Defining Female Athlete Triad

Sports and exercise have become a routine practice among both sexes. Exercise is necessary for a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle, which is a primary goal for most people. However, in every field, there is an excess, which leads to overtraining among athletes.

Overtraining is defined as an imbalance between exercise and rest, occurring when athletes are subjected to an intensive training load without adequate rest and recovery. In addition to the physical effects, the overtraining syndrome manifests in simultaneous negative changes in the athlete’s psychosocial environment. Hence, repeated physical exercises stimulate the metabolism and improve physical performance; yet long-lasting exercises may result in overtraining, with decreased performance and disturbances in organ functions. Athletes are suffering from overtraining typically display irritation, carelessness, sleep disturbance, and frequent infections.

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Overtraining is an imbalance between exercise and rest in athletes that have intense programs. Even more severe is the Female Athlete Triad, which is a mixture of overtraining and under eating.

Female Athlete Triad is a damaging combination of overtraining and under eating. It is common knowledge that exercise offers many benefits such as increased strength and endurance of skeletal muscles and the cardiovascular system. Exercise has also been shown to improve self-esteem, self-confidence, self-discipline, and to build character. However, too much exercise can easily turn into overtraining, which will diminish the benefits and cause serious life-long ailments such as osteoporosis, arthritis, and autoimmune diseases. For women, a group of disorders may materialize that are collectively known as the Female Athlete Triad.



The Female Athlete Triad is a combination of severe athlete overtraining characterized by a compulsive need to exercise and shocking under eating. The female athlete is using up a lot of energy in training but refuses to eat accordingly, mainly due to other psychological aspects. Some of the signs, symptoms, and causes are as follows;

  • Symptoms
  1. disordered eating.
  2. Osteoporosis (loss of bone strength)
  3. Amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycle).

Men can also suffer from similar disorders with the exception of the latter.

  • The Cause

These problems are caused by a strong desire to conform to standards of either appearance or performance, often unrealistic. This may cause the person to become obsessive/compulsive about exercise (in any form) or eat in an unhealthy manner (eating far too few calories and/or purging).

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  • Signs

Signs of overtraining, and FAT, will be exhibited in varying degrees depending on the extremity at which the person trains. Some of the most obvious signs are stress fractures and other overuse injuries. Less obvious signs include: Simple fatigue, prolonged weakness, chronic soreness, loss of body weight, insomnia, anorexia, depression, disordered eating, flu-like symptoms, frequent minor infections, under performance, excessive fatigue, amenorrhea, osteoporosis, or obsessive/compulsive behavior with exercise.

The athlete suffering from FAT will notice reduced body weight, anorexia, depressions, and flue like symptoms. The over-eating means that the female athlete does not have enough nutrients to use in the production of hormones meaning that they will miss their periods often. The lack of estrogen in the body will cause problems such as osteoporosis as the hormone is responsible for calcium deposition in bones.

Some athletes see amenorrhea (the absence of menstrual periods) as a sign of successful training. Others see it as a great answer to a monthly inconvenience. Also, some young women accept it blindly, not stopping to think of the consequences. However, missing your menstrual periods is often a sign of decreased estrogen levels. In addition, lower levels can lead to osteoporosis, a disease in which your bones become brittle and more likely to break.

Usually, bones become brittle and break when women are much older, but some young women, especially those who exercise so much that their periods stop, develop brittle bones, and may start to have fractures at a very early age. Some 20-year-old female athletes have been said to have the bones of an 80-year-old woman. Even if bones do not break when you are young, low estrogen levels during the peak years of bone building, the preteen and teen years, can affect bone density for the rest of your life. And studies show that bone growth lost during these years may not ever be regained.

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