Carbs for the Female Athlete

Research reported in Sports Medicine and other scientific journals shows that female athletes are at greater risk of running a carbohydrate deficit than their male counterparts. A recent review of the literature shows that women are more likely to chronically or at least periodically restrict carbohydrates to achieve low body fat levels. This is particularly true for female endurance athletes and women competing in sports that place particular emphasis on a lean frame, such as figure skating or gymnastics.

A severe energy deficit in women can lead to the development of iron-deficiency anemia. It also can cause a drop in estrogen levels that disrupts the menstrual cycle and causes increased bone attrition. These conditions result because when the body enters a state of semi-starvation, it channels energy away from reproduction to provide fuel for vital functions. Scientists refer to this phenomenon of overexercising and undereating and the related health implications as the "female athlete triad." (This name seems to suggest that this kind of condition affects only women, although a similar form can affect men.) This condition can have dangerous, irreversible consequences, including infertility and osteoporosis. Usually, however, the condition can be ameliorated by increasing calorie intake to more completely meet energy demands.

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