The Dangers of Unhealthy Dieting for Athletes

The Dangers of Unhealthy Dieting for Athletes

Madison Yee, Staff Writer

When it comes to sports and food, athletes have to maintain a healthy diet and eat nutritious foods in order to perform well. Although eating a balanced plate is important to achieve peak performance, it can become detrimental when athletes choose to take part in extreme diets. 

Many athletes believe that losing weight drastically will substantially improve their abilities and skills—even though this should only be based on an individual’s personal health, type of sport, and amount of training. When dieting, it can be beneficial to cut back on junk food or to lower the amount of sugar and calories that you digest. However, this can easily spiral out of control because it can lead to under-eating, under-fueling, and binge-eating along with other disorders in the cycle of dieting. 

“Some of the methods young people use to lose weight, such as skipping meals, fasting (going long periods without eating), using meal substitutes such as nutrition shakes, and taking diet pills, laxatives, or diuretics, are considered unhealthy and are associated with an increased risk for disordered eating. You may be surprised to know that over 50% of teen girls and 33% of teen boys use these unhealthy tactics to control or lose weight. The kicker? These methods are associated with weight gain, not weight loss,” said Jill Castle on the National Alliance for Youth Sports

When you end up skipping breakfast or working out on an empty stomach, these eating choices can have consequences once practice comes around—which can cause dizziness, being overly tired, or feeling light-headed. In terms of making sure your food is digested before you exercise, an easy solution is to estimate how long and how much you eat before working out. 

And even though dropping pounds at a rapid pace may sound like a great outcome, it also means that the intake of calcium, vitamin D, iron, and other nutrients will be lost. Not to mention, there is a greater possibility of fatigue, anemia, illness, and infection which all do the opposite of improving athletic performance. 

One of the main reasons that athletes get stuck in the mindset of dieting is because of the pressures that can come from strict coaches, media expectations, and peers. For instance, someone who is only focused on losing weight for a specific “sport body standard” can end up participating in unhealthy weight-loss tactics.

As described above, dieting to the extreme is actually more dangerous than you might think—which is why monitoring your diet and doing the proper research is so important. To be on the right track, adopt a healthy routine with regular eating habits in order to be at your full potential.


Photo courtesy of UWHEALTH.ORG