Myths and Facts

BodySense takes a look at some of the myths about dieting and sport performance, and tells the truth about healthy bodies. Read on.

Myth: Dieting and losing weight improves sport performance.

Fact: Every athlete has a natural body size and shape. If the athlete tries to go above or below that size, their performance and health will eventually suffer. If an athlete’s body doesn’t get the food it needs, it will start breaking down muscle tissue to use as fuel. The athlete will feel weak, tired and be more likely to get muscle tears, stress fractures and other injuries. In short- diets don’t help athletes!

Instead of focusing on body weight, an athlete can best improve sport performance by working on physical conditioning, mental skills and making sure to eat a variety of foods that a body needs to train and compete at optimal levels.

The diet industry in Canada makes a billion dollars each year selling people on the idea that they can and should change their natural body size and shape. In reality, they are selling temporary weight-loss and low self-esteem! 95% of people who lose weight gain all of the weight back — and more — within five years.

Myth: Athletes should have low body fat.

Fact: There are no proven performance benefits to having low body fat, but there are health risks. Athletes who do not have enough body fat are at risk for the Female Athlete Triad (disordered eating, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis), infertility, and a range of health problems. Athletes need at least 18% body fat to have regular menstrual periods and at least 22% body fat for regular ovulation. If an athlete feels healthy, enjoys participating in sport, and is taking a positive approach to food and exercise, their body is probably right where it should be.

Myth: It’s normal for an athlete to lose weight during the course of her season.

Fact: An athlete should actually gain weight during the course of her season, because of all the muscle tissue she is building. If an athlete loses weight during her season, she is probably not eating enough food to fuel her body for training, competition, and the recovery she needs in between.