CSCS Study Guide Chapter 9: Basic Nutrition Factors in Health

Chapter 9 of the Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning covers basic nutrition needs for athletes per the NSCA. The needs can vary across the lifespan as well as sport to sport.

This chapter is about basic nutrition. The needs of athletes are different from these which reflect mainly health outcomes.

Basic Nutrition Factors in Health

  • A nutrition plan that is tailored for an athlete's specific needs can help decrease risk of injury and illness while helping reach his or her performance goals. This chapter is more about the performance side.

Role of Sports Nutrition Professionals

  • Sports Dietitian - a registered dietitian that provides customized advice to an athlete based on his or her needs and sport. They specialize in sports nutrition.
  • Sports nutrition coach-is not a registered dietitian but, has basic training in nutrition and exercise science.
  • The scope of sports nutrition professionals varies from state to state.

Standard Nutrition Guidelines

  • MyPlate - food guidance system based on guidelines for Americans created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Should be considered a starting point for athletes evaluating their diet.
  • If an athlete avoids food groups, it is highly important that they work with a sport dietitian to establish a plan that accounts for this.
  • Macronutrient - carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
  • Micronutrient - vitamins and minerals.
  • Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) - recommended nutrient intakes for healthy individuals. Created by the Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, and National Academies. Based on the body of literature and reducing chronic disease. Applies to usual intake, not just a single day.
  • Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) - average daily nutrient requirement for health people.
  • Adequate Intake (IA) - the recommended amount when an RDA cannot be established.
  • Tolerable Uptake Level (UL) - the highest amount of a nutrient that you can take without any associated health risk.
  • Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) - average daily nutrient intake considered enough to meet the needs of half of the healthy population.

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  • Protein - the main structural and functional component of every cell in the human body.
  • Amino Acids - nitrogen containing molecules that bond to form proteins.
  • Polypeptide - several chains of amino acids bonded together.
  • Protein Digestibility - how much nitrogen is absorbed from a food during it's digestion.
  • Protein Digestibility Correct Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) - a measure of protein quality or how available the amino acids in the food are for use in the body.
  • Bioavailability - the amount of a nutrient that is able to be used by the body.
  • Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) - established by the Institute of Medicine, a range for a macronutrient that has been associated with reduced risk for chronic disease.
  • Protein plays an important role in weight loss. The more protein a person consumes, the more satisfied they are. The satiety effect depends on the foods consumed with the protein, the amount of protein consumed, the amount of time between meals and whether or not the protein is in a solid or liquid form. Athletes need more than the RDAs for protein to support increased demands, muscle growth, and repair
  • Muscle Protein Synthesis - the process through which muscles grow.
  • Gluconeogenesis - the process of converting sources of energy in the body into carbohydrates.
  • Carbohydrate - the bodies primary source of energy. Not considered essential in a general sense because it can be made from other substrates.
  • Monosaccharides - single sugar molecules. Glucose, Fructose and Galactose.
  • Glucose - a simple sugar found in circulation in the body. Glucose makes up glycogen in the body.
  • Fructose - the same chemical formula as Glucose but, with a different structural arrangement. Because of this, it tastes much sweeter and has different properties. Also known as fruit sugar.
  • Galactose - bonds with glucose to form lactose, the sugar in milk.
  • Disaccharides - sugar units that contain two sugar molecules formed together.
  • Sucrose - the most common disaccharide, made up of glucose and fructose.
  • Lactose - found only in milk, glucose and galactose.
  • Maltose - two glucose molecules formed together.
  • Polysaccharides - complex carbs, made up of thousands of glucose units. Include starch, fiber and glycogen.
  • Glycogen - a temporary source of stored energy stored in skeletal muscle and the liver.
  • Glycogenesis - the process of converting glucose into glycogen.
  • Glycemic Index (GI) - a macronutrient ranking system that ranks carbohydrates by how quickly they are digested and absorbed in a 2 hour time frame. Based on a standard serving size of a food.
  • Glycemic Load - another attempt to measure how much a food affects blood sugar levels. Unlike the Glycemic Index, Glycemic Load takes the amount of the food in grams into account to give you a more accurate picture.
  • Fiber - a polysaccharide or carbohydrate. Different kinds of fiber have different effects on the body. Some delay emptying of the stomach and therefore make you feel full longer. Some increase the bulk and water content of stool which reduces the amount of time it takes to poop and reduces constipation. Some soluble fiber helps reduce the absorption of cholesterol.
  • The amount of carbs you need in your diet are based on the types of activities you are performing.
  • Fat - made up of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen like carbohydrates. Has more carbon and hydrogen relative to oxygen so provides more energy than carbohydrates.
  • Triglycerides - fats and oils. Made up of glycerol and three fatty acids.
  • Fatty Acids - the building blocks of fat.
  • Saturated - contain no double bonds and are saturated with hydrogen molecules around the carbons.
  • Monounsaturated - fatty acids that contain one double bond.
  • Polyunsaturated - fatty acids that contain two or more double bonds.
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) - an omega-3 fatty acid,
  • Docosahexanoic Acid (DHA) - an omega-3 fatty acid,
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acid Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA) - this can be converted to EPA and DHA but, the effect of consuming these are not substantial because only a very small amount is converted.
  • Fat is important because it carries and stores fat-soluble vitamins.
  • Cholesterol - an important wavy, fat-like substance that is important structurally and for the bodies proper functioning. In high amounts it may be a risk for heart attack and stroke.
  • Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL) - known as the "bad" cholesterol, becomes part of plaque that can build up in arteries and increase risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Very Low-Density Lipoproteins (VLDL) - smaller, more dense particles of LDL. Hard to measure so not typically mentioned.
  • High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL) - protective against heart disease and known as the "good" cholesterol. Removes LDL from the bloodstream.



  • Minerals - naturally occurring chemical compounds that contribute to the structure of bone, teeth and nails as well as a number of metabolic functions.
  • Electrolytes - particular kinds of minerals that have an electrical charge. Regulate the flow of water in and out of cells. Control nerve impulses. Having the right amount of these present in the body aides in performance.
  • Anemia - also known as iron poor blood. Iron poor blood does not carry as much oxygen and limits sport performance. Mainly caused by blood loss, lack of red blood cell production or, destruction of red blood cells by your body.
  • There are two kinds of iron, heme and non-heme. Heme comes from animal proteins and is more easily absorbed by the body.
  • Calcium plays a vital role in growing strong healthy bones as well as their maintenance. It is also notably plays a role in regulating muscle contraction, nerve function, blood vessel expansion and contraction and the secretion of hormones and enzymes.
  • Nutrient Density - there is not a standard definition for this term. Typically viewed from the perspective of choosing foods that contain plenty of nutritional value relative to the amount of calories they contain.

Fluid and Electrolytes

  • Hydration - something that is hydrated, contains water. Hydration refers to replace fluid lost in the body.
  • Dehydration - body does not have enough fluids.
  • Hypohydration - another word for dehydration.
  • Hyponatremia - a point where the body has diluted blood sodium levels. Severe cases of this can lead to death.
  • Athletes should develop their own hydration plans as, everyone has a different sweat loss rate.

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Steven Mack is founder and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist at the private training studio, Simple Solutions Fitness. He consults for Stronger by Science, a leader in fitness research dissemination, and is a former Mizzou football walk-on. Steven dedicates his professional life to helping people through his writing, speaking, and role as a personal trainer.