How To Teach Female Athletes About Nutrition in a Way That Works

December 6, 2021

Are you a parent, coach, or professional working with female athletes? Do you wonder if they are getting the proper nutrition to keep their bodies moving safely — during the season and the off season? Are you wondering how to teach them about nourishing their bodies in a way that actually works? 

Maybe you’re looking for an easy-to-follow guide to talk about the basics of nutrition for female athletes. 

As a mom and a coach, I’ve been there. But, more importantly, I’ve been an athlete as well. 

Maybe you’ve tried to implement this knowledge before, but you felt uncomfortable or unsure of the information you had. Perhaps you don’t feel qualified. Maybe you don’t think it matters what they eat! Let me tell you from experience… it does. 

But I know how hard it can be to relay this information to a female athlete, or a whole room of them. It can be helpful to have a simple, easy-to-follow guide to help. 

I’ve been where you’ve been. I’m here to help. 

Why Do Female Athletes Need to Learn About Nutrition?

Nutrition is an important topic for all people, not just female athletes, but let me tell you why female athletes in particular need to learn about this. For one, girls and women tend to under eat. Eating enough is paramount for bodies working hard like those of an athlete. What we should really be teaching athletes about nutrition, is what fuels them so they aren’t undereating.

For two, younger athletes, like teens, tend to eat junk food that doesn’t fuel their body. It has its place, don’t get me wrong! I’m not here to promote dieting. But helping them understand what will help energize them when feeling sluggish will help curb unhealthy snacking. 

For three, female athletes have to manage hormones differently than their male counterparts. That means managing cravings, and paying attention to mental and physical changes that can impact their bodies. 

Here are some perks to learning about nutrition as a female athlete:

  • Improved performance. Understanding the impact of protein, enough calories, carbs, fats, etc. will improve athletic performance. Point blank. The body works better when it’s fueled adequately. 
  • Fewer injuries. A body and mind that’s hydrated, energized, and recovered will have fewer injuries in training and during gametime. Their bodies will feel stronger and more agile, and their brain will work quicker. 
  • More Confidence. It’s one thing to tell them what to eat and when, it’s another to get them to understand it themselves. This will give them the power and control that promotes confidence in themselves and their understanding of their bodies. 

There are so many perks to teaching this, and very few (if any) negatives. The important thing is keeping the messaging positive.

How I Teach Female Athletes About Nutrition

I’m a coach’s kid who grew up on a squeaky gym floor in Wyoming — the child of a volleyball coach. I was a multisport athlete in high school, and went on to play volleyball in college. 

But I had some bad coaches who taught me that food was something to feel shame about, and not something to nourish me. Calories weren’t my friend, and I never learned what foods gave me strength and energy to be the best athlete I could be. 

I’m now a mom of three girls, volleyball club director, PN1 nutrition coach, and I’m currently coaching at the college level, so most of my spare time is spent in the gym with teenage girls. While many people feel intimidated or overwhelmed with the idea of working with teenage girls, I absolutely love it. The personalities, the attitudes, the drive… everything. 

How I teach my own girls and the ones I coach, is with a simple system and flexibility. I’m sure to give them autonomy with their choices, but to discuss nutrition when they aren’t feeling their best. I provide them with a foundation of knowledge, and never shame them for their choices. I teach them my POW(HER) method, and go through a daily gut check — which is a self-check system so they learn to pay attention to their bodies.

Sometimes they are receptive, sometimes they aren’t, but the key is flexibility and consistency. 

How To Teach Yours

Even if you weren’t an athlete or you haven’t had the chance to have many nutritional conversations with the female athlete in your life in the past, it’s never too late to start teaching them about nutrition in a way that works. 

Here’s what you need:

  • An easy to understand approach. You can truly talk for days about nutrition, but it’s best to keep it simple. Talk about healthy snack substitutes, talk about the best foods and worst foods for energy, and have an emphasis on hydration and recovery. If you make it easy, they are more likely to retain it and implement it on their own. 
  • Consistent discussion. You don’t need to harp on them constantly, but it should be a foundation with the female athlete in your life. You’re sluggish and tired. Have you eaten enough today? Have you had some carbs? Good game, everyone get some water and focus on recovery tonight. Keep nutrition discussions in your communication consistently. 
  • Compassion and understanding. Maybe they are bloated and hormonal. Or they didn’t sleep well, or didn’t eat the best that day. Maybe they are having a hard mental health day. It’s best to just be compassionate and understanding with their choices and performance. 

Each team and athlete is different and will need different things in terms of teaching them about nutrition in a way that will work for them. But if you remember anything remember this: keep it simple, keep it consistent, and keep it flexible. Building strong and confident female athletes is all about being mindful of your message.

Three Common Misconceptions 

I’ve heard a lot of pushback from those who work with female athletes in some capacity — either personally, as a coach, or professionally in some way. There are a lot of misconceptions that make people think they don’t need to work on this approach. 

But the female athlete in your life deserves to understand how nutrition can affect them on and off the court. 

Here are three common misconceptions I hear about addressing nutrition with female athletes:

  1. This is too hard to talk about. It can be a touchy subject to talk about food with girls and women. But as long as you lead with compassion and education and work to not shame them, you’ll do great! And it’s okay if it takes time to feel comfortable.
  1. It doesn’t really matter what they eat. I’ve heard SO many people tell me that teens, especially, eat whatever they want and have a great game! Or their metabolism is so fast that it doesn’t matter what they eat. It does matter. Teaching a foundation of nutrition for their body as an athlete is a gift they will carry through their life. The right foods will help them to be healthier, safer, and will give them the confidence to make their own decisions for their body. 
  1. I don’t feel qualified to teach them this. I totally get that the amount of information out there is overwhelming! But my eBook, The Fueled Athlete, as well as my guide and workbook, The Pow(h)er Method, were created to help you feel more qualified. 

I PROMISE that this knowledge will transform your team. They will feel quicker, more aware, stronger, and more confident. And THOSE are the kinds of athletes that win championships!

My Top Tips

I know nutrition can be a difficult topic to navigate, but because these topics aren’t covered enough, I take pride in having these conversations in a healthy way.

I believe that my unique experience as an athlete, a coach, and a parent gives me an edge on this topic that many don’t have. Which is why I want to make a difference for the female athletes in my life as well as yours.

My top tips for teaching female athletes about nutrition are:

  1. It’s okay if they are hesitant about this. Don’t force it! It’s natural for them to feel hesitant, or to push back. The more you discuss it, the more they will realize this isn’t about shaming them, or about telling them what to do. It’s just about learning how food affects their body. 
  1. Create some collaboration. This step is key in teaching them in a way that really works. This means planning snacks as a team, or having workbooks (like my POW(HER) Method), so they can write things down. It’s promoting body awareness and cause and effect with their help through strong communication.
  1. Give them some privacy. The athletes you’re teaching will push back so if you don’t give them privacy and respect through this process. If they don’t want to show you their workbook, that’s okay. If they don’t want to share their cycle or their eating habits, that’s okay. It’s not your job to police their food, it’s your job to give them the support and education they need to make the best decisions for themselves.

I could probably write a thousand tips on this subject, but these ones are high on my list for helping you teach the female athletes in your life about nutrition in a way that really works. 

Just remember, how you handle discussions on nutrition now will forever shape how they look at food as a fuel for their bodies far into the future. It’s a great responsibility to handle these conversations with care.

Ready to Teach Your Female Athletes About Nutrition in a Way That Works?

Right now you may be feeling overwhelmed with starting this process.

You might be wondering how to start, or what to do first.

Don’t worry, I’m here to help!

My guide and workbook, The POW(HER) Method, has all this information and more!

It Includes:

  • A gut-check report and resources guide to give players more ideas of what to eat and if they’re missing anything important.
  • A detailed workbook for athletes to find what works best for their life and goals.
  • Simple to follow instructions and calculations if you choose to utilize them.
  • An easy to remember method for everyday use.

It’s a teen and young adult approved system that I really use with the athletes I coach, as well as my daughters who are athletes as well.

Whether you’re a parent, coach, or someone who works with female athletes in some way, I know this guide can help you. I know because I’ve been there. 

It’s time to teach the female athlete in your life about nutrition in a way that works!

You can do it!

P.S. Find ALL of my programs for female athletes HERE!

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