Girl Power: Tips for Women to Optimize Performance

ATTENTION LADIES!

It's important to recognize that there are foundational gender differences in men and women that impact sports nutrition and workout routine needs. That said, don't worry—this is not another infamous blog that boasts the physical advantages of men over women. Instead, Fleet Feet Sports Chattanooga wants to celebrate uniquely female strengths that regularly go unnoticed in mainstream media and guide you to becoming your healthiest, fittest self yet. So, to honor National Women's Equality Day, we've done some research to provide tips on how to optimize your workouts through proper nutritional intake and supreme confidence! #GIRLPOWER

1. Stop counting and cutting calories. 

While men and women alike struggle with body image, it's much more common for women to slash calories and overdo their workouts in hopes of slimming down. In fact, research shows that two out of three women purposefully try cutting calories in attempts to shred fat or get fitter faster. Not only does calorie cutting lead to energy deficiency, but it causes an increased risk of hormonal imbalances, low bone mineral density, menstrual irregularities, and various other health concerns. Additionally, cutting calories can ironically lead to higher body fat percentages, seeing that this tactic lowers metabolic rate and decreases muscle build. In order to maximize muscle mass and ensure a healthy lifestyle, getting enough fuel is absolutely vital. But this isn't only in regards the amount of food—but the quality of that food. 

Try seeking more nutrient-dense foods, ensuring that you're getting your daily dose of vitamins and minerals. Scientists regularly advise female athletes to calculate their baseline caloric need by multiplying their weight by 45 and then adding the estimated calories burned from working out to that number. However, we think it's best to simply listen to your body and stop worrying so much about the numbers. Eat when your hungry, balance your diet, and recognize when you've consumed too much or too little. The healthier the foods you consume, the less you need to worry yourself with "getting fat"; but at the end of the day, regardless of weight, you should love yourself! Change your perspective—enjoy and appreciate the food that sustains you, rather than resent it. 

2. Eat more healthy fats and protein-packed foods.

Women generally seek out foods low in fats, yet research shows that the female body relies on fats more than the male body when working out. Try changing your diet so that 30 to 40% of calories come from healthy fats—i.e. avocados, coconut oil, nut butters, fish, etc. (Just try to steer clear of processed trans fats!) 

Similarly, in regards to protein, because of the rate that protein synthesizes, women generally require more protein than they think is necessary to consume. In fact, some scientists claim that female athletes need more protein than male athletes—and we all know that that's a lot. Because hard workouts can damage muscles, having a healthy amount of proteins available helps lower risk of injury and related health problems. Be sure to load up on beans, meats, fish, nuts, and leafy greens!

3. Train daily.

When compared to males, women require and respond to a higher frequency of quality workouts in order to increase muscle mass and strength. Getting in a good 30-minute session Monday through Friday could perhaps impact your progress more in the long run, rather than a couple two-hour sessions during the week. 

4. Calcium, Vitamin D, and Iron. 

As women, our need for these specific minerals is crucial. About 35 percent of women are Vitamin D deficient, as well as easily impacted by iron and calcium related health problems. Vitamin D is necessary for muscle functioning and overall immunity. Iron is needed for red blood cells to properly carry oxygen through the body—specifically to the body's hard working muscles during exercise. Women naturally have a higher need for iron than males, seeing that they tend to lose high amounts of it during their monthly menstrual cycle. Additionally, because women oftentimes struggle with weakened bones as they age, calcium is essential to protecting bone health.

Whether you take supplements or implement higher quantities of these vitamins in your diet, make sure you're getting the vitamins and minerals your body craves. 

5. Surround yourself with positive people, and be your best coach. 

As women, we do much better with positive reinforcement than we do put-downs. When it comes to bettering ourselves, we react intensely to negativity and can consequentially undergo a lack of motivation and heightened insecurities when faced with criticism. For this reason, coaching and mentoring can be so beneficial for women! Grab a motivational coach—or just a rad group of upbeat friends—who cheers you on and only offers constructive criticism when paired with compliments on your progress. This will solidify an encouraging community and improve mental wellness, while also improving your physical performance! Or, choose to be your own coach, patting yourself on the back when you deserve it...which is all the time! 

6. Warmup. 

Women's muscles can react better to warming up. Before jumping into a speedy, intense run right away, jog an easy half mile or so to prepare your body for what's to come. Trust me, your legs will thank you afterwards.

7. Praise your strengths. 

Media always points out the "weaker" aspects of women, subconsciously engraining it in our heads that we are somehow "inferior" to men. Well ladies, it's just not true! At Fleet Feet, we want to note your advantageous strengths:

 

By Olivia Harlow

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