The 5 Best Supplements for Female Athletes
While all athletes have similar dietary needs, the best collagen supplements for women can be different from men. Supplementation can definitely help take your workouts and overall athletic performance to the next level, but first, you need to know a little more about female physiology.
Biologically, women have different nutritional needs than men for several reasons.
Women experience hormonal changes throughout the entirety of their menstrual and ovulation cycles, not to mention all of the changes your body goes through during and after pregnancy.
As a female, no matter your age, fitness level, or stage of life, some supplements may help you have a better exercise experience. It’s important to understand your macro and micronutrient needs - and identify the best collagen supplements for women. This article will help you find the missing pieces of your fitness and diet routine.
Female physiology, fitness, and nutrition
Unfortunately, most health and wellness literature (and even a lot of the published studies) are based on male physiology. That can make it hard for female athletes to truly understand how nutrition, fitness, and their bodies should align.
For instance, when thinking about women’s hormone health, there are a lot of nuances to consider.
Women’s estrogen and progesterone both fluctuate consistently through the menstrual cycle, changing women’s needs pending the time of the month. Add in an active athlete’s lifestyle, and levels may fluctuate even more.
Your stage of life can also influence your dietary needs. Younger, adolescent female athletes often have a much higher demand for nutrients because of their high activity level and the fact that their body is still maturing.
Then, as you age, your body begins to produce less of certain things naturally (like collagen protein), and supplementation is recommended.
The type of activity you do can also influence your specific needs.
If you’re an endurance athlete, your body may have different requirements for proteins than a powerlifting athlete.
Nutrient consumption and requirements for female athletes
As athletes know, having the appropriate fluid balance before, during, and after a workout is essential. You sweat a lot when you exercise, and staying hydrated through the whole process helps you maintain quality performance.
In general, female athletes require more water, potassium, sodium, and other vitamins, than women of lower activity levels. Although most of those nutrients are easy to get through a well-balanced diet, female athletes should especially pay close attention to their water and iron consumption.
When looking at men vs. women and their varying physiological needs, women often require fewer calories and carbohydrates than men, but higher levels of certain vitamins and minerals.
The latter is why it’s fairly common to have nutrient deficiencies in even the most fit female athletes.
Other vitamins and nutrients can be harder for females specifically to get through diet, though. And some popular supplements or proteins may have ingredients that some women are unsure they should consume or not.
One example is the concern surrounding soy-based products and how women’s bodies process them.
Female athletes and soy consumption
There has been controversy around the health benefits of soy for some time. With so many health experts and studies on both sides of the argument, it is hard to know what to believe.
Soy is often recommended, especially to women, with specific claims like being able to help manage hot flashes or even prevent osteoporosis and hormonal cancers.
But soy has also been said to increase your risk of things like breast cancer, dementia, and even thyroid problems.
So, what should women believe about soy?
We know that soy is a part of the legume family, and nutritional scientists have proven that legumes have significant health benefits. As with any food, even the healthiest options can have adverse effects in certain situations and serving amounts.
The main reason soy can get a bad reputation is that it contains high concentrations of isoflavones. These isoflavones have a similar function to human estrogen, but with weaker effects. It is believed that these soy isoflavones can bind to estrogen receptors, either causing anti-estrogen or weak estrogen activity.
Things like the type of soy, existing hormone levels, and more impact the accuracy of information regarding soy.
When looking specifically at female athletes, it’s important to note that your body metabolizes soy differently due to existing hormone levels.
The type and concentration of soy studied also matters. How we process whole forms of soy, processed forms, or fermented forms is all slightly different. All of these influences that can change the accuracy of the study outcome make it impossible to make a blanket statement regarding the impacts of soy on your body.
Fortunately, many studies found that adverse effects are only likely to occur when consuming high concentrations of soy products. So, eating it a few times a week seems safe and even beneficial, as it is a complete protein containing other nutrients like fiber, potassium, magnesium, B vitamins, and amino acids.
When it comes to daily supplements and proteins, though, we recommend that our female athletes seek out options that do not contain soy. And, fortunately, the best collagen supplements for women are 100% soy-free.
Common deficiencies in female athletes
The unique energy and nutrition requirements female athletes have can make it hard to rely solely on diet.
To ensure proper recovery and injury prevention, adding supplements to your diet as an athlete may be beneficial. Many of the best daily supplements will help you avoid deficiencies like:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B
Some of these deficiencies can also be brought on by regular exercise when the energy and nutrients from the foods consumed do not match the athlete’s energy expenditure.
Certain deficiencies like vitamin D and calcium also go hand in hand. These are exceptionally dangerous for athletes as they can increase the risk of bone fractures and early onset of osteoporosis.
Knowing what your body needs is the first step toward finding the best supplements. Working with a physician to help identify possible deficiencies is an excellent place to start, and from there, you can work with a nutritional expert to determine the next steps.
The 5 best supplements for female athletes
If you suspect or even know that you may have a deficiency, several supplements can help you meet your dietary needs. Before investing in any supplements - even the best collagen supplements for women - it’s important to know how to read nutrition labels vs. supplement labels.
The following supplements are primarily based on common deficiencies seen in female athletes.
Women, in general, are known to have iron deficiencies, not just women athletes. However, an iron deficiency can become hard for an athlete to manage, which is why it should be addressed immediately.
Iron deficiencies can cause something called anemia. Anemia happens when a decreased level of hemoglobin is present in your red blood cells. That hemoglobin is essential in those blood cells as they carry oxygen to your tissues.
The most common cause of anemia remains iron deficiency. Your body needs iron to make hemoglobin, and when there isn’t enough iron in your blood, the rest of your body suffers because it isn’t receiving enough oxygen.
Women experiencing heavy menstruation or pregnancy are even more prone to iron deficiency. However, other factors like an unbalanced diet and some intestinal diseases can also influence this.
Many female athletes rely on iron supplements to ensure they get enough in their diet. You can get iron in many food sources as well, including:
- Organ meats
- Some nuts and seeds
2. Vitamin D and Calcium
The reason that vitamin D and calcium are grouped is because they are directly linked. If you have a vitamin D deficiency, your body will struggle to absorb calcium, often causing a calcium deficiency.
As you may know, calcium is an essential mineral for our body to have, and a calcium deficiency may lead to things like bone fractures and osteoporosis.
Although many foods contain or are fortified with both calcium and vitamin D, supplementation may be helpful for some women. Vitamin D supplementation is especially encouraged when on a plant-based diet or if you live in northern climates that have limited sunlight during the winter months.
Beyond its link to calcium, a deficiency in vitamin D can have other effects such as mood changes, muscle cramps, joint pain, and general fatigue. Many mental health professionals will also advise using vitamin D supplements for people who experience seasonal affective disorder.
You may remember your doctor recommending zinc to ward off a cold and to help boost immune system function. Zinc plays an important role in immune system health, but it also has many other jobs within your body.
Zinc is involved in your metabolism function, cell growth, digestion, DNA synthesis, protein production, and nerve function, among many other processes.
Having a legitimate zinc deficiency is rare. However, it is not impossible. It is mainly seen in people with underlying conditions that impact their immune system. It is also sometimes seen in an unbalanced plant-based diet or in women that are pregnant or breastfeeding.
So, most of the time, zinc won’t necessarily need to be a daily supplement, but it can be integrated into your diet, as needed. If it is in a multivitamin, it can likely be taken daily with consultation from your doctor. If you suspect you may be getting a cold, need to supplement your diet, or are at a stage in life like pregnancy, zinc supplementation may be beneficial.
A very low percentile of women has a magnesium deficiency, but a much higher percentage doesn’t meet their daily intake.
Women athletes can especially benefit from magnesium supplementation because it’s known to prevent muscle cramps, twitches, and pain. The correlation between muscle cramping and fatigue is often associated with a lack of potassium in muscle cells. A lack of magnesium is what is thought to cause this.
It has also been linked to a decrease in physical and mental fatigue.
If supplementation doesn’t feel like the right route for you, you can still get magnesium in your diet. Some good sources of magnesium include:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Chia seeds
- Dark chocolate
5. Collagen protein
The last supplement on the list is protein. Not just any protein, but the best collagen protein for women. Not all protein is created equal, and popular proteins like whey protein may cause an upset stomach, among other things.
Adding some protein to your diet as an athlete is not a new idea. It is no secret that female athletes need enough protein in their diets to reach their fitness goals, like building muscle or prolonging their energy during a run.
There are many collagen benefits for women athletes - far beyond the commonly talked about skin and hair benefits:
- Collagen may improve lean muscle growth
- Collagen may help with weight maintenance
- Collagen may improve muscle recovery and decrease post-workout soreness
- Collagen may help reduce injuries in tendons, joints, and bones
- Collagen may support post-menopause bone support
- Collagen may counter low estrogen production
- Collagen may improve gut health
Now, any collagen supplement on the market can make these claims. However, as an athlete, you need the best collagen supplement for women.
You need one that absorbs quickly and is easy to digest. FrogFuel offers nano-hydrolyzed liquid collagen protein that is readily bioavailable and fortified to be a complete protein, ensuring you the best absorption rate and pure nutrients.
Now, it is true that collagen is not vegan, but the good news is that there are other protein options available if you are a plant-based athlete. Just know that if you see vegan collagen on the market, it is a collagen-boosting supplement, not collagen itself.