Many athletes associate weight and appearance with performance, putting them at high risk for unhealthy weight management practices. Sports such as wrestling, youth football and rowing use weight classifications to ensure healthy, safe and fair competition. With sports such as distance running, dance and gymnastics, the athlete’s body composition is believed to influence their performance physically and aesthetically. There are numerous benefits associated with having a lean body but it is important that athletes maintain a healthy body weight in a safe manner.
Weight control behaviors such as not eating, binge eating and purging, limiting caloric intake and restricting fluids are all unsafe. It is common for athletes to feel pressure to control their weight by peers, coaches, parents, and our weight-obsessed society. This can lead to unhealthy choices in nutrition, causing a decrease in energy, aerobic performance, recall, visual understanding and reaction time. Extremely low caloric diets can negatively impact the entire body, including the cardiovascular system, immune system and endocrine (hormone) system.
Athletes should talk to their athletic trainer, physician or a registered dietitian if they have questions or concerns about their body composition. These professionals can design an individualized nutrition and exercise plan for athletes to help them meet and maintain a healthy body weight allowing them to achieve optimal performance and have a healthy future.