and bodyweight were used to calculate daily exercise energy expenditure (EEE) using metabolic equivalents from the 2011 Compendium of Physical Activities. TDEE was calculated for each day by adding EEE to resting energy expenditure calculated from the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation. Energy balance was calculated as energy intake minus TDEE. Changes in energy balance across the season were estimated by grouping diet recalls into the regular season (weeks 1-10) and the championship season (weeks 10-14). In the online questionnaire, participants were also asked to list their non-season ending injuries and illnesses and how their training was impacted.


Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Florida State University


Sports Nutrition, Energy Expenditure, Dietary Intake Assessment, Diet Quality


Atlantic Coast Conference Center for Research in Intercollegiate Athletics