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A Different Perspective: Sports Nutrition vs. Optimal Health

By Jess Sorci, MNT

Vital Source Nutrition

The idea of proper nutrition for a woman is complex and overwhelming. Do you eat keto, paleo, gluten-free, low fodmap, or whole 30? What is the best dietary pattern for weight loss? And what about the performance of the female athlete? I get it! I get confused too, but when we unpack it, it becomes clear that a woman engaged in endurance sports needs to fuel and care for their body differently, and that is because optimal health must first be in place to achieve optimal performance.

Women engaged in sports are at a higher risk of developing health issues because women have a lot of hormones that require optimal nutrition balanced with adequate rest. I am a holistic nutritionist and do not believe in the typical sports nutrition approach. Why? Well, when we look at sports nutrition, it is ALL about the bottom line, crossing the finish line first! But what if I were to tell you that you cannot compete at your highest level if you have hormonal imbalances, digestive complaints, or struggle with adrenal issues? I bet you will not cross the finish line at all!

If we want to perform well as women, we need to step back and support the foundational pieces of health. In my practice, the foundations of health include proper digestive function, balanced hormones, adrenal support, and proper dietary intake.

Think of it this way, if you have digestive issues, you will not absorb the nutrients you need to finish your ride or race. If women do not absorb food well, it will result in fatigue, poor recovery, muscle cramps, and exercise intolerance. Sex hormones also dictate women’s performance. Did you know there are better times to train and push our bodies based on the menstrual cycle? Specifically, the female body does well with training hard on days 1-10 of the cycle, while we need more rest and recovery on days 17-28. If we push our bodies to the extreme all month long, then we will disrupt our sex hormones which will impede how we perform on the bike. In addition, female athletes often put stress on the body, and with stress

comes cortisol (the #1 stress hormone). When cortisol is imbalanced, we can further worsen our sex hormone production, and altered cortisol will cause adrenal issues that will cause unwellness. The most common signs of adrenal issues include headaches after exercise, fatigue, lack of sleep, salt and sugar cravings, muscle cramps, and an inability to exercise at a high capacity.

So, what is the female athlete to do? We all want to ride our bikes, perform our best, and remain healthy while we do it. In my practice, I work with women not only on optimal health but on optimal performance. We do so by identifying imbalances in the body by looking at blood work, we plan hard training rides based on the menstrual cycle, and we support gut function along the way to ensure nutrient absorption. We have to get away from the old sports nutrition methodology and support the whole women as the female athlete. If ready, I will take your riding to the next level through optimal health!

Your functional nutritionist,

Jess Sorci

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