Hey ladies! Are you exercising to lose weight, or are aware that you need to keep your weight at a certain level for your sport? Whilst this is a useful goal for those wanting to help shift the extra poundage, when energy intakes dip too low, you could compromise your long-term goals. How?
The energy balance
How many times have you heard energy in=energy out? Whilst this is true, from basic scientific principles, the truth is that it’s not quite that simple. The quality of the foods that you’re using to take your energy in is really important, because they are your nutritional life-line. Here’s the lowdown on keeping your energy intakes up.
When your energy intakes become too low, this increases the risk of fatigue, injuries and illness, hormonal disruption and possibly immune function. If your diet is dipping below 1800kcals/day you might find it hard to get the vitamins, minerals and other health substances such as fibre, to keep your body systems healthy; the quality of your blood, the health of your bones, the neurotransmitters in your brain, recovery of muscles, the health of your hormonal system and digestive tract.
If you are on a calorie-restricted diet, then make sure that your protein intakes aren’t getting low. Protein is required for hormone production, and we’re not just talking about those that work within our reproductive system… every hormone in the body, including thyroxine for regulating metabolic rate, and insulin for blood sugar balance too. Protein is also essential for repair and maintenance of body tissues. For more information on protein intakes, see our feature ‘Sports Nutrition, Macro’s – you know.
Nutrient danger zones:
The micronutrients that are most likely to be low in the diets of active women are:
Iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D and the B vitamins. We’re all being encouraged to supplement with 10micrograms of vitamin D daily now, so you might like to get advice about formulations that can help you to achieve this in your local health food store.
But in addition to this, you might ask about suitable nutritional formulations to help safeguard your intakes of essential nutrients whilst you’re on a calorie-restricted diet. We can take a look at just the minerals to see what an important part they play in our health.
Nutrition and Health Claims for two key minerals – iron and calcium
Iron: contributes to normal cognitive function, energy-yielding metabolism, formation of red blood cells and haemoglobin, oxygen transport in the body, function of the immune system, cell division and reduction of tiredness and fatigue.
Calcium: Contributes to normal muscle function, neurotransmission, energy-yielding metabolism, normal function of digestive enzymes, normal bones, teeth. Three is also some research which suggests that calcium can help maintain a healthy weight, based on studies using high-calcium foods.
The importance of extras
By keeping the types of foods in your diet varied, you increase your chances of a wide range of nutrients in your diet. This is harder when you’re restricting your diet, and it’s all too easy to eat in a way that’s really samey. Adding in plenty of herbs and spices can keep your diet interesting, and there are some wondering oils that you can add; garlic-flavoured, or chilli infused, for example, or maybe sauces, including soy and ginger. Your health store will also have a whole range of products to keep your diet vibrant and exciting.
To find your local health store, click here
Check out these five easy wins, if you find yourself flagging on the energy front
1/ Nuts. They’re calorie rich, but they do stave off hunger and are packed full of healthy non-saturated fats and minerals. Include one serving per day as a minimum.
2/ Mixed beans. Bung them into everything, eat them as a snack. Give yourself a mineral boost and add in some extra fibre to keep your bowls at their best.
3/ Multinutrient. Ask a local nutritional health practitioner (ask in your health store for details) which kind of multinutrient is most suitable for you; low level (with levels around the Nutrient Reference Value), a medium potency, or higher potency formulation. There are big variations in nutrient levels, so it makes sense to ask someone to help when you’re making your choice.
4/ A sports supplement, which will include a wide range of nutrients, including those which have been shown to support energy production, or the needs of various parts of the body, such as the muscles or the joints.
5/ Calcium-fortified plant-based products. It’s not just dairy that contains calcium. There will be plenty of calcium-fortified or enriched products in your health-store such as tofu and all kinds of wonderful dairy alternatives such as soya and nut milks, with all of the additional ready-made products such as ice-creams, custards, puddings and sauces.