Dietician Brooke Schohl is back again with some nutrition tips, this time for the ladies in our community. Over to you Brooke...
Thanks Dave! When it comes to endurance sports, we all know that fueling up right is really important. The right fuel plan can increase energy levels, improve body composition, and boost your performance to the next level. Athletes who pay close attention to their intake, and strive to consume a clean diet of healthy, natural foods have a leg-up on the competition.
There are some differences between men and women though and it makes sense to take these into consideration when refining your strategy. Don’t be left in the dark, follow these women-specific guidelines ladies!
The importance of vitamins and minerals
Female athletes have a higher risk of becoming deficient in iron, calcium, B vitamin, and zinc. These nutrients are responsible for building bone and muscle, as well as being involved in energy production; all of which are obviously essential to athletes. Iron insufficiencies often occur due to menstrual losses, and can lead to fatigue, and low energy metabolism. Try to follow the philosophy of 'food first, supplements second' when preventing or addressing nutrient deficiencies though. Here are some guidelines on how much to take in and where from:
- Iron-rich foods (minimum of 18 mg/day): meat, dried beans, fruit, and leafy green vegetables.
- Calcium-rich foods (1,000 mg/day): dairy products, leafy green vegetables, and beans.
- B-Vitamin-Rich foods (varies): chicken, meat, tuna, eggs, milk, yogurt, spinach, mushrooms, oranges, apples, potatoes, and peanut butter.
- Zinc-rich foods (8 mg/day): meat, shellfish, oysters, and whole grains.
Inadequate daily caloric intake is more common among female athletes than males, especially in sports that encourage a lean physique (like running, triathlon and cycling). By setting daily caloric intake too low, your energy levels and performance can be negatively impacted.
The Female Athlete Triad is a syndrome of 3 conditions that results from inadequate energy intake: energy deficiency, amenorrhea, and bone loss/osteoporosis.
Caloric requirements change over the course of a season. Meet with a sports dietitian to ensure you are getting enough calories and the right balance of carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Find that balance between looking great and performing at your highest level!
Athletes require more protein than their non-athlete counterparts – you must repair muscle tissue damaged during exercise and you also have a higher amount of lean muscle mass to support.
Female athletes who are restricting their energy intake or follow a vegetarian/vegan diet are more likely to be deficient in protein. Protein requirements are the same for male and female endurance athletes (1.2-1.8 g/kg/d), but women often have a harder time meeting the minimum recommendations due to dietary restrictions or preferences.
No matter the type of diet you follow – carnivorous, vegetarian, vegan – there are plenty of protein sources available to meet minimum daily goals. Calculate your minimum protein requirement and ensure you are meeting this number on a daily basis.
Protein-rich foods include chicken, turkey, seafood, beef, pork, eggs, beans/lentils, tofu, dairy products, nuts/seeds, and vegetables.
You're a strong woman; an endurance athlete! Make sure you stay this way by consuming all of the nutrients you need on a daily basis. Pay close attention to iron intake, protein intake, and total energy intake!