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Women Athletes and Energy Balance

By USA Hockey, 09/25/18, 7:15AM MDT

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The Importance of Nutrition for Female Athletes

Are you in energy balance? And what does that term actually mean? If you are an athlete, or a coach or parent of an athlete, then the importance of energy balance can’t be overemphasized. But energy balance is not always easy to achieve, particularly if you’re an adolescent female athlete whose body is in a state of rapid change.

This article from the Mayo Clinic will help the reader understand the importance of maintaining good nutrition in order to achieve energy balance, as well as the pitfalls of not doing so. This article, the first in a series that will address the health issues faced by adolescent female athletes, discusses the reasons good nutrition is important to achieve, but can be difficult to do so. Subsequent articles will provide a roadmap for maintaining good health while engaging in regular strenuous activity.

The Importance of Nutrition for Female Athletes

It seems simple enough. The body burns energy through daily living and exercise, and food and drinks replace that energy. When the amount of energy expended in a day roughly equals the amount taken in, it's called energy balance.

It sounds simple, but the bodies and lives of adolescents — particularly females — are often in a state of rapid and unpredictable change. Add to this a variety of factors that can make energy balance and good nutrition difficult to achieve. These include:

Increased nutritional needs that go unaccounted for. As young girls grow, they need more calories to maintain energy balance simply because their body mass is increasing. In addition, if girls play sports, an uptick in the amount of exercise at practice may not be accounted for nutritionally. The longer and harder young athletes exercise, the more calories that are burned, but young athletes don't always eat more to compensate for the added activity. With bodies and activities in constant flux, nutritional habits that were once adequate might no longer be.

A lack of knowledge or misinformation on nutrition. Teens can excel at calculus or history — or even health class. Still, many adolescents and young adults struggle to pull knowledge and action together into a consistent, practical approach to optimal nutrition. Parents also can lack specific nutrition knowledge, or their advice and planning goes unheeded. Young athletes often have less ability to separate valid sources of dietary advice from speculative or outright wrong information. Moreover, well-meaning teens might follow the nutritional practices of overweight, inactive friends or family members — but those practices don't work well for a growing, active teen.

Difficulty planning ahead for food needs. Practice ends and it's off to the evening football game and a hot dog from the concession stand for dinner, or even worse, nothing at all. School lunch isn't appealing and goes untouched. The ability to plan ahead for nutritional needs in a hectic day is tough for anyone, and not surprisingly, teens also struggle with this important habit.

Dietary restrictions, such as being vegetarian. Young athletes might choose to go vegetarian, restrict carbs, or follow other dietary restraints or restrictions. However, they might not have a plan for making up crucial lost nutrients, such as protein, iron, calcium or vitamin B-12. These restrictions can make it difficult to take in enough calories and essential nutrients, especially with the increased energy demands of participating in sports.

Perceived or real pressure to be lean or thin. Distorted thinking about body size or image — and how diet and exercise plays into this — can lead to serious nutritional deficits. While clinical eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, are serious issues in female sports and athletics, the most common nutritional issue is consuming too few calories to support optimal health and performance. Adolescents and young people simply might not eat enough, or they might have other dietary beliefs or behaviors that limit their ability to achieve energy balance. Examples include disguising dieting through vegetarianism, using diet pills or exercising compulsively to achieve a very low weight.

Inadequate nutritional intake and disordered eating habits aren't always obvious. They can occur in adolescents and young adults of any weight, shape or size.

Knowledge is the best defense

One of the best ways to make sure energy and nutritional intakes stay at healthy levels is by getting educated. Girls can benefit from help and input from parents, coaches, or a registered dietitian, sports nutritionist or other health care professional. Along with learning the basics of a healthy diet and energy balance, young female athletes need to know these key facts:

Prolonged, inadequate calorie intake — whether purposeful or not — is a threat to health and to optimal sports performance.

Nutritional needs are likely to increase and change with growth in body size and increased activity.

Good nutrition generally involves planning and effort.

A focus on healthy eating is preferable to diets that emphasize weight, body image or short-term performance gains.

To learn more about Thorne Nutritional products and our partnership please click here.

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COVID-19 and the 2020-21 Season

By Matt Leaf 04/02/2020, 11:30am MDT

Even with almost 50 years of involvement in hockey, you can’t plan for the current state of the world and the impact coronavirus has had on our game. I think it is safe to say that nothing prepares you for the changes that have taken place in our daily lives and the uncertainty of when things might return to normal. Or in this case, what will become the new “normal.”

Our expertise is hockey, so what we’ll address in this piece: the impact of the global pandemic on our game and how likely it will affect our game in the immediate future. 

USA Hockey continues to post information on COVID-19 on the main website. These updates keep our membership informed of specific programs and the changing safety recommendations that will be in place when hockey returns. Be sure to check back regularly for updates and other hockey information.

On the officiating front, much of what we are able to do from a program standpoint is connected to player events like national tournaments and player development camps. As you know, the national tournaments (along with the March, April and May IIHF World Championship events) were cancelled. The Officiating Program then canceled our two instructor training programs that were planned for late April and early May in Lake Placid, N.Y., and Colorado Springs, Colo. 

At this time, details for any potential summer development camps are still being determined. On the player side, several camps we are connected to were cancelled, and the few camps that are still in planning have been dramatically downsized. The Officiating Program continues to monitor the decisions made for players and will take advantage of any opportunity we have to salvage our summer camp program and maximize participation.

The good news is, we are confident we will have a 2020-21 season. All indications show no reason to delay registration. It will open as scheduled on or around May 26, followed by the open book exams and online seminar curriculum on June 1. 

SafeSport Training (required for anyone born in the year 2003 or earlier) and background screening (learn about the new national level screening program in the Q & A section) will also be available to complete at that time. If COVID-19 still has things slowed down in early June, it would be an ideal time to get these requirements completed.

The biggest unknown will be the timing in which we will be able to conduct seminars. The vast majority of rinks are currently closed, and many of them took this opportunity to remove ice to save operating costs and do maintenance. There is now doubt they will be prepared to quickly ramp up once they are allowed to do so, but as with most everything right now, the timing is uncertain. As a result, some of the earlier seminars may be pushed back a few weeks. The District Referees-in-Chief will secure ice times and facilities so we can provide seminar dates and locations as quickly as possible. We are also encouraging our instructors to think outside the box by providing some weeknight seminar options, and to look at other ways to best meet the needs of our members.

The Advanced Officiating Symposium, scheduled for Providence, R.I. in late July, is still going to plan. We will continue to monitor the situation, including local restrictions and travel advisories in the coming weeks, and we will announce any changes in advance to allow for alterations to travel arrangements. Click here for up-to-date information or to reserve your seat at the 2020 Advanced Officiating Symposium.

These are difficult times for everyone, and although our hockey family is important to us, it is a small fraction of the big picture that is impacting our daily lives. To quote Andy Dufresne in his letter for Red that he left under the big oak tree in The Shawshank Redemption: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

We hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. We hope the coronavirus is conquered with minimal loss of lives and a return to a prosperous normal as soon as possible. We hope your passion for the game of hockey will only grow as a result of its absence. We hope we are back on the ice in the coming months and that the 2020-21 season will be our best yet.

Thank you for your continued support of USA Hockey and don’t hesitate to contact us if there is anything we can do to make your hockey experience a better one. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and be prepared to be back on the ice soon.