Nutrition for Teen Female Runners
plenty of calories can help female teen runners stay healthy and
increase energy levels during runs. According to the Dietary Guidelines
for Americans 2010, active girls ages 9 to 13 need 1,800 to 2,200
calories, while active teenage girls ages 14 to 18 require 2,400
calories each day. However, teenage athletes who run long distances of
more than 4 miles per day may require additional calories.
teen runners should aim to consume no less than the RDA for all
nutrients. Protein RDAs are 34 grams for girls ages 9 to 13, and 46
grams each day for teen girls ages 14 to 18, according to the Institute
of Medicine. According to Pamela M. Nisevich, MS, RD, LD, in the March
2008 issue of “Today’s Dietitian,” young endurance athletes require 1.2
to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram, or about 0.55 to 0.64 grams of
protein per pound of body weight each day. High-protein foods include
lean meats, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, soy products,
seitan, peanut butter, nuts and seeds.
According to the
Office of Dietary Supplements, teenage girls have an increased risk for
developing an iron deficiency. Iron-deficiency anemia can cause
fatigue, lightheadedness and dizziness and can severely affect a teen
girl’s running performance. The iron RDA for girls ages 9 to 13 is 8
milligrams; for teen girls ages 14 to 18 the RDA is 15 milligrams per
day. Iron-rich foods include red meat, dark meat chicken and turkey,
fish, legumes, iron-fortified cereals, soybeans, raisins and spinach.
Vitamin C can enhance iron absorption from plant-based foods; iron in
meats, poultry and fish is absorbed well in the body. Your pediatrician
may recommend an iron-rich multivitamin supplement if you are unable to
meet your needs through diet alone.
for female teen runners get enough calcium in their diet; this builds
strong bones and helps prevent osteoporosis. The TeensHealth website
reports that many teens consume too little calcium, and teen athletes
may need more calcium than sedentary teens. The calcium RDA for girls
ages 9 to 18 is 1,300 milligrams per day. Calcium-rich foods include
milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese and foods fortified with calcium.
These may include soy milk, soy yogurt, tofu made with calcium sulfate,
calcium-fortified orange juice and calcium-fortified breakfast cereals.
As a runner, you need to be informed of your unique iron needs.
iron deficiency is one of those nasty conditions that can disguise
itself as being overtrained or under-rested. A drop in performance, an
onslaught of fatigue, runners watch as their running takes a nose-dive
and there seems to be no ‘logical’ reason as to why.
Getting a blood
panel as soon as you notice a dramatic change in your running is
typically one of the first suggestions from a coach, with iron levels
being one of those red flags to watch out for, particularly for
females. “For someone going through these types of situations, the
first thing I would ask is about their sleep, nutrition, iron, etc.,”
says Kelly McDonald, assistant coach at Cal Poly.
asking their bodies to perform at one hundred percent, even a ten
percent drop in how one feels is a lot — call it the athlete’s
magnification glass to the layman’s perception of tired.
Exhausted? Take a second look at your blood tests.
is an intracellular protein that stores iron in the body and releases
it in a controlled fashion. The amount of ferritin stored is reflective
of the amount of iron stored. For runners in training, the ‘normal’
recommended ferritin levels are markedly different from their sedative
counterparts. If you don’t have a physician used to working with
athletes, they may wind up telling you that you are in the ‘normal’
range and have nothing to worry about when, in fact, an iron deficiency
may be hampering your training. Thus, as a runner, you need to be
informed of your unique needs and be sure to speak up to your doctor.
What is ‘normal’?
the average person, normal ferritin levels are quantified as 12-300
nanograms per milliter (ng/ml) for men and 12-150 ng/ml for women. To
put it bluntly, an athlete running with a 12 ng/ml ferritin level will
be feeling the effects of anemia and their training will be suffering.
Runners need to be much higher on that scale.
“Every athlete is
different in terms of levels,” says McDonald. “I’ve seen athletes build
their ferritin level to above 20 and they feel great, while others
don’t perform well until 40.” Still others elite athletes will aim for
levels upwards of 70 or 100 ng/ml. Part of figuring out what your ideal
ferritin level is involves getting your blood work checked regularly
throughout your training phases. “As an athlete I liked to get checked
prior to each season and also after, to see if my levels increased or
decreased,” McDonald said.
How to Get Iron-Heavy Blood
first place to start would be to seek out iron-rich foods such as
spinach, red meats, clams, oysters, and liver. Even then, most runners
should be supplementing on top of that. With the rigors competitive
athletes put their bodies through in training, diet alone is typically
not enough to reach adequate iron levels.
This is the easiest place to start; iron pills can be found over the
counter and may also be labeled as ferritin or ferrous glycinate. Talk
with your doctor and coach to come up with a dosage that fits your
situation; dosages depend on gender, weight and iron level, but 1-2
doses of 65mg of elemental iron has worked for many runners when they
are in maintenance mode. CAUTION: Ingesting too much iron too fast will
leave you feeling sick and is potentially dangerous. Gradually increase
your iron dosage and if you’re taking multiples, spread them throughout
the day. Vitamin C helps boost iron absorption and taking Calcium at
the same time will inhibit it. “A plan that I’ve seen effective is
taking iron daily an hour after dinner with orange juice, not with
calcium!” explains McDonald.