Purpose: The purpose of this study was to assess the acceptability and impact of a ten-week foods lab-based cooking intervention program on the energy and nutrient intake, body composition, and iron status indices in female collegiate athletes.
Methods: Female Collegiate athletes were recruited for this study. Participants were excluded if they had severe food allergies, current or planned pregnancy, eating disorder diagnosis, or any metabolic disorder. Participants completed eight food lab-based intervention classes during their summer training period. The classes consisted of nutrition education focusing on healthy eating for optimizing sports performance, skill-based learning that incorporated basic kitchen skills with recipe preparation, and behavioral strategies including food monitoring and goal setting. Dietary intake, anthropometrics, and blood samples were analyzed pre- and post-intervention for changes as well as adequacy in meeting general sports nutrition recommendations for athletes. Dependent variables were anthropometric measures (weight, body fat percentage, fat mass, and fat free mass), iron status indicators (ferritin, hemoglobin (Hb), and hematocrit (Hct)), and dietary measures (energy, macronutrients, and iron). Shapiro-Wilk test of normalcy was run on all data and paired T-tests were used to examine the differences pre- to post-intervention for all outcome measures.
Results: Eleven NCAA Division I Female Collegiate athletes, age (20.4 ± 1.2 years) participated in the intervention. At the end of the 10 weeks, lean mass increased significantly, 56.1 ± 4.6kg to 56.8 ± 4.6kg, respectively (p = 0.017). In terms of iron status, there were significant increases in Hct and Hb from pre- to post-intervention (p=0.01), while there was a downward trend in ferritin (p = 0.067). Thirty six percent of the participants did not meet the minimum 30g/kg energy recommendation for weight maintenance post-intervention. Further, not one athlete met the minimum carbohydrate recommendation of 5g/kg either pre- or post-intervention. In addition, three participants (n=3, 27%) did not meet the minimum 1.2g/kg protein recommendation post-intervention. The direction of change for all dietary measures was favorable, however, no significant differences were observed in energy, carbohydrate, protein, fat, or iron intake from pre- to post-intervention.
Conclusion: A foods lab-based cooking intervention that incorporates nutrition education, cooking skills, and dietary goal setting may have benefits relative to nutritional intake, body composition, and iron status in female collegiate athletes. Larger, controlled studies are necessary to determine if Bearcats in the Kitchen could be a useful approach to improve the dietary intake of macronutrients and body composition in collegiate athletes across different sports.