Sunday, February 22, 2009

Fat Intake and Injury in Female Runners

A study with 90 female runners was performed to access the relationship between energy intake, energy availability, dietary fat and lower extremity injuries. The runners were 18-53 years old and most of the subjects were competitive at least at the local level. All runners run more than 20 miles a week. All subjects filled out several questionnaires, the Nutritionist FFG which quantifies frequency of caloric intake on 114 food items, the Eating Attitude Test which measures abnormal attitudes towards food and the Minnesota Leisure Time Physical Activity Questionnaire to assess caloric expenditure. Over a one year period relationship between injuries and different diets was assessed.

Of the 90 females participating in the study, 47 reported an injury during the one year follow up period. The injured females did not have a significant lower percentage intake of carbohydrate, protein, fiber, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, copper and B-Vitamins. The only component which was significantly lower in the injured females versus the non injured females was the fat intake and fat soluble vitamins A, E and K. Vitamin K is crucial for blood clotting and bone mineralization. Low vitamin K-levels have been linked to decreased bone mineral density and therefore contribute also to injuries.

Energy availability and energy balance approached significance values but did not reach significance. Injured runners had lower values than the non injured runners. If fat intake was lower than 30% of the caloric intake, the risk of developing an injury was 2.5 times higher than if the total caloric intake included more than 30%fat.

These findings were surprising for my self. I am a very competitive runner who runs for Florida Atlantic University. I have seen many girls being injured and the first thing we always spoke about was “general low food intake”. No one has mentioned fat intake to be one of the key issues. I know in general that most of the girls start with watching their fat intake when they start to reduce their caloric intake. It is important to teach female runners/athletes about the importance of fat and caloric intake. I would also recommend clarifying the differences of “good” and “bad” fat. Omega 3 fatty acids for example prevent inflammation and enhance recovery and should be added regularly to their diet and definitely not reduced.

Since general caloric intake was also lower in injured females but didn’t reach significance, further research should be done in order to get a deeper understanding of the causes of injuries in female runners and athletes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This article is very interesting and it should be great to see more about this finding. As for myself, I was thin but in a period of 3 years gained about 70 pounds. A combination of working, going to school at night and not having time to eat properly led me to make poor decisions on what and when to eat. Once done with school, I started the process of getting to my good old self and running became a part of my routine. As part of my strategy my eating habits changed, low fat intake was part of it. After 2 years, the 70 pounds are gone but I'm left now with patellar tendonitis. I definitely wonder if integrating "good" fats would at least alleviate this condition as I don't want to say good my to my running day.