Losing weight fast has always been a concern for athletes who feel they must lose weight in order to boost their sporting performance. The National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) has identified problems with some of the fast weight loss methods employed by athletes and has issued warnings that drastic methods of losing weight including severely limiting caloric intake and causing intentional dehydration are not only unhealthy, they can actually be quite dangerous. In response, the NATA has issued a new set of guidelines to help athletes lose weight more safely.
The new NATA guidelines use body composition assessments to measure lean body mass versus the amount of fat a person carries. The NATA recommends that athletes should not lose more than 1.5% of their body weight in any single week while eating a diet that includes a balance of all food groups. The new guidelines also stress the advantages of losing weight while under the supervision of nutrition, health and weight management experts to prevent any undesirable side effects.
The authors of the NATA guidelines said they believe the pressure to lose weight is a factor in many different sports and many athletes mistakenly believe that losing weight will mean an instant boost in performance. Another problem is the fact that many traditional sports have mandatory weight requirements in place and when athletes do not meet a specific target weight, they will not be able to compete. The rush to lose weight has lead athletes like wrestlers, jockeys and boxers to intentionally dehydrate themselves by exercising in heavy clothing or restricting their diet and fluid intake to lose weight as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, when athletes go to extremes is when things go wrong and forced rapid weight loss can actually degrade performance over the short term because the body simply does not have enough energy to perform at its peak. Prolonged caloric restrictions can also impact the endocrine system and slow the proper growth and functioning of muscles and bones. An extremely unbalanced diet can also impair proper thyroid function, which can lower the metabolism, reduce hormone production and eventually suppress the entire immune system. The NATA recommends that all athletes should maintain balanced diets even when they are attempting to lose weight. It is possible to lose weight safely and effectively and still give the body the food it needs to maintain proper nutrition. Extreme weight loss methods are more likely to impair an athlete’s stamina and performance instead of delivering any sort of performance boost.