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Unlocking Peak Performance for Female Athletes: Integrating Nutrition as the 2nd Discipline

Nutrition has been referred to as the 4th discipline in triathlon. If you're a runner, swimmer, or cyclist, then it's your 2nd discipline!

We all know nutrition is important, but sometimes we struggle making it a priority in daily life, training and racing. Think of nutrition as being fluid throughout your life cycle. It should adapt based on your gender, age, weight, activity, goals, training season, etc. Our bodies are amazing machines that will often communicate what they need. Sometimes you may just not be listening well enough to hear your body communicate, or you may have so much other outside noise you get overwhelmed and hit the mute button.


More carbs!

We are all different and our bodies respond to nutrition individually. When it comes to nutrition, we must test things out for ourselves. There has been significant research around carbohydrates and endurance athletes. The push around nutrition lately has been "more is better!" How much carbohydrate can you train your body to consume per hour? Could 100g be the ceiling? Could we ingest more and perform even better? Does body size and gender impact the amount of carbohydrates you can utilize per hour?

Coach Krista, RDN

Adjusting Nutrition for Female Athletes

New research is showing that more carbohydrates, for women athletes, may not be the best recommendation. New science is reminding us that women are not small men. Although, most nutrition recommendations are based on scientific studies using male athletes.

Check out this podcast from FastTalk Laboratories: “Maximizing the Physiology and Performance of the Female Athlete.” It's worth reviewing if you previously listened!

Stacy Sims, an exercise physiologist and nutrition scientist at Stanford University, discusses in the podcast how nutrition needs to be adjusted for the female athlete depending on her stage of life, due to hormonal changes throughout the female lifespan. It is a very interesting podcast for anyone who is interested.


Nutrition for triathletes

Key Tips on Nutrition for Female Triathletes and Female Endurance Athletes from Dr. Sims include:

  1. Recovery days are not the days to cut back on nutrition. They are days you can optimize intake for recovery and rebuilding.

  2. The optimal recovery window for women is within 45 minutes of the end of training session. Men have a wider window, but I would still recommend the sooner the better.

  3. If weight loss is the goal, it needs to happen away from training.

  4. Women should NEVER train fasted.

  5. Having a menstrual cycle can be a superpower for all female athletes, because the body is primed to take on stress around the cycle. A dysregulation within the menstrual cycle can foreshadow that nutrition needs to change or the athlete is at a risk of injury or illness.

  6. Nutrition should be adjusted in relation to the current menstrual cycle phase.

  7. Spreading out carbohydrates rather than carbohydrate loading may be more beneficial before race day or long training days for the female athlete.

  8. Perimenopausal and menopausal women have a reduction in bioavailability of protein, therefore nutritional demands increase.


There were many more nutritional take always, but these give you some food for thought. It is key for all of us to remember that sound nutrition throughout the day is important. We usually make time for our training, but fueling takes the back burner. You can’t have one without the other if you want to be a strong and healthy athlete. So, today make sure to start focusing on your nutrition.

Fuel Fearlessly.

Suffer Faster.

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Jun 13

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