In Pursuit of a Better Sculpted Female Body
Marcia Zimmerman, M.Ed., CN
The Prep Female Athlete
According to a recent survey funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, 8% of girls aged 12 to 18 use dietary supplements in pursuit of a better body. The percentage appears to be even higher among those participating in competitive sports. Are these aids helpful or even advisable? Coaches give little advice for female sports participants - leaving them to experiment with various aids - some possibly countering training goals.
Female athletes, for the most part, participate in sports that are highly aerobic. These include soccer, volleyball, baseball, dance, cheer, track, gymnastics, water polo, diving and swimming. Most programs include weight training to improve strength, but the emphasis in on building stamina and skill. Thus building up energy reserves, replacing electrolytes and emphasizing fast twitch muscle development is the primary goal for female athletes. Let’s investigate what constitutes a good dietary and supplement regimen for prep female athletes.
Young female athletes require a very good diet of lean protein, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and dairy products. Many young girls avoid dairy products because they don’t want to get fat. Yet, this is the stage when peak bone density it being developed and calcium, magnesium and other minerals are needed to insure strong bones throughout life. Low-fat dairy and soymilk products, preferably organic, provide lots of calcium but few other minerals, so it’s important to eat at least 4 cups of dark green leafy vegetables to provide the other minerals necessary for bone growth.
These include magnesium and trace minerals such as iron, zinc and manganese. The highest levels are found in organic vegetables grown in naturally composted soils. Yellow, orange and red vegetables provide antioxidants to protect against the increased levels of free radicals that are generated during aerobic exercise. Fruits, especially berries, apples and bananas provide high levels of other antioxidants and potassium to replace this vital nutrient that is lost during exercise.
Before workouts and upon competition, it is important to eat a meal rich in complex carbohydrates such as whole grain pasta, whole wheat bread products and whole grain rice. A limited amount of glucose is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen and this fuel is used up after about 12 minutes of vigorous exercise. Whole grains provide slow release carbs to keep fueling the body. Nuts and seeds are great snacks but take longer to digest and may cause stomachache if eaten right before training or competition.
Avoid sugary sweets at all costs because they drain the body of energy and make it hard to focus on training goals. After training or workouts, eat high protein foods and plenty of vegetables to replace lost nutrients, counter free radicals that have accumulated, and build muscle. In addition, certain dietary supplements are a good addition for the female prep athlete.
Let’s get back to what I said earlier and that is the importance of calcium intake during the teen years. Calcium pyruvate is a combination of this vital mineral attached to pyruvate the key molecule that unlocks energy. Not only is it a good source of calcium, but it is also one of the best ways to boost energy during workouts. Just take one tablet of NOW Calcium Pyruvate with a glass of juice right before and just after a workout or game.
Protein powders are popular with girls and you need to make sure that you’re not wasting your money on powders that contain too many carbs, especially sugars. The best one to use is NOW’s Whey Protein Powder with Glutamine. It contains 3 times more protein than carbs and is low in sugar, tastes great and mixes easily into milk, soymilk or fruit juice. It contains important immune building proteins to keep you healthy during the stressful competitive season. The extra 550 mg of glutamine that the powder contains provides an important source of fuel for aerobic activity plus it helps you keep a sharp focus on training and performance. On game or competition days, it is a good idea to add one teaspoon of ribose to each shake. Ribose is a natural amino sugar that is used to build and repair the genetic and protein building molecules, DNA and RNA.
A good multiple vitamin and mineral formula for young female athletes is NOW Foods Eco-Green in either tablet or capsule form. With it’s base of natural antioxidants and green foods, Eco-Green complements the dietary recommendations given above. Potassium replacement is extremely important for all athletes. Potassium helps prevent cramping by maintaining proper water balance and normal pH. You can add one teaspoon of NOW’s potassium gluconate to your protein shakes. This form of potassium is well tolerated and one teaspoon supplies 16% of the recommended daily intake. Potassium iodide tablets are helpful for balancing hormones, but they should be taken (3 - 4 per day) only for short periods of time - three weeks at the most.
Mid-Life Sports and Anti-Aging
Baby Boomer women view exercise primarily for its health benefits, to keep weight under control and improve body composition by increasing the ratio of lean muscle to fat. Consequently, this article will focus on these goals and not specifically on adult female athletes, although the recommendations also apply to them. Protein shakes are an important part of the regimen for women just as they are for girls.
Women under 40 years of age who exercise regularly should choose NOW Foods Whey Protein Isolate. This is an extremely high quality protein that contains an optimum amino acid profile including the branched chain amino acids (BCAA) - the primary ones used to build muscle. In order to get the maximum benefit from this powder, it is important to do some type of weight bearing exercises such as using the Pilate's reformer, using free weights or working the circuit with a trainer.
Women over 40 should switch to NOW Foods Soy Protein Isolate, which is 90% pure protein. Mix it in soymilk or juice and add fresh fruit, yogurt and flaxseed for a healthful way to put a damper on raging hormones or just provide extra protection against bone loss.
For women going through peri-menopause, exercise alone will help alleviate many of the symptoms, but adding NOW Pomeratrol (pomegranate seed extract) will reduce flushes. Pomegranate is the only known natural source of estrone, the estrogen secreted after menopause. Increasing estrone levels makes the transition from estrogen much smoother and it is a safe form of the hormone.
The best vitamin and mineral supplement for women is NOW’s Eve. This multiple contains nutrients that smooth out monthly cycles and help prevent bone loss. Eve is a 6 capsule formula and if you prefer, you can open the caps and add the contents to your two daily shakes. Add a tablet of NOW’s calcium pyruvate when you drink your shakes and two capsules of magnesium/potassium aspartate with taurine. This formula will bring the calcium to magnesium ratio to an optimum 1:1 for balancing hormones and preventing exercise fatigue.
Postmenopausal women should also add NOW Bone Calcium and Osteo Boron capsules to the supplement regimen. If some bone loss has occurred, add 2 capsules per day of NOW Ipriflavone. Maintaining heart health for the older woman is vital and NOW’s new Tru-E Bio Complex is the first vitamin E supplement that uses non-GMO (genetically modified) soy oil with all eight tocopherols and tocotrienols in the natural ratio found in foods. NOW omega-3 fatty acids and Nattokinase enzymes complete the heart healthy program.
For women who want to lose weight, CLA Extreme capsules can help you reach your weight loss goals. Take one capsule an hour before meals three times a day. For lagging libido, add NOW’s new product ZMA, Tribulus and Eurycoma longifolia. This formula combines zinc and magnesium aspartate with two herbs that have been used since antiquity as tonics and aphrodisiacs.
Editor's Note: Not all NOW Foods supplements discussed in this article are available for sale in Canada.