Research has found that female athletes, more specifically those aged 13 and older, are unaware of the nutrition needed to stay healthy while training and competing. Poor nutrition, in turn, leads to low energy levels and poor performance – in addition to the health risks which come about as a result of poor nutrition.
The Reason Why Female Athletes Have Poor Nutrition
It all boils down to a deficiency of knowledge and societal stereotypes. It can start with something as simple as following a weight-loss diet that doesn’t support their activity and can progress to an eating disorder as a result of body types perceived to be fitting to the support as well as what is thought to be pretty. Restricting their calorie intake to lose weight also results in poor nutrition. At the same time, some don’t know what their recommended caloric intake is and as a result, don’t consume enough throughout the day. By not factoring in the needs of your sport or activity, females risk putting themselves at even more risk.
What Are The Most Common Nutritional Deficiencies?
The ideal female diet consists of carbohydrates and fats to maintain sufficient energy levels. When looking to maintain a slim physique, female athletes often avoid these nutrients, although they do consume an adequate amount of protein.
The body requires a very specific amount of energy to perform optimally and when the nutrients consumed are unable to meet this need it impacts the body’s ability to function, often impacting the female reproductive system as well as bone health. Calcium, magnesium, zinc and vitamins B and D can be lacking due to dietary restrictions leading to deficiencies.
The risk of bones fracturing becomes more prominent as poor bone density and repeat stress put pressures on the bones, stress that they are unable to withhold.
Low levels of iron may result in anaemia, which can rupture red blood cells and result in gastrointestinal bleeding as a result of the intense training schedules.
Does Disordered Eating Play A Role?
In an attempt to reach a certain lower weight goal, female athletes often follow unhealthy diets. Disordered eating involves chronic dieting, obsessive calorie counting, food anxieties and excessive use of laxatives. This can lead to more serious eating disorders.
Athletes participating in swimming, dancing and gymnastics are more inclined to suffer from disordered eating than those participating in team sports. Disordered eating, therefore, plays a very obvious role in poor nutrition amongst female athletes.
How To Improve Female Nutrition
Female athletes need to follow a diet tailored to meet the demands of their sports. This diet needs to be carefully monitored to be successful. Not doing this will result in low energy and poor performance.
The team backing the female athlete needs to be aware of the areas for concern and work together in order to monitor and track the progress of the suggested diet. The need to be able to counsel and offer support to the athlete should the need arise and know how to respond to difficult situations.
Poor nutrition is no laughing matter and can have dire consequences if the behaviour is not rectified. It’s up to the athlete and their team to find a healthy way forward when it comes to eating and training – the two go hand in hand and need to be a top priority.
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