As women's participation in sports has increased over the past 30 years, one might assume that female athletes keep their bodies in tip-top shape. Although they might look fit and healthy on the outside, research suggests women aren't consuming the nutrients needed to ensure their bodies can perform at their best.
Dr. Trevor Kashey, a nutrition scientist, says that if a woman is exercising heavily and consuming insufficient nutrients, she will begin to experience health problems. Extreme exertion without consuming the proper nutrients can cause female athletes to experience irregular or no periods, anemia and a loss of bone density.
It's clear that vitamins are an essential part of our diets, but some specific nutrients are vital for female athletes who want to stay in prime condition. Want to boost your vitamin intake? Start with these seven nutrients to make sure your training starts strong and ends stronger.
Low-carb and no-carb diets are popular in the health and fitness community, but research shows that restricting carbs while exercising vigorously can cause women to have a low-functioning thyroid, digestion problems and more restless sleep. Adding at least 100 grams of carbs—think healthy grains, brown rice, or bananas—will give you the carb kick you need.
Fiber keeps your digestive system in balance—that's nothing new. It helps break down food, allowing your body to absorb nutrients and stabilize your hormones. You can add more fiber to your diet through whole grains, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds.
Probiotics are another gut-friendly nutrient that can sometimes be hard to manage because of our high-stress and antibacterial-obsessed society. Fortunately, you can add probiotics back into your body through foods that have been fermented or through supplements, both of which can help keep your gut functioning properly.
4. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a must-have for athletes. This nutrient helps combat inflammation, is crucial for brain function, and, like several others, helps with hormone balance. Fish, chia seeds, and flax are all great sources of omega-3s.
5. B vitamins
The B vitamins all work together to help with fat burning, stress, immune system function, skin health and muscle tone. Caffeine, stress and some medications can deplete your store of B vitamins, but it's easily replaced through green vegetables, eggs, beef and fish.
6. Vitamin K2
Vitamin K2 is a necessary nutrient for calcium absorption. Women generally have thinner bones, and this vitamin basically grabs calcium from your blood and deposits it into your bones. K2, unfortunately, comes from fermented soy, and most of us don't include much of that in our diets. A quality vitamin supplement can augment K2 levels in your body and can serve as an investment in your body.
7. Weight training
You're probably thinking, "Weight training isn't a nutrient!" Although that's true, it is just as important as nutrients in a female athlete's workout. Lifting weights affects your overall health by increasing strength, stamina and bone density, helping you prevent injuries down the road. Add just 30 minutes a week—your body will thank you.
Don't take your body for granted. If you nourish it with these vital nutrients, you will be able to go longer and stay stronger. As a female athlete, your body needs these vitamins to stay in peak condition. Keep up the hard work and nourish yourself!
- How the Female Athlete Triad Can Ruin Your Sports Performance
- STUDY: Female Athletes Are at Higher Risk of Overuse Injuries
- How to Build Muscle for Women