Sports nutrition knowledge among collegiate athletes, coaches, athletic trainers, and strength and conditioning specialists

J Athl Train. Mar-Apr 2012;47(2):205-11. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-47.2.205.


Context: Coaches, athletic trainers (ATs), strength and conditioning specialists (SCSs), and registered dietitians are common nutrition resources for athletes, but coaches, ATs, and SCSs might offer only limited nutrition information. Little research exists about sports nutrition knowledge and current available resources for nutrition information for athletes, coaches, ATs, and SCSs.

Objective: To identify resources of nutrition information that athletes, coaches, ATs, and SCSs use; to examine nutrition knowledge among athletes, coaches, ATs, and SCSs; and to determine confidence levels in the correctness of nutrition knowledge questions within all groups.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting: National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I, II, and III institutions across the United States.

Patients and other participants: The 579 participants consisted of athletes (n = 185), coaches (n = 131), ATs (n = 192), and SCSs (n = 71).

Main outcome measure(s): Participants answered questions about nutrition resources and domains regarding basic nutrition, supplements and performance, weight management, and hydration. Adequate sports nutrition knowledge was defined as an overall score of 75% in all domains (highest achievable score was 100%).

Results: Participants averaged 68.5% in all domains. The ATs (77.8%) and SCSs (81.6%) had the highest average scores. Adequate knowledge was found in 35.9% of coaches, 71.4% of ATs, 83.1% of SCSs, and only 9% of athletes. The most used nutrition resources for coaches, ATs, and SCSs were registered dietitians.

Conclusions: Overall, we demonstrated that ATs and SCSs have adequate sports nutrition knowledge, whereas most coaches and athletes have inadequate knowledge. Athletes have frequent contact with ATs and SCSs; therefore, proper nutrition education among these staff members is critical. We suggest that proper nutrition programming should be provided for athletes, coaches, ATs, and SCSs. However, a separate nutrition program should be integrated for ATs and SCSs. This integrative approach is beneficial for the continuity of care, as both categories of professionals might be developing and integrating preventive or rehabilitative programs for athletes.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletes*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Faculty
  • Female
  • Health Education*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nutritional Requirements*
  • Random Allocation
  • Sports
  • Students
  • Surveys and Questionnaires