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Training and Nutrition for the Female Athlete: Part 3

It is amazing to me that fats get such a bad rap. Why is that? When you think of fat, what comes to mind? Donuts, ice cream, potato chips, fried foods? Well, if those are your answers, you have reason to believe fats are not good for you, but read on for a better understanding.

Fats are an essential fuel source when doing aerobic activity, as well as for life itself! Fats have many roles, including protecting our organs and allowing estrogen to function properly so we can have regular menstrual cycles — which protect our fertility and preserve our bones. Fats are so essential to our immune system, as well.

Just as with proteins and carbohydrates, not all fats are created equal. It's true that the fats in fried foods are not as healthy for us as the fats in avocados or nuts/seeds, because the true "bad fats" are trans fats. Trans fats are often disguised as partially hydrogenated oils. It is best to stay far, far away from these, as they are not important to our health or our performance.

There are also saturated fats. Although saturated fats have also been given a bad rap, they are not bad in moderation. In fact, some saturated fats (such as stearic acid) might actually be good for you. It is important that, when we are consuming saturated fats, that we get them from whole, natural, and unprocessed sources. These include grass fed beef, free range chicken/eggs, and dairy, as well as...wait for it...dark chocolate!

Of course, there are many healthy fats including olive oil, rice bran oil, nuts, seeds, nut butters and oils, avocado and avocado oil, and fish and fish oil.

For women, it is advisable to get more dietary fats from omega-3 fatty acids, which are natural anti-inflammatories.

It is recommended to get 30% of our calories from fat by eating healthy, whole foods to keep our bodies functioning at optimal levels. Because fats digest slower, you need to be careful about how much you eat immediately before and during exercise.

Over the past weeks, we have discussed protein, carbohydrate, and fat intake and sources. All of this can be overwhelming. The good news is that there is simple math around all of this. Stacy Sims put together a great "daily diet cheat sheet" in her book "Roar." As a rule of thumb, women should be looking at around 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat.

Something that needs to be considered are where you are at in your training phase. Are you doing light training or having non-training day? If so, you will need 1.13-1.4g of carbs/lb/day. If you are doing moderate to high intensity training lasting 60-120 minutes/session, this will require 2-2.7g of carbs/lb/day. If you're endurance training 2-5 hours/day, this requires 2.7-3.1g of carbs/lb/day.

With regard to protein, for strength/power phases of training, we need 1-1.2g of protein/lb/day. For endurance training, the numbers are lower at 0.8-1g of protein/lb/day. For light or non-training days, they're even a little lower at 0.75-0.8g of protein/lb/day.

Of course, for optimal recovery, try to take in 25-30g of protein within the first half hour following a workout.

We hope this helps get you started! Follow us next time as we cover more on training for all of you strong women!

And if you're looking for a great podcast centered around health, wellness, and fitness for women, we highly Dr. Pam Peeke's podcast, Her. You can find all the streaming places here. We're especially fond of Episode #10.


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