There comes a point when most female athletes want to drop a few pounds. Whether your goal is a faster 5K, you need to cut weight for a competitive weight class or you just want to look better in your uniform, there's nothing wrong with shedding a little fat -- as long as you don't lose your head and fall into unhealthy diet and exercise traps that will sabotage your athletic performance. A few simple tricks will go a long way in helping you hit your target weight.
Track Your Calories
According to the National Athletic Trainers Association, your weekly weight loss should not exceed 1.5 percent of your total body weight. To stay within this healthy guideline, develop a daily calorie deficit based on your weekly goal. Each 3,500 calorie deficit will result in a 1-pound weight loss. For example, a 130-pound woman could safely lose 2 pounds in a week. To do this, she'd need to create a daily deficit of 1,000 calories between diet and exercise. To monitor your deficit, write down what you eat in a food journal and be honest. If you slip up and pig out, don't beat yourself up. Guilt won't get you anywhere, but writing it down will help keep you accountable in the future. Just make note of it and get back on track.
Drink More Water
Increasing your water intake will help you shed weight in a few ways. First, it will create a feeling of fullness when a calorie deficit has your stomach rumbling. Plenty of water will also keep you adequately hydrated, which will encourage your body to let go of any excess water you may be retaining. Finally, replacing high calorie drinks such as juices and sodas with water is a simple way to cut calories.
Eat Enough Fat
Female athletes have different nutritional needs from the general population, and a common problem that many face is not eating enough fat. Fat phobias are common among those trying to lose weight because eating fat is often equated with being fat. This is a huge misconception. Good, unsaturated fats from sources such as almonds, avocados and salmon are essential for healthy body function, absorption of fat soluble vitamins and efficient recovery. Just remember that fats are a rich source of calories, so a little goes a long way.
Pump Up Your Protein
Adding more lean protein to your diet will keep you feeling satisfied and preserve lean muscle mass. The modern diet tends to be laden with nutritionally void, high-glycemic processed carbohydrates. Replacing these insulin-spiking macronutrients with lean proteins and low-glycemic, nutritional carbs like vegetables will help you lean out.
Consult your doctor before beginning a new diet or exercise program. Make sure that you don't take your calories too low, as this will cause a drop in your metabolism and make weight loss more difficult. As a general rule, it's not recommended to drop under 1,200 calories per day, but your needs will vary based on your body and activity level.
Jessica Bell has been working in the health and fitness industry since 2002. She has served as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. Bell holds an M.A. in communications and a B.A. in English.