According to research at Rutger's Robert Wood Johnson Medical school, 'A study of Female athletes over the age of 13 shows that a lack of nutrition knowledge about what they need to eat to stay healthy and compete may contribute to poor performance, low energy and nutrient intake, and potential health risks.'
In fact many female athletes do not meet the basic nutritional requirements or energy demands needed to compete. In certain sports (such as running, swimming, gymnastics, and cycling) athletes might feel greater pressure to maintain a low body weight- which puts them at greater risk for nutritional deficiencies and health risks.
And perhaps when our female swimmers are struggling in practice, injured more than usual, or not performing as expected it is time to consider the role nutrient deficiency might be playing.
A multitude of national university studies assessing the effect of deficits in calories, protein, minerals, and vitamins on performance found that female athletes were much more susceptible to iron, calcium, and vitamin D deficiencies than their male counterparts. It also found those same at risk female athletes needed to be aware of low levels in magnesium, folic acid, and vitamin B12.
Why is this a concern?
-Underwhelming athletic performance.
-Overall health could become compromised, that includes neurological issues and weakened immune system.
Long term- vitamin and mineral deficient female athletes have a greater risk for poor bone health and reproductive system issues .
-Increased risk of bone stress fractures and osteoporosis later in life.
What can be done?
- Speak with your doctor or a registered dietitian or nutritionist and get tested.
-Spread the word (to coaches, teachers, athletes, parents, etc.) and become aware of symptoms. This will increase early detection.
-Monitor food intake. A food journal can be very effective.
-Take vitamin & mineral supplements