I’m currently enjoying sweet potato muffins for my morning snack. They’re made with white flour, chocolate chips and two different kinds of sugar. Yes, you heard me correctly. While they also include sweet potatoes, figs, and kefir milk; I didn’t aim to make them healthier. I could have substituted whole-wheat flour for all-purpose. I could have cut the sugar and used applesauce. Why didn’t I?
Active People NEED Carbs
Because I’m active. I’m training for a marathon, and I need the extra cals and carbs. And, EVEN if I wasn’t training for anything? I love a gooey muffin, and there’s plenty of room in life to enjoy indulgent foods, no matter who or how active you are.
We live in ketogenic, carb-restricted time. It’s hard to ignore the messages. BUT, active individuals, who train, need carbs. Adequate calories and carbs are the gasoline in our tanks to train hard, stay healthy and happy! For example, the distances I’m currently running require that I take in more calories and carbs. If I aimed to meet 100% of my calorie needs through “whole” or “clean” foods (whatever clean means), my performance would suffer. It would be hard to meet my calorie needs. A high-fiber diet increases my chances of GI distress. Whole, unprocessed carbs would fill me up too quickly, and unintentionally cause me to under-fuel.
The Negative Dieting World & It’s Impact on the Active Female
I recently gave a talk to a group of dietetic interns on the female athlete triad. The number of female athletes that don’t have a normal menstrual cycle is staggering. In one study, 54% of high school athlete females had abnormal cycles. The main cause behind this is inadequate calorie and carb intake. In my sports nutrition practice, active females often claim that their pediatrician or coach told them it was “normal” not to have a cycle. It isn’t. Not having a menstrual cycle is indicative of under-fueling and consequently low estrogen levels. Low levels of estrogen increase the risk for bone loss. Inadequate fuel, leading to abnormal menstrual cycles and poor bone health is especially risky for young women. We build 60-80% of our bone mass by the age of 18. And a loss of bone mass is often irreversible.
Female athletes and moms of female athletes: pay attention to the warning signs of insufficient fuel. It can easily happen as training ramps up but appetite doesn’t keep up. Here are the warning signs:
•Disordered eating thoughts
•Inability to gain or build muscle/strength
•Absent/irregular menstrual cycle
•Stress fractures/bone injuries
•Decreased muscle strength
Moral of this sweet potato muffin story. If you’re active, looking to optimize performance, don’t succumb to low-carb diet fads. Even further, not all carbs need to be “high-quality,” “whole” or “clean.” I am for 80% of my carbs to come from whole-grains, beans, veggies and fruits. Today, the 20% of my carbs will be in the form of sweet potato muffins and ice cream after dinner.
We’re Here To Help.
If you have concerns, for yourself or a loved one, please reach out. Our sports dietitians are well-equipped to optimize your health, performance and plate. You can contact us here.