Over the last 40 years, the rise in the number of female athletes has been staggering. The numbers have grown by 560% for high school students and nearly 1000% at college and university! Wonderful, and staggering. But with this rise in participation, has come the rise in a condition called the female athlete triad.
The female athlete triad is characterized by an irregular menstrual cycle, low energy, and low bone density. It is most commonly caused by under eating in relation to the amount of exercise being done. Although you may not be suffering from the female athlete triad, here are some things to watch out for:
1. You avoid eating post workout
Many women avoid eating after a workout because they believe it erases their calorie burn. But the truth is, it isn't as simple as 'calories in, calories out.' When you are finished a workout, your body is primed to use nutrients for healing. Eating a healthy meal will provide the cells in your body with what it needs to recover from the workout. When it comes down to it, it is the healing that makes you stronger. So, robbing your body of what it needs to heal will only, in the end, make you weaker and possibly lead to injuries.
2. You're tired all the time
Although there can be several causes of fatigue, under eating is certainly one. Even at rest, your body uses calories to support basic, but vital, organ functions. A good rule to go by is that if you are fairly inactive, you will need 10 calories per pound of body weight with more for exercise. So, if you are a 135 pound woman, you need at least 1350 calories for jut sitting around doing nothing. Not to mention the 500 for your one hour of cardio. And of course, none of this takes into account every day activities like walking around, doing laundry etc. But so many women try to limit themselves to 1200 calories a day! Even when trying to lose weight, that isn't enough and so you will feel tired, irritable and unable to concentrate.
3. You aren't having regular periods
Irregular periods can be caused by several things but it is often a sign that you are not nourished enough to maintain your hormone levels. This imbalance can trigger a loss in bone density which increases the risk for fractures and osteoporosis. Although most common in older women, osteoporosis can impact women in the 20s and 30s. Taking a calcium supplement isn't enough, you must eat a balanced and full diet.
4. You're sick too often
If you aren't getting proper nutrition, you are weakening your immune system. If you are someone who gets a cold on the regular, have a closer look at your diet. Being too restrictive with your diet often has the side effect of preventing you from getting all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you need to be and remain healthy.
5. You're afraid of food
There is a difference between trying to eat clean and being obsessive about food. If you avoid eating when you feel hungry, skip social situations because you want to keep control over your food, if you are becoming increasingly restrictive, or tying your food intake to your self esteem, it is time to speak to a professional. If you are training for an event or trying to slim down, there is no reason you cannot do it and remain healthy physically and emotionally. This will foster a healthy relationship with food and your body for every step of the journey. If you are not feeling well, in mind and body, know that it is possible to get there. You will just need some support. No shame in that!
Are any of these signs familiar to you? Is it time to reevaluate your habits?
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