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Female Athletes Not Eating Enough

Evidently female athletes are just as brainwashed as the rest of us about thinking they’re too fat, at least according to this article. The gist of the story is that female athletes don’t eat enough calories to fuel the activities they are doing because they think gaining weight will hinder their performance. One girl would go as low as only consuming 800 calories a day.

Now, I am just a fat girl from Indiana and even I know that is insane. 800 calories a day? No one’s basal metabolic rate is that low. Even a 4’0″ tall 90 pound woman burns at least 1100 calories day by just sitting around in bed. When you start running and skipping and jumping around town you’re burning even more. You need to eat, girls! The car won’t run without gasoline.

It surprises me to find out some women athletes are so concerned about their weight and figure that they’re starving themselves. I always thought one of the best parts of being an athlete would be that you could pig out more often. If you run 10 miles, you’ve earned the right to stuff your face with a cookie or two. But I guess if you’re fighting for every competitive edge you can get, maybe losing even an extra ounce or two can look appealing.

Full article is copied and pasted after the jump

Female athletes often miss nutritional needs

Healthy eating habits can improve performance, increase energy levels

The Associated Press

Updated: 5:38 p.m. ET Nov. 29, 2005

DENVER – After collapsing at the end of two marathons and struggling to swim just a single length of the pool, Olympic hopeful Jacqueline Mariash knew she needed some help. She got it from an unexpected source: a registered dietitian.

The 25-year-old Mariash has been a runner for nearly as long as she can remember, and began competing in triathlons in 1998. Like many female athletes, she strictly limited her food — dipping as low as 800 calories a day — to improve her performance by losing weight.

But her results were just the opposite.

“I used to wake up really tired,” she said. “I used to take a lot of time off training because I was so exhausted.”

Last summer, Mariash tried nutritional counseling. After about a month of sessions with dietitian Nancy Pudwill, the athlete said her energy levels soared and her performance improved. Weight loss was no longer her primary goal.

“In high school track, we all starved. That’s not how you get to the Olympics,” she said. “Now I can train harder, farther. Things I was afraid of, like a four-hour bike ride, are easy now.”

If discipline is required for training, she says, why not for nutrition too?

For Mariash, the solution was to eat a lot more calories in three balanced meals plus several healthy snacks.

Before she began working with Pudwill, Mariash usually had cereal for breakfast and would then “basically nibble” all day — crackers here, juice there — with one balanced meal at night.

Now she has a full breakfast with eggs or other protein, a decent lunch, healthy snacks and an energy drink, plus a complete, balanced dinner.

Thinner doesn’t mean faster

Mariash is one of many athletes who have learned that thinner doesn’t always mean faster or stronger, and that fitness and conditioning don’t work well without proper nutrition. Athletes and coaches have increasingly turned to dietitians and nutrition counselors for such help, said Philip Haberstro of the National Association for Health and Fitness in Buffalo, N.Y.

About a year ago, Pudwill and several sports medicine doctors and therapists at the University of Colorado opened the Active Women’s Health program after realizing many female athletes didn’t understand how to meet their body’s nutritional needs. Adding to the challenge is society’s pressure to lose weight, Pudwill says.

“What happens with females is they don’t realize how much it takes to fuel their body to do the kind of activity they’re doing,” she said. “Sometimes, typical of females, they’re not eating enough.”

Some problems don’t always clearly point to nutrition — stress fractures, low energy, anemia. But all can be signs of too few calories and a shortage of minerals like calcium and iron, said Suzanne Farrell, a Denver-based spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

Unlike men, women athletes often resist advice to eat more, Farrell said.

“I had to stop reading magazines like Shape and InStyle,” said Mariash, who agreed it was hard to gain weight. “All the magazines talk about is losing 10 pounds or shaving inches from your waist. For me, it’s how do I get fast.”

Mariash said many athletes and coaches don’t pay enough attention to nutrition as part of their training regimen.

Simple changes in diet, including a different ratio of protein, carbohydrates and fat, can bring rapid results, Pudwill said. She said she usually steers clients clear of supplements.

Mariash keeps a diary of the foods she eats and her energy levels through the day. During her weekly visits with Pudwill, they review the diary, check her weight and discuss any needed changes.

“I’m really concentrating on getting lean, but doing it the correct way,” she said.

© 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

© 2005 MSNBC.com

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Hilly • December 1, 2005 at 11:08 am

Okay that is ridiculous! You would think that as athletes they would know that you have to eat MORE when you work out that much.

Random aside…I did not know you were in Indiana! My husband was born and raised in Indiannapolis and my MIL still lives there :).


PastaQueen • December 1, 2005 at 11:40 am

I’m a Hoosier! I was born in Indianapolis and lived here for 2 years until my family moved to a variety of different places in different states. I spent 8 years in Louisville, KY which probably most feels like my home town, but I have lived in Indianapolis again now for – wow – 5 years. I didn’t realize it had been that long. It’s snowing here today. Brrr.


Hilly • December 1, 2005 at 2:19 pm

Wow, my main credit card has the Indiana State University logo on it, since I am an authorized user on Shawn’s card, heh.

My MIL is going to be here on the 20th for 3 weeks like every Christmas, and I have always wondered why she sits outside the whole time….uh yeah, if it is snowing there and in the 60’s to 70’s here, I get it. (We are in SoCal).


littlem • January 27, 2006 at 6:35 am

Go Hoosiers! I’m a transplant, living and working in NYC, but I was born in B-ton (my dad was working on his doctorate) and I’m a proud IU grad (it only took two reunions back there for me to turn into the thing I swore I’d never be – a sorority girl walking around with “Indiana” on her butt. If you’ve been to IU you know what I’m talking about :D).

Darn. Now I’m homesick.


littlem • January 27, 2006 at 6:37 am

But OT, speaking of female athletes, I knew a lot of swimmers at IU – home of Mark Spitz for those not from Indiana who don’t know – and the men ate waaaaay more than the women. All the time. My gymnast friends too. I was in the dance company, and I honestly think as women we’re socialized out of it. Beaten over the head with it. Eating enough as a woman to actually fuel your daily activies is almost counterculture. Makes me mad.


Shanno • August 11, 2009 at 5:33 pm

I just found this post and I had to comment. You’re dead on that female athletes need to eat more. I was a competitive swimmer for eight years, four of which were at the college level. Unfortunately, swimming is one of those sports that harbors a vast amount of disorder eating and eating disorders. There were times in our training that I ate everything in sight and still was hungry. There were over training times when I was too exhausted to do anything but sleep. And then there were a few periods were I didn’t eat enough because I correlated it with performing better. The only thing I performed in was my body hitting the concrete because I passed out after a race or after a tough practice. It’s a shame that athletes who use their bodies to perform physical feats and endeavors feel the need to sabotage their hard work and efforts because someone at some point in history decided that females needed to be stick thin. Thanks for the post, even if I am a few years late in finding it. :)


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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