So, I am currently reading a book on sports nutrition, and I have some very important information for you endurance athletes, especially the females. I'll just quote stuff from the book. We know as women we need a certain amount of body fat for our body to function correctly. I have read that for female athletes, body fat is typically at well, it varies, so I'll just post what's in this book. Average for the healthy, non-competitive population is about 21-33%. 33-39 is overweight, anything over 39 is obese. Anyways, book says for bball (18-27%), bodybuilding (8-10%), cycling (15-16%), gymnastics (8-18%), running (8-18%), swimming 12-23%), throwing (22-30%), tennis (22-26%), and weight lifting (17-20%). I've also read that yes, it is important to be in a good body fat range for your sport, but also, some athletes may perform better with more fat on their bodies, it varies depending on your genetic makeup. Even if you have a little more padding, you are still very healthy if you exercise rugularly-your blood pressure is probably low or normal, heart rate considerably low, cholesterol levels low and HDLs very high (if you're a regular exerciser!, HDLs are the good cholesterol, you want high levels of it). I'll share, I'm at 26.4% fat right now, but I have never felt stronger in my life. I don't mind having it a bit higher. However, I'm working on lowering it to 22-24% just to see what happens. (I think I'll run faster LOL, but if I can't lower it, oh well)
Anyways wanted to share some of this info with you as I know a lot of female athletes may have distorted body images or have/have had eating disorders because of the pressure to be thin within their sport and society.
"On the psychological side, anorexics are able to motivate and push themselves to exercise, despite feelings of exhaustion. Sufferers are strong willed, highly driven and have a strong desire to succeed. On the physiological side, it is likely that the body ADAPTS by becoming more ENERGY EFFICIENT, REDUCING ITS METABOLIC RATE (10-30% is possible). This would allow the athlete to train and maintain energy balance on fewer calories than would be expected. Some scientists, however, suggest that excessive exercise during dieting may augment the fall in metabolic rate.
To overcome physical and emotional fatigue, many anorexics and bulimics use caffeine-containing drinks such as strong coffee and 'diet' cola. However, in the long term, performance ultimately FALLS. As glycogen and nutrient stores become chronically depleted, the athlete's health will suffer and optimal performance CANNOT BE SUSTAINED indefinitely. Maximal oxygen consumption decreases (bad), chronic fatigue sets in and the athlete becomes more susceptible to injury and infection."-this last paragraph is EXACTLY why I don't mind having a little more fat on my body than maybe most athletes that do what I do. I enjoy going long, long, long and hard. I believe I do need a little more fat to help get me through long endurance activities. Like I said before, I have never felt stronger, and this is probably the most body fat I've ever had, and the most I've ever weighed in my life. And....I wonder...if this is why it's being proven why women are better at ultraendurance events than men, because of their genetics and ability to store more fat than men. Hmm.
So, ladies, ignore the scale and focus more on body fat percentage if you can get your hands on it. And don't worry if you're not in your "optimal body fat range" for you sport. I think I may be an example, but then again, I just said I'd like to lower my body fat a bit (still not too low though!) so maybe my running times will drop. I think as long as you're not overweight or obese, you're good to do well in your sport. It's all about training the body physically, and even more important, training the mind mentally (mind mentally...does that even makes sense? lol you know what I mean). And, of course, to eat healthy most of the time, but not be afraid to indulge in your favorite comfort food from time to time :) (Umm like once a week for me...hahahhaa)
Oh, and these quotes came from the book, "The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition," by Anita Bean. If anyone has any questions you can ask me :) or challenge me :)