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Disordered Eating in Gymnastics

Importance of Nutrition

Proper nutrition is critically important for gymnasts because the enormous demands and stresses they put on their body causes them to burn calories at a rapid rate. Nutrition not only impacts a gymnast's growth and development but training and performance as well.

Here are some nutritional tips for parents of female gymnasts:

  • Gymnasts need a diet rich (60-65% of total calories) in nutrient dense complex carbohydrates such as whole grains (avoid products with refined white flour) and most vegetables to provide fuel for training and competition. Consuming foods rich in complex carbohydrates is particularly important after training in order to replenish glycogen in their muscles and blood sugar.
  • Gymnasts need protein (3 to 4 ounces of lean meat for most kids; tofu, tempah, beans and rice for vegetarians) to rebuild and repair muscles banged up during training or competition. The most important time for protein intake is within two hours of finishing a workout/competition and the next day.

  • Gymnasts need a certain amount of fat in their diet as well. Not only do fats regulate metabolism and promote growth and are they the longest of the long-burning "fuels," but they make food taste better and prevent spiking blood sugar (which is why premium ice cream - which contains heavy cream is actually better than ice milk or low fat ice cream).
  • The actual number of calories a gymnast needs depends on a number of factors (lean body mass, body weight, and intensity, duration, and frequency of training)

  • Involve the whole family by encouraging your family to help make the grocery list and prepare dinner.