As the 2016 summer Olympics get underway, we will see elite women athletes compete at the highest level of their sports. And as we cruise toward September, many more young women will return to the field, court, and pool on college and high school teams. We know that many women who don’t consider themselves athletes exercise more and restrict calories to lose or maintain their weight. This can be a formula for disaster.
The benefits of an active lifestyle and participation in sports are many. However, proper and adequate nutrition is paramount to a woman’s health — particularly for strong and healthy bones. This is especially true for female athletes.
After Title IX — which ensured athletic opportunities for women in programs that received federal financial assistance — was passed in 1972, the number of women participating in sports skyrocketed. About 20 years after Title IX, a group of physicians identified a set of three symptoms commonly seen in women athletes. The original definition of the female athlete triad consisted of eating disorders, irregular menstrual cycles, and reduced bone mineral density (weakened bone strength that can lead to osteoporosis). Malnutrition led to abnormalities in the menstrual cycle, which in turn affected bone density.
The triad was thought to affect primarily women participating in weight-dependent or judging sports, such as gymnastics, ice skating, or endurance running. However, many athletes remained undiagnosed because criteria for the triad diagnosis remained elusive. In 2007, the definition transitioned into a spectrum disorder involving “low energy availability” (inadequate carbohydrate intake), absence of menstrual periods, and decreased bone mineral density.
Most recently the International Olympic Committee has coined the term RED-S — Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport. This exemplifies the importance of fueling your body with the appropriate amount of energy (food) for the duration and intensity of activity performed. In other words, if you don’t eat enough, there will be repercussions, some serious. Poor nutrition and insufficient calories for the amount of exercise you do will lead to changes in your body’s hormone levels and directly affect bone density.
Why is it so important to balance activity and adequate nutrition?
Let’s talk about bone health. We know that we can build bone density until about age 25. After that we can only work to maintain what we’ve got. If young female athletes are losing bone density, it can never be replaced.
We also know that female athletes suffer from two to three times the number of stress fractures compared to male athletes. And women athletes with missed menstrual cycles (which can happen when activity outpaces calories consumed) have two to four times the risk of stress fractures compared to women with normal monthly menstrual cycles.
A stress fracture occurs when the bone is subject to more stress or impact than it can handle. This may simply be due to overtraining, or increasing training too quickly without giving the bones adequate time to adapt. Stress fractures can also be due to a lower bone mineral density, which means it takes less force to cause damage. This often is the result of the female athlete triad — a direct result of not eating enough, or not eating enough of the right foods. If we can educate our youth on the importance of maintaining a healthy diet and supplying their active bodies with the energy they need, then we can prevent many of these injuries and maybe even reduce the chances that a woman develops osteoporosis later in life.
We know exercise is important. We know that a healthy weight is important. But what may not get enough attention is the fact that eating healthy calories to replenish and fuel the body is vital to athletes’ health, in particular for strong and resilient bones. Remember, bones are also a girl’s best friends. And they should be like diamonds — strong and dense. We need to work to make sure they are.
Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren
Jeremiah 33:6 ‘Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them; and I will reveal to them an abundance of peace and truth.
Matthew 15:31 So the crowd marveled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.
Acts 4:9-12 if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead–by this name this man stands here before you in good health. “He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone.
Deuteronomy 23:13 and you shall have a spade among your tools, and it shall be when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and shall turn to cover up your excrement.
1 Corinthians 6:18-20 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
Proverbs 4:20-22 My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; Keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them And health to all their body.
Acts 27:34 “Therefore I encourage you to take some food, for this is for your preservation, for not a hair from the head of any of you will perish.”
Romans 6:13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; read more.
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