St. Bonaventure University
Nutrition in female athletes is an issue that has been overlooked for many years; poor nutrition in female athletes is really common for the desire of losing weight to improve performance. Female athletes may diet more aggressively than their non-sporting counterparts and are vulnerable to symptoms such astiredness, performance plateaus or decreases, burn-out, and repeated injuries. Bad nutrition in female athletes is really common in gymnasts, figure skaters, runners and female athletes in other sports wherein body composition is perceived to play an integral role in performance. These athletes are under ever-increasing pressure to maintain specific weight and body fat percentage. For womenparticipating in sports today, the level of competition is becoming more and more intense. This is a result of increases in acceptance and encouragement for women’s participation, the numbers of women competing successfully, the skill level and expertise, and the value placed on winning. Given two athletes with the same body type, talent, and strength, if you give the appropriate nutrition to one ofthem and not the other one, the difference on performance will be really noticeable. Providing female athletes with the appropriate nutrition is a really important but rather difficult task, due to all the discoveries and improvements that have been going on during the last couple years.
Nutrition in Female Athletes
Women competing in college sports have increased significantly during the lastcouple years. Researchers have demonstrated that women derive significant benefits from exercise, including decreased risks for obesity, hypertension, and type II diabetes mellitus (Reinking & Alexander, 2005). Some researchers have also found that women involved in organized sports are at lower risk for teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and depression and have a more positive self-image.In order to design such a program, the female athlete will need to understand how the principles of nutrition apply to her as a woman, as an athlete and as an individual. Gymnasts, figure skaters, runners and female athletes in other sports wherein body composition is perceived to play an integral role in performance, are under ever-increasing pressure to maintain specific weight and body fatpercentage. Many female athletes are encouraged by coaches to be unrealistically thin (Heffner, Ogles, Gold, Marsden & Johnson, 2003).
Successful athletes at any level of competition are the product of three factors: heredity, hard work, and nutrition. Heredity is outside our control: the six foot, large boned woman, most likely will be more successful engaging in a sport in which height andsize are maximized (Reinking & Alexander, 2005). On the other hand, a comprehensive physical and mental training program is undoubtedly the most effective way of enhancing athletic performance (Clement, Schmidt, Berriaix, Covington & Can, 2004). Combined with training, the practical application of sound nutritional knowledge, will not only enhance performance, but among athletes ofcomparable ability, can also provide the competitive edge needed for success.
In the early 1990s, researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and ACSM had a consensus conference simply to talk about the problem. Following the conference, research efforts were directed at uncovering the relationship between the prevalence of disordered eating and menstrual irregularities that occur infemale athletes (Greenleaf, Petrie, Carter & Reel, 2009). It was revealed that when they occur in tandem, irregular menstrual cycles and eating disorders are associated with premature bone loss and osteoporosis. Together, disordered eating, menstrual dysfunction and decreased bone mineral density became known as the female athlete triad (Heffner, Ogles, Gold, Marsden & Johnson, 2003)....