What is the Female Athlete Triad?

What is the Female Athlete Triad?

Athlete Scenario: I am a high school cross country runner, I run 25-35 miles per week and play recreational soccer 3 times per week. I haven’t had my period in 4 months, my times were getting faster, but it now seems to be getting harder to maintain the same pace. My shins ache as well and I’m often needing to ice my shins after meets and games.

This athlete is showing the 3 interrelated RED Flags to Female Athlete Triad.  

1.  Low Energy Availability 

2.  Low Bone Density

3.  Menstrual Disturbances

Energy availability (EA) is the energy remaining for regular body processes AFTER accounting for energy used during exercise.  Low EA is more prevelent in aesthetic and weight sesitive sports; gymnastics, dance, running, swimming.

Typically in high school and collegiate settings, athletes that are struggling are first identified by their athletic trainer, teammates, or coach who are most aware of their training levels, performance, and eating habits.  Typically, signs of the athlete showing triad-related concerns are progressive weight loss, disordered eating behaviors, chronic fatigue, impaired growth, hormonal disruptions, and irregular moods.  Other concerns are complaints about declining performance or overexercising behaviors, as well as overuse injuries including increased stress fractures.  

So, what do you do if you suspect Female Athlete Triad?  The athlete needs to be assessed and managed by a healthcare professional knowledgeable in the Female Athlete Triad and a Sports Dietitian can help identify appropriate foods and/or supplements to imporve EA.  Laboratory workup will be important as unfavorable blood cholesterol is typically increased, which increases cardiovascular risk and low B vitamins as well as Vitamin D and calcium are common.

NUTRITION STRATEGIES

1.  Improve EA with energy dense snacks and/or beverages.

2.  Decrease energy expenditure with taking at least 1 extra day off per week.

3.  Ensure calcium and vitamin D needs are met.

4.  Consult with a Sports Dietitian to improve EA and address any disordered eating       behaviors.  

 

Ditch the Counting and Find Your Sweet Spot!

Ditch the Counting and Find Your Sweet Spot!

Are you looking to improve your nutrition and health? Think Counting calories is the way to go?  There’s all kinds of apps and tools to help keep us on the right path to our weight and health goals via counting.  Calorie counting is not the answer!  Why?  First of all, who is determining your calorie budget?   Most often, your calorie ‘budget’ is most likely not representitive of your true calorie needs.  Chronic underfueling leads to longterm struggles of maintaining a healthy weight.  And second, not all calories are created equal.  Have you heard the saying “a calorie is a calorie”…, well, it’s WRONG!  Yes, that’s right – calorie counting is a waste of time and can lead to a lifetime of struggles with weigt! 

You need to consider how food and meals will effect your blood sugar.  If you eat foods that cause a quick rise in blood sugar,  that will result in a spike of insulin.  Insulin is a storage hormone, telling our bodies to store fat!  A quick rise and drop in blood sugar also increase cravings.  So the goal to eating healthy and maintaining a healthy weight is not about counting calories!  Here are the 4 most helpful steps to take and achieve good energy, lessen cravings, and maintain a healthy weight and forego the constant struggle of dieting forever!

1.  Design your plate!  Ensure your plate has protein, fats, and fiber!  Adding nuts, seeds, oils, or avocados for  fat and including fruits and vegetables at meals and snacks with protein will decrease those blood sugar spikes and keep you energized while lessening the food cravings!  Win-Win!

2. Eat Mindfully!  Use all your senses and turn off the distractions!  Always sit when eating and put away the cell phones, computers, books, and tv.  Be fully present in the moment.  Eating mindlessly always result in eating beyond our needs.  

3.  Eat for pleasure!  That’s right…, you should enjoy your food and feel completely satisfied!  Eat whole foods that are minimally processed with a variety of tastes, textures, and nutrients.  Food should be enjoyable and eating is a time to fuel your body and not a time numb negative emotions or to fill a void in your belly.  

4.  Listen to you body!  Our bodies are very smart and when not subjected to restriction, calorie counting, and cleanses, it can tell you alot of things!  When it is consuming nutrient dense, REAL wholesome foods, balanced in carbs, protein, and fat, it will tell you when it’s hungry and when you’ve had enough!  Getting our bodies back to INTUITIVE EATING…., that’s our SWEET SPOT!

For more information or an individualized plan, contact a Registered Dietitian.

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