Journal of Human Sport and Exercise

The relationship between hourly energy balance and fat mass in female collegiate soccer players

Christian E. Behrens, Ashley Delk-Licata, Dan Benardot, Brenda M. Bertrand, Paula C. Chandler-Laney, Eric P. Plaisance, José R. Fernández


Introduction: Soccer athletes have better performance if they maintain low fat mass (FM) relative to fat-free mass. Recent evidence suggests that maintenance of energy balance (EB) is associated with lower FM in athletes. Prior studies have used daily EB rather than hourly, but this approach does not consider duration of time athletes spend in EB versus surplus or deficit. Objective: Test the hypotheses that (1) time spent in EB is inversely associated with FM, and (2) athletes with mean hourly EB in the deficit range have lower FM than those in balance or surplus. Methods: Collegiate female soccer players (n = 20) were enrolled in this cross-sectional study. A 3-day diet/activity record was obtained and analysed to estimate EB in hourly increments. Hourly EB was categorized as: Surplus, > 400 kcal EB; Balance, between ± 400 kcal EB; Deficit, < -400 kcal EB. Total hours spent in each category and mean EB (kcals) was calculated from the 3-day period. Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis was used to derive indices of FM (total FM in kg, % fat, fat mass index). Pearson correlations evaluated associations between FM measures and time spent in each EB category. One-way ANOVA with Tukey post-hoc testing was used to assess differences in FM among athletes stratified into surplus, balance, or deficit based on mean hourly EB. Results: Hourly energy deficit was associated with higher FM compared to energy surplus or balance. Conclusion: Female collegiate soccer players who sustain EB during the day, and limit time spent in energy deficit, had lower FM measures.


Body composition; Sports nutrition; Athlete; Sport performance; Diet


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