T Nation

Women Athletes and Diet

I was reading through “Sports Illustrated Women” (pretty good mag…I LOVE this lifestyle!) and read an article by a “nutrition Guru” named Oz Garcia…

Nothing earth-shattering EXCEPT how screwed up the fitness industry has made the Female Athletes Diet! Damn…if you think that the average American has a screwed up diet, you should see how screwed-up the “average” diet was for the female athlete. Oz pointed out that changing these diets were as much psychological as much as making sure they took in more protein. Example?:

BREAKFAST:Coffee, wheat bagal and cream cheese


LUNCH:Pasta Salad, sprinkled with Tofu

DINNER: Pasta or bread…

Now…this diet was AVERAGE…and to get the athletes to eat more protein, EFA’s, etc, was his toughest hurdle, NOT because the women were not committed…BUT BECAUSE OF WHAT WAS INGRAINED AS A “CLEAN” diet “for women” by the fitness and weight loss industry.

Thank goodness things are getting better…(even though in this SAME issue, they had a “Tofu Stir-Fry” recipe…!!!

Oh well…some habits die hard!

Besides going into a twitching spasm once spotting the “cream cheese” (eeeeuuuwwww) - I noticed that there was no chicken, steak (red meat) - or even protein shakes listed? There’s no way I could eat like this and survive a typical day. NO WAY.

Yeah, the fitness industry for women is pretty messed up: providing half-facts, playing into women's fear of "getting too bulky", etc. Oh, how I am so glad that I don't read into the mags of the industry. But I admit, it will be difficult to change in many, many female athletes minds what has been ingrained for years by the fitness industry. However, I'm an optimist - as long as I "convert" one female be it in a day, a week, a month - I've done my part. We all can do our part.

Interesting stuff Mufasa! The fear and confusion surrounding protein and fat is already a big enough pain to deal with in the general population, but it’s huge with female athletes. Not to mention that most athletes (especially college and high school) don’t get enough calories in the first place. And then when they do eat, it’s either junk food because they don’t know better or 100% carbs because they do “know better”.

I've been trying to crack into the athletes brain in this past year working with college and high school basketball players, both men and women and it shocks me how little effort they put into their training beyond what their coach tells them. For every one guy/gal who does his/her research and learns how to eat and train correctly, there are 25 other athletes who could care less.

Whats so wrong with a tofu stir fry. The soy thing is way overated by t-mag readers for men BUT these are women where oestrogen is not a bad thing. What sport are these people competing in. I bet there not bodybuilders… Most data on high fat diets shows that it does increase utilization of fats but does nothing to imporve performance and may even diminish it (most of the studies ive seen involve cycling). I think the higher fat diets are more about looking good than being good.


I think the biggest issue is that NO real source of animal protein (almost no protein in cream cheese), or even low amounts of total protein, for that matter. Additionally, say what you want about the quality of soy protein (I, personally, don’t find it to be the WORST thing in the world, just worthless), tofu is not a good source of any protein (a POUND of it has about 30-40 grams, total). Also, I don’t think there are many people who are going to sit down and have a pound of tofu, so they aren’t even getting that much.

This trainer trains all types of athletes…but that point is mute. This is a “bad diet” for ANY athlete. (If you find it good for some particular type of athlete, please enlighten us…). These diets are bad even if you are NOT an athlete…

Athletes of ANY type need more EFA’s and protein than was in the diets of many of these women (according to article). The author didn’t end up recommending a “bodybuilders” diet anyway…just significantly more fat, protein, cutting out the caffiene, and adding select supplements.

“Tofu Stir Fry?” Yummmy…it certainly is MY favorite Thanksgiving dish…can’t wait!

Yeah, that’s pretty crazy. Sheesh. To many of us proper nutrition is second nature now, but often we forget what many of the “mainstream” folk think is healthy eating. Even within the industry there are problems with how athletes view food, particularly in women’s fitness, etc. I’m working with one woman for a State show next year, and she has a serious carb phobia and is grossly underfed. She has been medicated with armour thyroid due to metabolic problems. My first goal has been and still is, to change the way she looks at food and to try to correct the metabolic problem as much as possible through nutrition. It’s an uphill battle. Even at higher levels, this still persists. Another one of my athletes, who hopes to being competing in the first Pro Women’s Figure at the Arnold Classic, has the exact same problem, and also has recently been told by her doctor that she needs thyroid medication. It would be nice to really understand how they’re thinking and what’s caused that way of thinking. Too many sensationalistic articles I’m thinking.

I have to disagree on the following grounds:

-High levels of phytic acid in soy reduce assimilation of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc. Phytic acid in soy is not neutralized by ordinary preparation methods such as soaking, sprouting and long, slow cooking. High phytate diets have caused growth problems in children.

-Trypsin inhibitors in soy interfere with protein digestion and may cause pancreatic disorders. In test animals soy containing trypsin inhibitors caused stunted growth.

Soy phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function and have the potential to cause infertility and to promote breast cancer in adult women.

Soy phytoestrogens are potent antithyroid agents that cause hypothyroidism and may cause thyroid cancer. In infants, consumption of soy formula has been linked to autoimmune thyroid disease.

Vitamin B12 analogs in soy are not absorbed and actually increase the body?s requirement for B12.

Soy foods increase the body?s requirement for vitamin D.

Fragile proteins are denatured during high temperature processing to make soy protein isolate and textured vegetable protein.

Processing of soy protein results in the formation of toxic lysinoalanine and highly carcinogenic nitrosamines.

Free glutamic acid or MSG, a potent neurotoxin, is formed during soy food processing and additional amounts are added to many soy foods.

Soy foods contain high levels of aluminum which is toxic to the nervous system and the kidneys.

-“Soy babies” are far more likely to develop asthma than non-soy babies.

Granted, more research is necessary to substantiate these assertions definitively. In regards to the athletes in question you stated, “there [sic] not bodybuilders.” Perhaps not. I can, however, guarantee you than many of them will go on to be mothers. Not only will the lack of protein in their diets and unfortunate consumption of soy affect their health and performance, but it can also directly impact their future children. Suit yourself, but when I get married and my wife and I plan to have children, there is no way that she’ll be eating soy!

just had another look at what they were eating, hmm the first time i read it i must have been delusional haha lack of sleep is making me reaqd things that arent there. yeah i see your point. my points about the high fat diets and tofu still stand but obviously not in this case…

Firstly i must congratulate you on your post. Not many people feel strongly about something yet post with such integrity and without resorting to calling names. It was well thought out and informative so thanks… alright on with my post…do you drink beer? eat icecream? Come on do you really believe that it will have that much of an impact? I am in the middle of exams right now and would love to go and look stuff up and get into a mini debate looking for studies and stuff. Its a lot of fun and one of the best ways of learning (for me anyway)as long as no one takes it personally or gets too fired up. but i guess passing is a bit more important at the moment. So will you take a raincheck??? Just two quick questions though. This may be wrought with generalizations and misconceptions but i thought that areas in asia where ate high levels of these soy based foods who come people in japan have amongst the highest life expectancies in the entire world? Also why is soy so heavily promoted if there is all of this evidence to show how unhealthy it is? I am keen to learn more on this subject so any help would be appreciated.