Fiber is particularly easy to incorporate at breakfast. Consider eating bran muffins, whole grain cereals or fibrous fruits like apples and pears. Throughout the day, snack on raw veggies like carrots and celery. Add a veggie side to each of your other meals to fulfill your daily fiber goal of 20 to 35 grams.
Female athletes are especially prone to iron deficiency, especially when they first start training, says Thigpen. Women low in iron stores may find it harder to exercise than their healthier peers since even a minor deficiency can make a difference in athletic performance.
Considering 12 percent of pre-menopausal women have an iron deficiency, it's important to make sure you're getting enough. However, be careful not to consume too much iron. Iron isn't a performance-enhancing nutrient. Eating extra iron only helps those who have a deficiency. In fact, high levels of iron could lead to liver damage.
Teenagers should get at least 15 mg of iron a day, while women 20 to 50 should consume 18 mg. Women over 50 should shoot for 8 mg. To increase the amount of iron in your diet, eat more meat or seafood, or take an iron supplement. Meats like ground beef, liver, steak, pork and chicken are all rich sources of iron. Combine meat with vitamin C sources like citrus fruits and juices. This increases the rate of iron absorption. Alternatively, plenty of cereals and breads are enriched with iron.
Fluids are the unsung heroes of the nutrient world. We need them to live, but many of us don't think of liquid as a nutrient. Likewise, as athletes you need to drink more than your sedentary peers do. Fluids are perhaps the most influential nutrient in athletic performance; dehydration contributes more to fatigue than any other nutrition deficiency.
The top nutrients for women and where to get them
- Calcium: Low-fat milk, broccoli, turnip greens, yogurt/cheese, cereal, orange juice
- Folic Acid: Fortified cereal, green leafy veggies, whole grain cereal, breads
- Fiber: Bran muffins, whole grain cereal, apples, pears, raw veggies
- Iron: Meats (steak, pork, chicken, ground beef), seafood, citrus fruits, juices, cereals, breads
- Fluids: Water, sports drinks, juices
Vanessa Selene Williams, Her Sports magazine contributor, is a freelance writer specializing in health and nutrition.