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Everyday Female Athletes Need More Protein For More Success

Everyday female athletes need more protein to build and maintain muscle, especially with the right timing before and after workouts.

Three Fundamentals For What Female Athletes Need to Eat

Female athletes need to eat more protein to build and maintain muscle, especially with the right timing before and after workouts.

So here are the two fundamentals for what female athletes need to eat for success and performance improvement.

  • Everyday female athletes need a balanced diet of all three macronutrients: fat, carbohydrate, and protein, but especially additional protein.
  • A daily benchmark is 0.8 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Women should eat protein throughout the day, including right before bed.
  • Everyday female athletes should look for a daily intake of 40 to 45 percent carbohydrate, as long as you fuel with superior carbs like starchy vegetables and root vegetables.

Everyday Female Athletes Need More Protein For More Success

I’ve been “discussing” nutrition with my teenage daughter, who is a high school swimmer.

Being a teenager, she is pretty convinced she knows everything.

Yet as her season continued, and she became more and more tired, and her pool times slow, she reluctantly started listening to me – with just 10 days left in the season.

I gave her shakes with protein and maltodextrin (glucose) prior to practice, after practice, and before bed.

She dug herself a pretty big hole, but she has gradually felt a little recovered in time for the last week of the season.

Most female athletes need more protein to support their fitness.

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Three Fundamentals For How Female Athletes Need More Protein

Female athletes need more protein to build and maintain muscle, especially with the right timing before and after workouts.

So here are the two fundamentals for what female athletes need to eat for success and performance improvement.

  • Everyday female athletes need a balanced diet of all three macronutrients: fat, carbohydrate, and protein, but especially additional protein.
  • A daily benchmark is 0.8 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight. That’s about 125 to 162 grams a day for a 135-pound woman. Women should eat protein throughout the day, including right before bed.
  • Female athletes should look for a daily intake of 40 to 45 percent carbohydrate, as long as you fuel with superior carbs like starchy vegetables and root vegetables.

What follows is a basic nutritional guide to help women understand why female athletes need more protein and other macronutrients. 

Most Of Your Daily Fuel Should Be Carbohydrates

With the Atkins and Keto diets, carbs have gotten a bad rap

So to answer what female athletes need to eat, you need a solid and steady supply of carbohydrates

Two hours of low-intensity training will deplete muscle glycogen, but your stores will be empty with 15 to 30 minutes of intense training.

Your brain uses up 25 percent of the body’s energy supply and 60 percent of blood glucose.

Your brain is going to take what it needs, and if your workout takes the rest in 30 minutes, you will hit the wall hard a few minutes later.

Sims argues that paleo and keto diets, that seek to utilize fat instead of carbs in an effort to lose weight, aren’t going to support athletes and their workouts

Especially for female athletes, a high-fat, very-low-carb diet results in you using your muscles for fuel. 

That obviously is not going to help your performance.

On the other hand, if you’re interested in losing some weight, reducing carbs, especially high-glycemic foods, can be helpful. 

The bottom line is still that female athletes need more protein in addition to the carbs and fat. 

Good Fats Are Good

Sims says low-fat, high-carb foods are not good for you.

Low-fat foods can make you store belly fat and cause your cortisol and insulin levels to skyrocket.

Even saturated fats have gotten a bad rap.

But if you get these fats from whole, natural, and unprocessed sources like beef, chicken, eggs, even dark chocolate!

Organic is great, but local is good as well.

For many women, getting dietary fat from fatty fish like salmon is also provides serious nutrients for your body.

Avocados, nuts, seeds, and dairy are all other good sources of fat

Women Need MORE PROTEIN In Their Daily Fueling

Have I said that enough yet?

Most women are simply not getting enough protein.

Female athletes need to ingest consistently more, especially with the right timing.

Protein also helps with weight loss, since protein is harder to digest so it requires more calories to burn.

Additionally, protein helps maintain muscle mass, increases immunity, improves sleep, digestion, and hormone regulation.

You can find complete protein (containing all nine essential amino acids) in meat, fish, eggs, and most dairy.

However, getting enough protein and at the right time can be challenging.

Supplementing with whey protein, particularly containing the amino acid leucine, will help build lean muscle.

Incidentally, amino acids are an effective re-hydration tool.

Sims suggests starting the day with a good dose of protein (25 to 30 grams) to restock your stores and regulate your appetite

The Recommendations for What Female Athletes Need to Eat

  • A daily benchmark is 0.8 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight. That’s about 125 to 162 grams a day for a 135-pound woman.
  • During the strength and power phases of training, you need 1.0 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound
  • For endurance phases, you need 0.8 to 1.0 g protein/ pound
  • For optimal recovery, look to get 25 to 30 grams of protein within about 30 minutes of exercise. Additional protein prior to training also helps muscle adaptation.
  • Whey protein helps protein intake without extra fat intake.
  • Most of your muscle repairs happen at night when you sleep, so an additional bit of protein (15 grams) before bed helps the amino acids get the job done.
  • Sims says that female athletes should look for a daily intake of 40 to 45 percent carbohydrate, as long as you fuel with superior carbs like starchy vegetables and root vegetables.
  • This includes white potatoes, peas, corn, winter squash, and root vegetables like parsnips. These food are superior because they are richer in glucose and get right into your system.
  • A good range for workout-fueling is 0.9 to 1.13 food calories per pound of body weight per hour of running or 1.3 to 1.6 food calories for non-body jostling activities like cycling.

Female Athletes Need to Eat More Protein Before and After Workouts

Yes, I’m repeating myself.

Sims’ biggest fueling advice is to keep food in your pocket and hydration in your bottle.

Don’t try to get your calories from your hydration.

And while every woman needs to fuel differently according to individual needs, there are some common and necessary components for an active woman’s fueling needs.

  • Consume around 20 grams of protein before workouts along with some carbohydrate calories.
  • Consume quality carbohydrates as food during long workouts
  • Consume 25 to 30 grams of protein as soon after a workout as possible, at least within 30 minutes of your workout.
  • Have some carbohydrates with your protein to maximize restocking glycogen stores.

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(This is one is a series of articles about specific training information and advice from Dr. Stacy Sims’ book, Roar. If you are a female athlete or coach female athletes, this book should be required reading. It changed everything for me as a male coach!)

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