Nutrition Gone Wrong – Female Athlete Triad

Considerable research has been going into the negative impact of nutrition deficiencies among female athletes. Female athletes have been labeled as hard test subjects for fitness and nutrition because of our changing hormones and because not every woman is the same during their cycle. We are all unique, what a blessing! However, this lack of research on women in sports has put many female athletes at a higher likelihood of experiencing nutritional deficiencies, increased injury risk, and a high likelihood of hormonal battles that effect both physical and mental performance.

Sadly, a considerable proportion of female athletes will experience nutritional deficiencies at some point in their careers if we don’t start early and spread the word about real biological female nutrition. These nutritional deficiencies come through avoidable pathways like – inadvertent under eating, lack of knowledge, food insecurity, time constraints, restrictive eating habits, and eating disorders.

RED-S Causes Declined Performance

With poor fueling comes an increased risk of RED-S. What is Red-S? It is a syndrome of poor health and declining athletic performance that happens when athletes do not get enough fuel through food to support the energy demands of their daily lives and training.

Some signs of RED-S are:

  • Decreased training response
  • Irritability
  • Decreased concentration
  • Decreased coordination
  • Increased injury risk
  • Decreased endurance performance
  • Decreased muscle strength
  • Decrease glycogen storage
  • Depression
  • For Females – Irregular Menstrual function
  • Decreased bone health

Looking back at my life, I am pretty sure I had RED-S as a teen and I’m almost 100% I’ve experienced it within the past 8 years. Now, looking at my daughter – I have a high concern that she is on the bubble of this as well. I notice that she doesn’t like to eat after games, she is always so tired, recovery takes longer than it should and she recently broke her leg. Am I certain, no, but will I be aware and prepared – absolutely!

What do we do?

As a female athlete or the parent of one, it is vital that we prioritize the truth about food and nutrition. As an athlete, we want to succeed and be at top performance. We don’t want a good workout to be followed by extreme fatigue, irritability, and the inability to do anything outside of our workouts. If you or your daughter experiences this – it is a big sign that undernourishment is the root.

It’s not hopeless. There are ways to remedy it and prevent it. It starts with educating the athlete. There are so many false nutrition statements out there – We have to listen to the science and the female body to be able to thrive in life and sport.

Focus on:

  • A nutrition plan that is the easiest to stick to – make small changes progressively
  • Protein – Female athletes should have 1.2-2.0g of protein per their body weight and on the higher end the last two weeks of their cycle.
  • Carbohydrates – contrary to society – carbs are not bad – they are what energizes our body. We should ingest 20-40g of carbs pre-workout and 20-40g post-workout.
  • Multi-vitamin – everyone should be taking some kind of vitamin supplement, especially young and still-growing athletes. The key female vitamins are omega 3, Vit D, Iron, and Calcium. Picking a 3rd party tested vitamin is your best bet to fill all nutritional gaps.
  • Education – We need to educate ourselves and the athletes around us about food truth. Not only food, but self-worth, self-love and all that is associated with increasing our desire to honor our bodies and what they need
  • Rest – It is so easy to go non-stop – as a female athlete, we are trained to push through – too much pushing without adequate rest, will lead to our bodies breaking down and eventually forcing us to ‘stop’. Let’s honor ourselves by scheduling at least 1 full rest day and 1 slow-moving day. (two full rest days would be great if possible)
  • Stretching/foam rolling – Helping our bodies get back to their resting state after workouts will greatly impact our ability to bounce back for the next activity. This also gives us time to reflect, breathe and do some mental growth work.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: