June 24, 2024

115: Croissants and Commentary #5: Fueling for Female Athletes

In this Episode

It wasn’t that many years ago that co-host Sara Gross was told by a coach that to perform better she needed to lean-up and lose additional weight — despite already training huge hours as a pro triathlete. Ultimately, she ended up in such an energy deficit that she collapsed and blacked out on the race course.

This happens all-too-frequently across all levels of competition for female athletes, especially at the elite level.

In this episode, Sara and Kelly delve into the critical topic of energy availability and fueling for female athletes – including the unique challenges women face.

Female athletes are often encouraged to be lean, but not too lean. Muscular, but not too muscular. They should eat, but not too much. These societal pressures too frequently prioritize leanness over health, impacting not just athletes’ well-being but also their performance. Additionally, long-term deficits in energy — ie. higher energy output than intake — can have bigger health impacts for women. The Female Athlete Triad, for example, refers to the interconnectedness of menstrual dysfunction, low energy availability, and decreased bone density. As a result, female athletes are much more susceptible to REDs (Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport) — which can lead to numerous health issues.

This week’s expert, Melissa Lodge from the FED Collaborative, discusses these challenges and the consequences of long-term energy deficiency.

She also proposes several strategies to mitigate these risks, including:

  • The need for a balanced approach to nutrition that supports both performance and health.
  • A multidisciplinary approach involving coaches, nutritionists, and medical professionals to address the many aspects of underfueling.
  • Continued education and resources around REDs and Low Energy Availability to promote sustainable performance.
  • Standardized screening and assessment tools to detect early signs.
  • The need for protocols and policies within organizations and governing bodies to promote fueling for female athletes.

For more guidance, check out Feisty’s Fueled educational course.

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