Nutition For Female Athletes
Symptoms of Poor Nutrition And Guidelines For Eating
Poor nutrition in female athletes is often underlying symptoms such as: tiredness, performance plateaus or decreases, burn-out, and repeated injuries. Female athletes may diet more aggressively than their non-sporting counterparts (see female athletic triad). Female athletes often want to loose weight to improve their performance.
The ideal diet is based on the woman's weight and consists of percentages of various food types proportional to that weight. To start, a woman should take her weight in pounds and divide it by 2.2. This gives her weight in kilograms. Then, she multiples this number by 10. This is number of grams of carbohydrates in her diet. This makes carbos about 70% of the woman's daily calories. Unlike what we have heard with the lo carb/hi protein craze, this is much better. An athlete's body needs more energy and the human body uses carbos as its main fuel. Protein grams are the woman's kilograms times 1. This means 10-15% of calories come from protein, although some have raised this to 20-25%. The rest can be fat, about 20-30% of her calories.
Women who eat at least 1200 calories per day should only need iron or calcium supplements as a back-up. She should be able to get all her nutrients in by eating a variety of foods along these lines.
Female Athletes Are Prone To Iron Deficiency
The daily requirement of iron for girls is 18 mg. Most girls don't take that much in. And excessive sweating can further exacerbate irion loss. As with all women, menstruation icreases iron intake needs. Iron deficiency or inadequate iron stores can occur without anemia and this is common in young female athletes. Still, a test indicating anemia (measuring values called hemoglobin and hematocrit) have to be viewed in perspective. Training causes the fluid in the blood to increase. This "dilutes" the values read, so there appears to be an anemia when there is not. Ferritn testing should follow any low hemoglobin/hematocrit readings in female athletes. This test indicates iron stores in the body.
Iron-rich foods, dietary supplements, and vitamin C (which helps absorb iron) can improve performance. Caffeine intake blocks iron uptake.
Calcium intake is another nutrient where female athletes have higher needs, but fall far short of the mark. Half of all runners and 40% of dancers and gymnasts don't get enough calcium. Stress fractures which can sideline a girl for the remainder of a season are the most tangible risk. Wieght bearing sports, those than involve running or jumping, are at greatest risk.
It's the Calories, Stupid. Fat is OK
As mentioned, few girls or women can get by with less than 1200-1500 per day. Extremely low fat diets have risks, even if the overall calories intake is good. This is generally considered to be diets that are less than 10% fat calories. Consequences of these include: low energy and performance, and deficiencies of iron, zinc, magnesium, folate (important if the woman plans a pregnancy), vitamins E, B6, B12, C, and A. Inadequate calorie intake can be the first step down the road to the Female Athletic Triad or other eating disorders.