Effectiveness of Education Interventions Designed to Improve Nutrition Knowledge in Athletes: A Systematic Review



A range of nutrition education strategies are used to assist athletes to improve nutrition knowledge. Evaluation of nutrition education interventions guides the delivery of efficacious nutrition education for athletes.


Our aim was to systematically review sport/general nutrition education interventions delivered to athletes, and to evaluate their effectiveness.


A search was conducted using terms related to nutrition knowledge, athletes, education, and intervention. Included studies had to be conducted in athletes (all calibres), use a scored nutrition knowledge assessment tool, and measure knowledge before and after a nutrition education intervention. Peer-reviewed and unpublished theses were included.


Thirty-two manuscripts (randomised controlled trial, n = 13; single-arm pre/post design, n = 19) met the inclusion criteria. Participants (n = 2180; mean age 17.4 ± 1.7 years) were mostly female (66.1%), university-level (56.3%) athletes based in the US (75%). Comparison of different education methods was limited since the majority of interventions (n = 28/36, 77.8%) used face-to-face education. Most intervention conditions (n = 19) had a total contact time of < 300 min (5 h). The majority of interventions (n = 30, 85.7%) reported significant knowledge improvement, with a mean increase of 16.1 ± 0.7% (mean effect size 1.72; range 0.4–17.1). Only 15.6% of studies used well-validated knowledge assessment tools (more than three types of validity or reliability testing).


Most interventions reported a significant improvement in nutrition knowledge. Unfortunately, the wide range of knowledge assessment tools with limited validation, and the predominant use of face-to-face interventions, prohibits identification of the most effective modality and dose for nutrition education in athletes.

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Data Availability Statement

All data used to prepare this article have been presented within the tables or are available as additional Electronic Supplementary Material.


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The authors would like to acknowledge the technical expertise of Ms. Kanchana Ekanayake who assisted with the search of relevant databases and retrieval of articles from The University of Sydney Health Sciences library.

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Correspondence to Ryan Tam.

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Ryan Tam, Kathryn Beck, Melinda Manore, Janelle Gifford, Victoria Flood and Helen O’Connor declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.

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Tam, R., Beck, K.L., Manore, M.M. et al. Effectiveness of Education Interventions Designed to Improve Nutrition Knowledge in Athletes: A Systematic Review. Sports Med 49, 1769–1786 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-019-01157-y

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