Finally a weight loss study has been conducted, which proves that significant weight loss in females do not yield dangerous consequences. There have been multiple questions raised around the consequences and effects of weight loss for female fitness competitors. During the training period before a competition, female fitness athletes will live on very restricted calorie diets, where food groups are completely removed. High levels of protein are added to the diet and athletes are expected to eat a set amount of calories .This is all in addition to a vigorous training regime that can last for hours each day. Prior to a competition competitors work hard to lose body fat and increase mass muscle over a relative short period of time.
It does not come as a surprise that questions have been raised with regard to the consequences to the female body. After all the process that professional female athletes undergo is extremely intense. Females who are not competitors don’t put their body through this type of intensity under so much pressure to perform and win. The media and tabloids have made all sorts of allegations and claims about the disastrous potential effects of this lifestyle. It is automatically assumed that there are all sorts of prospective health risks.
There has been a lack of longitudinal studies, on the type of dieting which female competitors engage in, especially before a competition. The considerable lack of studies has contributed to even more doubt and suspicion being raised as nothing has been scientifically proved. However Researchers from the University of Jyväskylä have done something to change this very dilemma. These researchers have successfully published their very first study that proves beyond reasonable doubt with the use of scientific research, that the effects of significant weight loss over a relatively short period of time in a controlled study of normal weight females had no disastrous consequences.
The study consisted of 27 females who are professional fitness athletes who dieted as usual for their competition. However what makes this so fascinating is that another group of females was used. These 23 females who acted as the control group, who were non competitors. They were in fact average people, who had never taken part in any competitions in the fitness world. The discovery from these two groups of women, were extremely telling. It was was noted that the hormonal changes which took place, after excessive dieting, can actually be reversed very simply within a 4 month period. Of course this requires eating in a semi “normal” fashion again, with decreased levels of physical activity. The strict training and exercising regime is eliminated and only normal amounts of moderate exercise takes place, with a far lesser intensity.
The researchers from the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä have made significant claims that under set conditions, excessive weight loss can be achieved in a safe way. However in order to achieve normal physiological functions, after the weight loss occurs, normal eating should follow, with no restrictions. According to Academy of Finland Research Fellow, PhD Juha Hulmi, “Therefore, the diets and, thus, competitions should not happen too frequently,”
From a biological and scientific point of view, results were achieved fairly simply by increasing aerobic exercise and resistance training, in conjunction with a reduction in carbohydrates. Obviously food group control was extremely strict. More protein was added in to the diet every single day. Once again the results which were discovered were very interesting. It was found that that there was a 30 to 35 percent amount of fat loss on average. However muscle mass was impressively maintained or decreased only very slightly. Menstrual irregularities took place due to the hormonal system. The biggest changes which occurred, which could be observed was most definitely on a physiological level in terms of hormones. This is where everything could be properly observed and documented.
The fascinating part is that even though significant hormonal changes took place such as decreased levels of leptin, triiodothyronine (T3), testosterone, and estradiol, the effects were reversed and hormonal changes reverted back to almost normal with only a slight decrease only four months later. In order to achieve this result normal eating took place, with no restricted calories and decreased levels of physical activity. This means that within controlled parameters under certain conditions, the hormonal and physiological changes which take place in the body of a female fitness athlete can be significantly reversed.
The competitors impressively kept their muscle mass, although there was a significant decrease in fat mass. This is because of the intensive resistance training, in conjunction with high protein intakes, which has been shown to prevent muscle loss during the dieting period. MSc student Ville Isola and the research project leader, Professor Keijo Hkkinen explains this concept very clearly. Juha Hulmi clearly states that the recovery period for gaining muscle and developing strength is very important. The body needs to recover from the stress put on it and calorie intake needs to be returned to normal. This is a very important part of the process that needs to happen, if the body is to return to “normal”.
This interesting and well proven study will be used again in the future to go into more depth with regard to health and Psychology. Additional studies need to be conducted to further understand the full psychological and physiological effects. It needs to be said that it is possible that high fat loss and participation in the competitive fitness industry can increase health risks.
This study makes a huge contribution to the topic. However the important aspect to take into account is that when female fitness professionals train for a competition they are doing so under very controlled conditions. An average female who does not train and compete, should never reduce calorie intake without full supervision and medical intervention.
The results of this study are proven with set parameters and this is very important to know. The diets and vigorous exercise regimes which are undertaken by female fitness competitors are usually done so with the aid of an experienced trainer, who has experience in this regard. Calories are restricted and diets are tampered with in order to achieve the desired results.
Future studies with regard to the psychological changes and further physiological changes in female athletes should be very fascinating. Only the future will tell what these results will be. Significant credit is definitely due to the university and participants involved in this study, which has clearly made a huge contribution in terms of our knowledge in this regard.