ASK THE SPORTS DIETITIAN Alison Garth is an Advanced Sports Dietitian who consults to a number of elite teams including the Melbourne Rebels, Geelong Football Club and AFL Level 1 Academy squads. She also works with sub-elite athletes in private practice. Alison has a passion for good food to fuel her love of all things outdoors.
Q I got a stress fracture recently. I’m not underweight, so the issue can’t be my energy intake, can it?
A It’s a common misconception that only athletes with eating disorders or a low body fat percentage get stress fractures. More recent research points towards a newer concept referred to as energy availability as being a major contributor to bone health in athletes. Energy availability refers to the amount of energy leftover, after accounting for the energy used for exercise, for the body to carry out all the activities it needs to do to keep your body ticking away in good health. When energy availability drops too low, reproductive function and bone health can be compromised leading to loss of (or irregularities with) menstruation and increased risk of bone injuries such as stress fractures.
Importantly, although low energy availability can be due to disordered eating behaviours, it can also occur unintentionally – especially in busy athletes. Rushing from training to work or school or to pick up the kids can result in athletes missing out on sufficient energy to match their training load. If you’re a busy athlete on the go, the following tips can help you ensure that you are getting enough energy in over the day:
- Fill up a container with bircher muesli topped with almonds and berries – packed with quality carbohydrates and protein it’s an easy, quick recovery breakfast on the go
- Pack portable snacks in your training bag so that you can squeeze in a recovery snack after training even if you’re in a rush or running late. Tetra packs of flavoured milk, tuna and cracker snack packs and trail mixes are all non perishable options that will help meet your carbohydrate and protein recovery goals
- If you know that it is going to be late when you get home from training, prepare your dinner in advance so that all you need to do is re-heat and serve. There are lots of freezer friendly recipes available, the AIS Sports Nutrition Recipe books are a great place to start.
So, can I safely lose weight without risking my bone health?
The short answer is yes! Working closely with an Accredited Sports Dietitian will allow you to develop an individualised nutrition plan that matches your energy intake to not only optimise training and performance outcomes but also support your body composition goals, health and minimise injury risk. To find an Accredited Sports Dietitian near you, check out the Sports Dietitians Australia website.