Dietary Intake Assessment and Nutritional Status in Special Populations of Female Athletes

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Female athletes may be more restrictive in their dietary intake than male athletes, placing them at greater risk for nutritional deficiencies and impaired performance and health. Beals and Manore [34] evaluated the diet and nutritional status of female athletes with subclinical eating disorders (n = 24), compared with those of controls (n = 24). The group with subclinical eating disorders had significantly lower energy intake than the control group (1989 kcal/d versus 2300 kcal/d; P = .004); however, energy expenditure did not differ between groups. Average micronutrient intake and iron, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B12, and folate status did not differ between groups (and were within normal limits). Athletes in both groups used vitamin-mineral supplements, which likely improved nutritional status.

Aside from disordered eating, many female athletes are vegetarians for various reasons, which also could affect nutritional intake and status. Janelle and Barr [35] compared the nutrient intakes of vegetarian (n = 23) and nonvegetar-ian (n = 22) athletes, 20 to 40 years old, using 3-day dietary records. The vegetarian athletes had lower intakes of riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B12, zinc, and sodium intakes, while consuming higher intakes of folate, vitamin C, and copper compared with the nonvegetarians. Within the subgroup of the vegetarians, vegans consumed lower calcium and vitamin B12 compared with lactovegetarians. Despite the health-conscious nature of many vegetarians, dietary intake still may be inadequate and is definitely not the same among subgroups of vegetarians. Vegetarian athletes may need more information on proper nutritional intake to ensure adequate energy and micronutrient intake for optimal performance and health.

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