The three components make up the female athlete triad:
- Low energy availability
- Poor bone health
- Amenorrhea (no periods).
Energy availability is at the foundation of it. You are what you eat, and as an athlete it is essential that the foods being consumed are nutrient and energy dense, and the calories consumed are enough to keep up with energy output in sport. If there aren’t enough of the right nutrients, vitamins and minerals available to your body, you will not be able to maintain muscle mass and a health BMI, or build bones properly, or be able to produce adequate amounts of hormones.
When we are in our teens + early 20’s is when our bodies are building our peak bone mineral density. Building up peak bone mineral density is crucial for our overall health later on in life and will reduce the likelihood of fragility fractures. What you’re eating, and hormones are key players in developing healthy bones. See my post on the impact of hormonal birth control use for more information on bone health.
High activity levels (producing biochemical stress) have the capacity to negatively feedback and inhibit ovulation causing irregular periods, and eventually progress to inhibit menses all together. You may be thinking “Great! No periods!”but without proper levels of estrogen and progesterone in your system, you’re missing out on the benefits of having those hormones as a female!
If you’re an athlete, it’s worth chatting with your naturopathic doctor about these three elements of your health to make sure your eating enough of the right foods, supporting your bone health, and that your menstruation/ estrogen/progesterone is working optimally. The better you can support yourself with these foundations, the better your performance in your sport will be