Macronutrient intake and fluid status of elite female distance runners at moderate altitude



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Kansas State University


The topic of athlete nutrition has been discussed amongst competitors, coaches, and nutrition professionals since the dawn of the Modern Olympic Movement in 1896 and has led to many strategies to help athletes compete at a higher level. Endurance athletes have been studied around the world. However, studies conducted with elite distance runners at altitude have focused mainly on male athletes in Kenya or Ethiopia. Despite the efforts of researchers over the years in the area of athlete nutrition there has been little research that specifically focuses on elite female distance runners and little evidence is available about the dietary habits and beliefs of these athletes. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to identify the macronutrient and fluid intakes of female distance runners and to determine if current fad diets and specific athletic events impact their eating habits. Seven female elite distance runners (six of European and one of Asian descent) training at altitude completed the study. Their specific events ranged from the 5-K to ultra-marathon. The athletes entered their food, fluid and physical activity for six weeks and submitted a report weekly to the researcher. The data was entered by the researcher into which tabulated the data. The results recorded into Excel spreadsheets for each athlete. At the end of the six weeks, all data was compiled to get a total intake for each athlete and the group as a whole. Mean, minimums, maximums, and standard deviations were used for data analysis. At the end of the six weeks, a telephone interview was conducted with each athlete to determine their eating habits, attitudes towards food, how others impacted their eating and if they were following a fad diet and why. Results indicated that these athletes reported lower mean carbohydrate (51±19.4% of calories) and higher protein (19±6% of calories) intake than is recommended per the Joint Statement of the ADA, DC and ACSM (2009). Fat and fluid consumption were adequate, but overall calories taken in were a little lower than calories expended. The athletes avoided soy, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, dairy, and fried foods and focused on eating more fruits and vegetables. Five of the seven athletes were following a gluten free diet because they felt it gave them a competitive edge, increased performance, and reduced GI distress. Based on the results of this study, coaches and athletes should focus on perceived exertion in workouts, macronutrient amounts and overall calories to ensure the athlete is able to compete at a high level.




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Master of Science


Department of Hospitality Management and Dietetics

Major Professor

Betsy Barrett