The Right Nutrition For Female Athletes

This article is authored by Dr. Shweta U. Shah. A practicing homeopath, she follows a patient-centred perspective, emphasizing the benefits of natural remedies and herbs, homeopathy and whole food nutrition.

Food is the fuel which athletes need to perform their very best. Without the right food, fitness, stamina, endurance, strength and overall performance will hit a low. Nutrition in sports is exceedingly pivotal and to get the most out of your workout routine and athletic ability, your diet ought to be one of your top priorities. Also, it is crucial to remember that as your body expends energy through training, it is vital that you restock the lost energy and nutrients.

Dietary guidelines for the female athlete

Eat Breakfast

Female athletes need to consume 5 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of bodyweight per day during a moderate intensity workout and 10 - 12 grams of carbs per kilogram of bodyweight for a high intensity routine. Obtain your carbs from whole grains, legumes, starchy vegetables, fresh fruits and dairy – it should necessarily be a part of the athlete diet. Significantly, your intake of carbs changes based upon your phase of menstrual cycle. During the luteal phase - which lasts for 15 days, beginning in the middle of the cycle and ending just before the period commences, there is a reduced requirement for carbohydrates.

There is a very strong association between the consumption of protein and the energy availability. When energy levels are high, the protein is employed for physiological functions. On the other hand, during low levels of energy, the protein is used to meet the energy deficit. An equilibrium is required between carbohydrate, protein and energy availability, which is important for women in sport as the female reproductive hormones are closely connected to the metabolic pathway.

When the carbohydrate, protein and energy equilibrium is lost, the reproductive function takes a bashing. A ripple effect occurs – causing irregular thyroid function, abnormal bone mineral metabolism, poor immune function and gastrointestinal function, and decreased maintenance of the organs; eventually causing a decline in physical performance.

To sustain good levels of protein, a female athlete should eat nutrient dense, high-performance, sources of protein such as – eggs, fish, lean meat, dairy, legumes, whole grains, and nuts.

5 Superfoods for athletes to heighten potential

You can get plenty of muscle-building nutrients by adding the right foods to your diet.

• Bananas: The perfect source of fuel and natural electrolytes, bananas are loaded with glucose, which is a vastly digestible sugar proffering instant energy – they should easily make their way into an athlete diet. It is also brimming with potassium which keeps muscle cramps during your workout at bay. The carbs in the fruit are released slowly and steadily into your body, thereby preventing spiking in the blood sugar levels as well as encouraging muscle recovery. Have a banana yogurt smoothie before every workout and eat one banana at the end of your workout routine.

• Almonds:Radish Almonds promise muscle-nourishing nutrients and are packed with protein and healthy fats and should be a part of any athlete’s diet. A fistful of almonds, i.e. about 20 nuts provide 6 grams of protein. Importantly, combine almonds with complex carbs, they help steady the blood sugar level and sustain the carbs for a long interval of time, instead of burning them off immediately. They are also loaded with fibre and vitamin E. Furthermore, almonds bring down levels of bad cholesterol and support heart health. Interestingly, the nut boasts of special fat-burning properties when consumed before a workout. Almonds boost energy and endurance appreciably. However, do remember that while almonds are great, you need to watch the amount you eat; consuming more than 20 causes your body to store fat instead of building muscle.

• Legumes: Beans and lentils are fat-burning, muscle-building micro machines! An outstanding source of protein and fibre, beans give you energy to build the muscle you want. They help reduce fat, keep you feeling fuller for longer and protect the heart. 1 cup of boiled pulses, on an average provides 12 to 18 grams of protein and 9 grams of fiber. Additionally, they are loaded with folate, which promotes muscle growth and also have a good amount of copper, which strengthens tendons.

• Dahi: Yogurt is your idyllic workout partner and must be an important component of the athlete diet! A fabulous source of protein, calcium and vitamin D, all these work beneficially for your muscles. All the 3 are vital for strong bones— and you need healthy bones to sustain strong muscles. Consuming a bowl of plain dahi everyday promises increased strength and greater muscle toning.

If you are a professional athlete training for a big event or trying to sustain your athletic lifestyle without any adverse effects on your health, it is always a good idea to talk to a nutritionist or a doctor. This will help you ensure that you meet your sporting goals while being healthy and fit.


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