Women are becoming more involved and having more success in sports than ever before. However, women are also much more likely to fall short of proper nutritional requirements that are necessary for keeping the body in tip-top condition, for providing top level energy and strength, and for preventing injuries. Women also tend to cut calories and consume less nutritionally packed supplements than their male counterparts.
Suzanne Nelson-Steen, University of Washington sports nutritionist, conducted a study on sports nutrition and concluded that many women in sports spend a great deal of time participating in vigorous workouts and practices for their sports while failing to provide their bodies with the proper high-octane fuel from nutritious foods and drinks. This practice leaves them nutritionally deficient in numerous important catagories.
Insufficient Calcium and Iron and More, Oh My!
Women, in general, require more calcium and iron intake than men. These valuable nutrients that the body uses to build strong, healthy bones and muscle tissue are lost each month during a woman’s menstruation period. If not replaced, female athletes can contract iron deficiency anemia and will have weaker bone development and a lesser oxygen supply to their working muscles.
If you are very active in sports, it is advisable to have your iron levels checked by a doctor. This is especially important if you have heavy blood flows during menstruation and aren’t adhering to a nutritious diet. Iron, calcium, and other vitamin supplements may be required in order for the female athlete to perform at peak level.
Staying adequately hydrated is another short fall of many people, but especially of high-performance athletes who train and play at aggressive levels. Proper hydration is just as important as a nutritious diet because it is the fluids of the body that carry these important nutrients to the muscles, organs, and brain, as well as lubricate an athlete’s joints, remove toxins, and more. Proper bodily performance depends on proper fluid levels.
Even though the female athlete should drink more than normal women, processed fruit juices and sodas should be avoided. Both of these contain large amounts of high fructose sugars and most diet sodas contain aspartame or other chemicals that have been linked to nerve damage. Water is the best choice and should be consumed throughout the day and more so during and after workouts. Sports drinks are another option for very active women athletes, but they too should be avoided due to high sugar content.
Dieting and Overtraining
Women athletes have a tendency to use excessive dieting or overtraining to reduce body fat. In order to perform better in their sport, some women will use unhealthy diet plans such as the binge-and-purge philosophy. However, in the case of purging after binging, nutrients from the food do not have time to enter the body. Therefore, the athlete becomes nutritionally deficient and the practice will eventually hurt her performance as well as her health. Many diet plans are actually dangerous for female athletes.
There is also the dangerous habit of overtraining in order to drop weight. Proper strength, weight, and cardio training is vital for good sports performance. However, overtraining tears down and destroys muscle fibers and shedding pounds through overtraining methods means you are not getting sufficient rest in order to allow your body to recover. Again, just as with radical dieting methods, overtraining is dangerous to the woman athlete’s performance.