In the January 2014 issue of the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, there is an interesting (to me, at least!) study on 16-17 year-old elite swimmers who were monitored for 12 weeks of a training program. The researchers divided data about the young women into two groups: 1) those who had regular menstrual periods and 2) those who had irregular periods (but were not amenorrheic).
The women with irregular periods:
• Had more body fat then the women with regular menses (22% vs. 19% body fat)
• Had a higher BMI (24 vs. 20)
• Ate 700 calories less than the women with regular menses (1,800 vs. 2,500 calories). They consumed only 12 cal/kg/Fat-Free Mass (body weight without bady fat) as compared to 30 cal/kg FFM in the women with regular menses.
• Did not lose body fat over the 12 weeks.
• Swam 10% slower in a 400-meter race after 12 weeks of training compared to the start of the training season. In comparison, the swimmers with regular menses who ate more calories swam 8% better than at the start of the season — likely because they were better fueled.
My message to you—if you restrict your eating, feel hungry all the time, are not losing weight, and feel frustrated with the number on the scale—is to take a look at your genetics. If you are significantly leaner than others in your family, you might be lean for your genetics. (The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.) The cost of losing weight to be even leaner might be costing you the ability to perform at your best? Perhaps you want to be grateful for all the good things you body does for you, rather than punish it by eating too little fuel?
If you need help finding peace with food and peace with your body, you might want to meet with a sports dietitian for personalized advice. To find a local professional, use the referral network at www.EatRight.org. The chapters on weight management in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook have also helped many dieters.
Be wise, eat well, feel strong, and be well,
I invite you to be as nice to your body as you are to your car: keep it well fueled so it can perform well!