by Kerith Duncanson www.helpyourself.com.au
Nutrition is an issue that has become increasingly important to women who compete in sport. Our expanding knowledge of how appropriate nutrition can enhance performance and how poor nutritional habits can impair performance has followed the progression of our sporting endeavors from a recreational to professional standard.
Women who run regularly have different nutritional requirements to other women, but are also different to men who run and there also exists a broad spectrum even within distance running women themselves. The differences stem from our differing metabolic rates, training demands, stress levels, eating habits and food preferences.
Nutrition tips for woman on the run
We all have similar requirements for specific vitamins and minerals. It is advisable for women who train to ingest slightly more Iron, Calcium and Zinc than non-training women to compensate for the extra demands on these minerals caused by training. Recent studies also highlight a new area of possible benefit with the supplementation of anti-oxidant Vitamins A, C and E. In an ideal world we would obtain plenty of all the vitamins and minerals we need from our well-balanced diet. However, a concentrated multi-vitamin/mineral supplement is a good insurance policy for provision of a constant, high intake and thereby minimise risk of deficiency.
Beyond the micronutrients in our diet (ie. the vitamins and minerals) are the macronutrients. These are the calorie providers – fat, protein and carbohydrate. The combination and amount of these consumed on a daily basis, balanced against the amount of energy output (ie. exercise) will determine whether we are fat, lean or in-between.
A serious athlete would of course prefer to be lean, rather than fat or even in-between. Unfortunately, bodyweight becomes such a preoccupation for some female athletes that it becomes more important than performance itself. We must obviously aim for a balance so we are lean enough that we are not disadvantaged because we are lugging excess bodyfat, but we have enough fat to maintain good health.
It is difficult to prescribe an ideal diet because of the infinite range of variables between individuals. A diet based on carbohydrates, with moderate protein and minimal fat is definitely advisable for everyone, athletic or sedentary. In an ideal world (where we all like the same types of healthy food), a family or group of friends of all shapes, sizes and activity levels, can sit down to the same meal, and each can be optimally accommodated in terms of their nutritional needs. All that varies are the portion sizes dished up to each person.
The moral of this short article is that there are no secrets to success in the field of nutrition. Feed your body to meets its needs and you will put yourself in a position where you can minimise the risk of injury/illness and maximise your performance and consistency, while enjoying the edible and health rewards of being fit.