Weight Gains In Gymnasts

Gaining Weight

Carol sent us a question asking what she should do because her 11 year old daughter has gained 10 pounds over the last month and she is worried about her ‘health.’

This is a very common question and one that some parents are nervous to ask about.

Weight gain is a big concern with gymnasts for both performance concerns and aesthetic concern. The over emphasis on aesthetics can lead to eating disorders and other unhealthy food relationship issues. Because of this, we have to be very careful about what we say to our gymnasts.

My first question to coaches and parents is this: “How has her performance been over the last month.” This is an important concept for your gymnast to think about. If performance is diminishing, there might be a real reason why:

  • Injury
  • Puberty
  • Growth
  • Stress
  • Abuse
  • Change in eating habits

When we got into this type of history with Carol, she said her daughter had been with her extended family and had been eating food that she doesn’t normally eat, including fast food.

Her daughter’s coach felt her performance was suboptimal to the point of potential injury.

Giving Good Advice

Our advice for this is simple: Get Back to The Basics.

Because She’s Worth It: A Nutritional Guide for Parents with Daughters is all about the basics. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book:

When a girl eats the right food, at the right time, amazing things happen.

The Gymnast Care Road Map to Success is our guide to eating at the right time. We get into the Road Map heavily in “Because She’s Worth It” and we think it’s worth the read. Here is another post on the Road Map as well.

This is the advice that we gave to Carol’s daughter and of course, amazing things happened. Her coach felt better about her practice and she actually lost 6 pounds in the first week. This of course was not the goal, but eating the wrong foods can cause a water type retention giving a false appearance of serious weight gain, especially when eating unhealthy carbohydrates and high salt content.

Don’t Weigh Your Daughter

With all of this being said, don’t weigh your daughter. There’s no need and it can be damaging psychologically.

If Carol and her daughter would have looked at performance as the issue, the scale wouldn’t have been involved, and they would not have been concerned about the 10 pound weight gain. She would have been tracking performance which would have shown some serious issues, and then with the Road Map basics, she would have returned back to optimal performance. Her tracking log, (as seen in Because She’s Worth It) and her coaches insight, would have shown the improvement.

Growth Cycles

There are times in growth cycles where children will put on weight or appear to put on weight just prior to a growth spurt and there is nothing at all wrong with this. It’s actually very healthy. What’s unhealthy is trying to diet to remove the weight. If you’re eating from the Road Map and you’re eating quality food, the body will react the way it is supposed to. Keep looking at performance.

One of the most important things we can do is be encouraging and concentrate on performance. Never mention body image!

Dad’s, be encouraging and don’t mention anything about your gymnast eating seconds or thirds of the right foods. Encourage them to eat for performance and their bodies will be exactly how they were intended to be.

Wrap It Up, Leave A Comment

Hope this helps. If you have a question about weight or performance, leave a comment below.

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Dr. Joshua Eldridge

About Dr. Joshua Eldridge

Dr. Joshua Eldridge has specialized in protecting gymnasts from injury. He is the inventor of The X Brace, and has developed a treatment protocol for Sever's disease and heel pain that has helped thousands of gymnasts throughout the world. Dr. Eldridge brings practical, easy injury care and prevention that can be done at home.