If you’ve been in the running world for some time, you’ve surely noticed what the typical road race winner looks like, right? Tall, toned, and thin. It’s fair to assume that this is what it takes to be fast. Unfortunately, many of us, and especially females, go about improving our performance based on looking like these elites. Many female athletes are under nourished in relation to the amount of energy they expend. Truth is, this common behavior is actually very dangerous and can cause serious damage to a female athlete’s body.
I have been running since 2006. In 2010, after my sixth marathon, my doctor raised his concerns about my weight, my bone health, and something called the female athlete triad. I had never heard this term before, but I was quickly learning that I was in serious danger of falling into this condition.
Loyola University defines the female athlete triad as being characterized by disordered eating, irregular periods, and osteoporosis. I sat listening to my doctor explain the condition and knew that my periods were not regular, however, surely the other issues didn’t apply to me, or so I thought. He proceeded to perform a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, or DEXA scan, to check my bone density. He didn’t like what he saw for a female in her late twenties. But then he got to the eating. I was in complete denial. I was thin, but I was a runner and I needed to keep my calories low so I could stay light for performance. So I thought. (more…)