Hey guys i'm Abbey Sharp welcome toAbbey's Kitchen.
So today we're going to be chatting about female fitnesscompetitors.
This is something that I've gotten a lot of questions about, specifically whether or not it is safe.
There are a ton of popular femalebodybuilders and fitness competitors on YouTube that have really made this ideaof female bodybuilding and fitness competitions a lot more popular andwell-known.
Now, before we get into anything I want to of course flag that theinformation in this video is for education and entertainment purposesonly and is not intended to prescribe or make any recommendations so always speakto your doctor and a dietitian about your unique health case.
Also, I want toof course remind you that I am wearing my snack shirt today and it's it'sgetting a little tight with me and baby in here but definitely check out thelink below to see my entire merch line so you definitely want to help supportthat because a portion of proceeds are going towards Sick Kids Foundation.
Okay, now let's get into the video.
I first want to talk a little bit about atypical fitness competitors diet.
Now, every competitors diet and plan is goingto totally depend on their coach, their category, and the state of their bodywhen they begin.
But generally speaking there is a bulking phase which is whereyou're maybe trying to build muscle often with a caloric increase and laterthere's a cutting phase and that's where you're trying to lose body fat whilestill maintaining as much of that muscle mass that you can.
Note that putting yourbody into a catabolic and anabolic state at the same time is really really hardto do, but more on that later.
Now, I'm going to be it totally transparent I'mnot super jazzed about what is going on to prepare young women to have to stepon the stage and have their bodies critiqued.
But I also acknowledge thatyou have every right to want to change your body to look a certain way and Ihave zero right or desire to judge that.
That is not what this video is about.
What I want to talk about is some of the risks and concerns that have beenuncovered in the literature that are specific and unique to this populationso you can embark on your health and fitness journey in the healthiest waypossible.
First of all, let's talk about the physical dangers and risksstarting with potential nutrition deficiencies.
One of the major concernswith bodybuilding and fitness competition prep is the risk formicronutrient deficiencies and this is because of the tendencies for somebodybuilders to have to severely restrict certain foods in their diet andonly include a small range of repeated “safe” foods on their plan.
Some studies ondieting competitors observe deficiencies in micronutrients like vitamin D, calcium, zinc, magnesium, and iron.
Having said that, a lot of this evidence is from the earlydays of bodybuilding so it's very possible that these micronutrientdeficiencies were maybe more common in those days due to very prematureunderstanding of bodybuilding nutrition and drastic elimination diets.
We'vedefinitely come a long way having said that, in a lot of cases, especially forwomen, it may be useful to take a multivitamin if you are severelyrestricting calories or certain types of food in preparation for competition.
There is also the common risk of fluid imbalances.
Now in the final days andhours before a fitness competition, also known as “peak week”, many bodybuilderswill attempt to manipulate their fluid and electrolyte levels to improve theirmuscularity and to get them that kind of ripped appearance.
Now in order to definetheir muscularity during that final week bodybuilders will kind of dramaticallyincrease their water intake, sometimes to as much as 10 litres per day, while alsotaking diuretics.
Then the day before the competition bodybuilders may beinstructed to dramatically cut their water intake in order to dehydrate theirbody sometimes getting no water for 24 hours before showtimewhile continuing on their diuretic supplements.
Now I know we've beenconditioned to believe that more water is better, but drinking 10 litres ofwater a day and then flushing that out with diuretics can easily cause waterintoxication, hyponatremia, and hypokalemia which taken together may befatal.
Other side effects can include irregularheartbeat, fatigue, seizures, GI distress, muscle cramping and weakness, headaches, and more.
Playing with water might even makeyou look “too flat” depending on how and when it's done.
So you could actually putyourself at risk and not even get the desired look for competition.
Now let'stalk about some supplement concerns.
While the supplement industry's marketis worth as much as 37 billion dollars a year, most researchers and health careprofessionals caution their use because there really isn't clear evidence thatthey work and are beneficial to our health.
On top of that, becausesupplements are not necessarily so well regulated there are a ton of illegalsubstances that make their way onto store shelves and honestly they havekilled people.
According to a 2016 study, it's estimated that around 23, 000emergency room visits a year are linked to supplements.
Because of the lack ofregulation, consumers don't really know all of the ingredients in supplementsand dosages could even vary from pill to pill.
That is really scary stuff and weneed greater regulation if it's causing people to die.
There's also potentialside effects of some common supplements used for fitness competition.
Fromanxiety, insomnia, kidney and liver damage, infertility, and even death.
You reallyhave to trust your coach to prescribe these cocktails of supplements and drugsin appropriate doses for you.
I don't know about you, but that feels like ittakes a lot of trust.
Now let's talk about some of the psychological risksincluding body dissatisfaction and disordered eating.
in one study, one-third of a group of bodybuilders reported anxiety, shorttempers, or anger during competition prep.
5% of them in the groupreported a preoccupation with food which is a precursor of course to disorderedeating.
This is especially a concern among female fitness competitors as onestudy found that among female competitive bodybuilders about 42% usedto be anorexic, 67% were terrified of becoming fat, and 50% experienceduncontrollable urges to eat.
Furthermore, research gathered from the NationalEating Disorders website found that among female high school athletes41.
5% reported disordered eating, and disordered eating affected 62% of femaleathletes in aesthetic weight class sports.
I'll also just never forget astory that my personal trainer told me about the competition floor.
He said that young female competitors all bring these suitcases filled withcookies, candies, cupcakes, doughnuts, you know all the things that they haven'tallowed themselves to eat while doing their prep diet.
Then the moment thatthey get off stage, they tend to go crazy and literally eat until they makethemselves sick.
So while you may look at a fitness competitor and assume thatthey are the picture of perfect health, it's very possible that some of thesebehaviors may tell a very different story.
This is just another perfectexample of how one's physical body is not necessarily a great depiction oftheir actual health.
You really cannot judge a book by its cover.
Now let's talk about my bread and butter, fertility.
Anytime that you're severelyrestricting calories or increasing activities, you put a woman at risk forhormonal imbalance which may in turn impact fertility and overall health.
In one study, 25% of female bodybuilding competitors reported abnormal menstrualcycles, while another study reported that women complained of menstrualirregularity within the first month of competition prep.
The researchers foundthat caloric restriction led to a decline in fat and body mass whichresulted in the absent menstrual cycle.
Restrictive diets, excessive exercise, lowbody weight, and nutritional deficiencies from bodybuilding can lead to what wecall the “female athlete triad”, which is a condition defined by a) low energyavailable with or without disordered eating, b) menstrual dysfunction, and c)low bone density.
Research has also found that both resistance training and energyrestriction are associated with alterations in key reproductive hormones, ultimately resulting in estrogen deficiency.
Not only does this have animpact on fertility, but a lack of estrogen can also cause a disruption inbone remodeling which can increase the risk of fractures and ultimatelyosteoporosis.
Finally, let's chat about the big elephant in theroom weight and metabolic declines.
One of the main criticisms of rapid weightloss or low calorie diets is that it may slow down a person's metabolic rate.
Thisin turn makes it very difficult and potentially even virtually impossible tokeep the weight off once a person stops dieting and resumes to normal eating.
Even if their “normal eating” is still very balanced and healthy.
This combinedwith the psychological drive to binge eat all of the “forbidden foods” after ashow makes it very easy to see how a lot of female fitness competitors kind ofbounce up to an even higher weight post show than they were before they began.
Not surprisingly, there are a lot of hormonal adaptations to blame for theseshifts.
One, studies have found that a low-calorie diet may decrease thyroidhormone levels which can decrease a person's overall metabolic rate.
Two, leptin which is our fullness hormone lives in body fats so when we lower ourbody fat levels leptin levels also decline.
Studies have shown that a lowcalorie diet with an effort to promote fat loss may decrease leptin levelsresulting in competitors feeling basically constantly hungry andprompting them to overeat.
Three, ghrelin which is our hunger hormone increases inthe body when we fast so researchers have found that a low calorie diet canincrease ghrelin stimulating participants to eat more.
Four, researchersalso found that a low calorie diet decreases our natural testosteronelevels and since testosterone plays an important role in increasing muscleprotein synthesis and muscle mass it could negatively impact metabolicallyactive muscle mass.
And five, research has found that a low calorie diet may increasecortisol which has been shown to increase protein breakdown and healthy subjectsagain impacting metabolically active tissue.
Bottom line, before I leave youlet's get one thing straight.
I am by no means trying to say that you shouldn'tbecome a female fitness competitor or bodybuilder if that is what brings youjoy.
My job as a dietitian is to try to understand this athletictrend, to dive into the culture, and explore the possible concerns withfollowing this type of lifestyle, and of course to give you the tools that youneed to do it in the safest way possible.
My recommendation? Seek out anexperienced sports dietitian who can really help guide you through thisprocess in the safest way possible and do a real deep dive to ensure thatyou're psychologically ready for what it entails.
Personally, I know that thiswould take me to some dangerously dark places so it would never be a healthysport for me.
I am simply presenting the literatureand what it has uncovered in terms of concerns and risks and that way you canhopefully make the most informed choices for yourself.
On that note, please keepthe comments kind and respectful.
If you yourself have found something that hashelped you along on your fitness journey I would love to hear about it in thecomments below.
if you like this video be sure to give it the thumbs up, like Isaid leave us lots of great comments I'd love to hear your experiences.
Don'tforget to subscribe and I will see you next time on Abbey's Kitchen.