The purpose was to survey dietary habits (DH) and nutrient timing (NT) practices of baseball student-athletes (mean ± SD; 20.7 ± 1.4 yr.) from three NCAA Division I institutions, and examine the effect of a sports dietitian (SD) in regard to nutrition practices.
Descriptive statistics and Pearson X(2) analyses were run. Responses on 10 DH and 5 NT items differed (p ≤ 0.10) between athletes who sought dietary planning from a SD (n = 36) versus those who consulted a strength and conditioning coach (SCC, n = 42).
In regard to DH items, the SD group found it easier to eat before activity (92% vs. 71%, p = 0.03), did not consume fast food (31% vs. 14%, p = 0.02), caffeinated beverages (57% vs. 46%, p = 0.02), or soda (56% vs. 37%, p = 0.10), prepared their own meals more often (86% vs. 73%, p = 0.07), and took daily multi-vitamins (56% vs. 32%, p = 0.02). The SCC group ate more at burger locations (21% vs. 6%, p = 0.02). In regard to NT items, the SD group ate breakfast before training/lifting sessions (67% vs. 37%, p = 0.02), and had post-workout nutrition options provided (61% vs. 27%, p = 0.01). The SCC group reported pre-competition meals of fast food (58% vs. 45%, p = 0.01), and sport coaches who were less aware of healthy food options (39% vs. 65%, p = 0.05).
The SD is as a valuable asset to an intercollegiate athletics program. In the current study, athletes from the SD group consumed less high calorie/low nutrient dense items, ate before exercise, and consumed healthier options post-exercise. The presence of a SD was linked to provision of healthier food options during team trips. The evidence-based eating strategies and dietary plan provided by a SD may lead to improved performance and recovery.