Mismatched energy for training
You don't need to consider yourself a full 'athlete' to get something from this blog- or even female for that matter. What we are looking at here is the concept of fuelling for training.
There are more advanced training facilities than ever before, and people are more interest than ever in partaking in high level, structured training. When I started school, the options for training were running, organised sport, and if you were really into 'fitness', you would hit up a body pump class. The good news is that in the last ten years we have seen access to high levels training programs become far more readily available and, even better, an uprise of female athletes pushing the barriers of physicality further than anyone thought was possible, particularly in sports like CrossFit, powerlifting, bodybuilding and strongman. And yet:
- Female athletes are very commonly under-eating compared to the energy demands of their training/sports. And I see it every week, women asking much more of their bodies during some pretty hardcore training, yet still feeding it 'diet' calories.
- Many female athletes deliberately restrict their intake purely to achieve the appearance of leanness- potentially at the cost of their performance.
- Access to information specifically based on female athletes, is hugely lacking, specifically, around nutritional recommendation for lean muscle development. One recent systematic review aimed to nail down how much muscle a female could put on over 15 weeks using a well-planned out training program. The paper reported that on average, an untrained female strength athlete might expect to build 1.45kg of muscle over an average 15 weeks of training (range 0.4-3.3kg) and within that time increase strength by 25% (range 4-40%). But what I want to know is, did these ladies have their nutrition optimised whilst undertaking these programs? The study didn't report on this, but I have a sneaking suspicion this number could be much higher if nutrition support were optimised.
Not a week goes by where I don't review the usual intake of someone doing a moderate to heavy training load to find them eating according to some 8-week challenge guidelines they got 3 years ago with a boot camp or other group training franchise. Muscle does not grow out of anywhere people! Your diet needs to provide not only energy to survive but the energy to undertake training and to fuel recovery after. If this is not happening, not only could you be compromising your training and subsequent adaptations, but you may be, over time, pushing your body into an energy debt that is hard to recover!
Low energy intake relative to exercise has been shown to disrupt menstrual function in active women. Energy availability is defined as dietary intake (calories) minus exercise energy expenditure. Basically, that number is how much energy your body must do all of its other daily activities after you have forced it to do exercise. Research shows us that while exercise is a stressor, intense training does not impact female hormone function (specifically Luteinizing hormone, a key reproductive hormone) IF there is enough energy being taken on board to do the other functions required of the body. Frequently people look at specific foods for hormone health, but restricting foods in a bid to 'be healthy' can lead to inadequate energy, and in turn have more of a negative impact on hormones than the food supposed had in the first place.
We need to quit asking our bodies to do more on less, all that ensues is fatigue, muscle loss, apathy, and a reduction in enjoyment of training. Athletic eating can help you get from A to B in the most linear* approach possible. Check out the nutrition coaching services available via the booking link in bio. (ps. Progress is never linear, but I can help you move through those bumps faster and pop out with more confidence).