Risks of Dieting

If we try to change our natural body size and shape then our bodies fight back! If we try to bulk up through rigorous strength training, calorie, protein, or carbohydrate loading, or try to become lean through a low caloric intake, our bodies respond by slowing down our metabolism (the rate at which we burn calories). This is because our bodies think we are starving them and so they actually start burning fewer calories than they would if we were not dieting. At first, we may dip below our natural body size. Over time, however, our bodies return to the size that is natural. As an added insurance, our bodies may actually raise our natural size- just in case we try to starve them again!

Risks to your sport performance

In addition to wanting to gain weight and muscle, many athletes want to lose weight, thinking that it will help their performance. Some sports where male athletes are required to “cut weight” in order to compete in a lower weight category and gain an advantage (e.g., wrestling) can be very detrimental to the health of the athlete.

Once the competition is over, athletes will eat huge amounts of food and calories, to gain back the weight they lost. This starts a vicious cycle where the athlete’s weight is constantly changing, throwing the body’s functions out of balance. Losing and gaining weight this quickly can cause many health problems like imbalance in electrolytes, decrease in performance, decreased strength, decreased muscle endurance, decreased blood volume, muscle breakdown, and even death.

Even though many athletes and coaches believe that losing weight can actually give the athletes an advantage, the athlete’s body is breaking down and is not functioning properly, leaving it at risk for injury. The desire to lose weight may not only hurt performance, but it can seriously affect the athlete’s perception of his body and food, leading to higher chances of developing an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia.

Risks to your health

There is a long list of the effects of trying to change your natural body size and shape:

  • Unhappiness,
  • Preoccupation with food, weight and shape,
  • Potential loss of friendships and an active social life, and
  • Loss of enjoyment and participation in sport.

Intense body dissatisfaction and trying to alter your natural body size and shape can eventually lead an athlete to develop disordered eating or an eating disorder.