Network For Advancing Athletes is a 501c3 non-profit organization that provides online mentoring for aspiring female athletes of all ages from top female athletes across multiple sports. Through mentorship, NAA aims to:
- Increase access to positive elite female athlete role models for aspiring female athletes.
- Create a community and sense of belonging in sport for female athletes at any level of participation.
- Guide female athletes toward the most positive, healthy and empowering experience in sport possible.
- Leverage the experience of top-level female athletes to help each aspiring athlete realize her fullest potential.
NAA founder Amber Pierce notes, "We are thrilled to partner with The FEED, because nutrition is a critical component of health and performance, influencing everything from cognition, to mood, to physical fitness. The Network For Advancing Athletes Feed Box
features nutrition products with female athletes in mind."
Pierce mentions, "much of what we read in scientific literature is based on studies of men and scaled down to apply to women, but as our partners at Osmo Nutrition point out, “Women Are Not Small Men.
” Emerging research (including by Osmo founder Dr. Stacy Sims) indicates that women have different nutritional needs than their male counterparts, and while those needs vary from individual to individual, our NAA mentors have some great advice for female athletes out there."
In this post, we’ll chat extensively with two NAA mentors and all around amazing women: Olympic silver-medalist and professional cyclist Dotsie Bausch and Triple Canadian National Champion (time trial, road and criterium) and pro cyclist Leah Kirchmann. Competing at the top of their sports, these remarkable athletes have learned a thing or two about effective nutrition.
LK: Don't deprive yourself during exercise, it will li
mit your performance and leave you in a bad mood. Don’t get distracted by new fad diets that will inevitably crowd your internet feed. The best nutrition strategy is to focus on a diet filled with lean proteins, whole grains and lots of fruit and veggies. As a female athlete, there is a high chance that you have low iron levels, which can impair performance. Be sure to include lots of iron rich foods in your diet (such as red meat, beans and dark leafy greens), and consider asking your doctor for a blood test to check your values.
Keep a food journal that records how various foods make you FEEL, not how you think they make you LOOK. After eating, write down how you feel, including energy levels, mood, happiness, sadness, fulfillment, etc. Do this right after you eat and then also log how you feel about an hour after eating. Once you begin to do this you will start to see what a vital role food plays in our emotions and mental and physical clarity and vibrancy. It is exciting to find foods that really "work" for you and make you feel full of energy, happy and fulfilled long after you take your last bite.
You’ll notice neither Leah or Dotsie focus exclusively on calories. Instead, they think in terms of nutrient density and how certain foods make them feel. Because each body is unique, finding what works for your personal physiology is key. Both Leah and Dotsie encourage you to stay focused on your own personal needs. Listen to your body: it knows what you need better than Twitter or Facebook.
NAA mentor and Olympic medalist Dotsie Bausch
So, what do these two like to eat for fuel during training?
I’ll eat all kinds of fun food during training, Clif bars, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, bananas, pancakes, and date balls are some of my favorite ride foods.
DB: Bonk Breaker bars
mostly. I may turn into a Bonk Breaker bar one of these days, but I can't help but love the whole food approach of this bar and the fact that they have very little preservatives and just a few nutrient-dense ingredients that I can pronounce! I also sometimes make rice and avocado rolls, squares of almond or peanut butter sandwiches, and Vitargo glycogen drink. If I am going to do very intense intervals, I am a big fan of Gu's Chomps to fuel in between efforts and also Vitargo.
Leah and Dotsie clearly look to nutrient-dense and minimally processed foods to fuel their training, something we highly encourage and provide in the NAA Feed Box.
Frigid winter weather has arrived here in the Northern Hemisphere, and these athletes are no strangers to training in the cold. Here’s what they advise for those low-temp days:
It can be very difficult to eat and drink enough in cold weather, so it is helpful to set a timer during your ride as a reminder to focus on nutrition. If you live in a cold climate and have problems with frozen water bottles, try adding sports mix. You wi
ll need to experiment with different ride foods to find the options that won’t freeze completely solid.
Hot tea before and during is nice. Don't forget to stay hydrated though. We often think we don't need to drink if we aren't sweating, but you are still in need of electrolytes to keep your muscles firing. Remember muscle-firing needs the electrical charge that electrolytes provide to do premium work! I like Osmo’s Active Hydration
or GQ6's green apple hydration powder that has glycogen, in addition to the electrolyte profile.
Both Leah and Dotsie hit on one of the primary challenges of training outdoors in the cold: staying hydrated. To address this challenge, we love Osmo Active Hydration: it’s formulated for female physiology and gives you the electrolyte balance needed to maintain blood plasma volume (i.e. stay hydrated) and to keep your muscles firing. As Leah points out, the electrolytes can help lower the freezing temperature of your drink, too!
NAA mentor and triple Canadian National Champion Leah Kirchmann:
Sticking to whole, unprocessed foods can be a challenge when we are short on time. Pro athletes travel extensively for competition, which can present a challenge for finding good nutrition on the go. When they don’t have time to cook, Leah and Dotsie have a few go-to meals and snacks to keep themselves fueled:
• apples and peanut butter
• trail mix
• avocado, eggs and tomato on toast
• berries and Greek yogurt
• crackers and veggies with hummus
• almond butter on an apple or banana
• Bonk Breaker bars
• super green juice
• figs wrapped in coconut
• a variety of mixed nuts
Bars made with unprocessed, whole-food ingredients like Ally’s Bar (created by NAA mentor and pro cyclist Ally Stacher) can also be great choices for quality nutrition on the go.
So, what do these elite athletes eat when they’re home?
One of my favourite and go-to recipes is Chicken Coconut Curry with rice. It is very fast recipe to prepare and the ingredients are easy to find. This is a great recipe when I’m tired from training and just want something quick to eat. It also makes for an excellent pre-race meal.
Chicken Coconut Curry with Rice
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 large onion
1 red pepper
1 cup broccoli
2 boneless chicken breasts
1 can of coconut milk
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp curry powder
1 cup kale
salt to taste
Heat up the oil in pan on medium heat. Add chopped onion, garlic and some salt, cook for a few minutes. Add in the chopped red pepper and broccoli. Add in the chicken and cook until no longer pink. Next, add in the coconut milk, tomato paste and curry powder. Simmer on low-medium heat until everything looks fully cooked. I like to also add in some chopped kale during the last few minutes of cooking for some extra veggies. Serve over rice. Enjoy!
I have a low tolerance for food preparation and cooking. I really wish I enjoyed the process more, but cooking is overwhelming to me. So, I stick with recipes I have made up through trial and error -- lots of error :-) -- and a simple, quick, nutrient-dense smoothie is my favorite!
Blueberry-Cinnamon Cacao Smoothie
• frozen or fresh blueberries
• VEGA Performance protein powder in vanilla or chocolate
• many dashes of cinnamon to your liking
• cacoa nibs
• ground superfood flaxseeds
• chia seeds
• 1/2 banana
• a little bit almond butter
• maca root powder
• coconut oil
Blend all ingredients together in a blender and serve.
We hope you’ve found these tips helpful! Check out the Network For Advancing Athletes Feed Box for all kinds of great nutrition for female athletes. Keep in mind that The FEED donates 10% of your purchase to NAA. Feel good AND do good! For more advice from the NAA's mentors, check out their website at http://advancingathletes.org.
Do you have question for the NAA's mentors? Click here to ask!