Sports: Male Athletes are Also at Risk

We traditionally think about eating disorders as being a problem for girls, but it is important to remember that boys can also develop both disordered eating and eating disorders.

Sports that put students at the highest risk for eating disorders are those that classify athletes based on weight (wrestling), those that encourage a certain body aesthetic (dance, figure skating, gymnastics) and those that involve prolonged aerobic activity (cross country, track and soccer).

It is also important to know where your student athlete is in terms of his or her pubertal growth spurt. During peak growth velocity, athletes require large amounts of calories just to grow (2000-2500 kcal per day for girls and 3000-3500 kcal per day for boys). Add into the mix the amount of calories your student athlete burns during training and competition and these kids need to eat non-stop to keep up with their metabolic needs.

Reassure your students that it is normal to gain considerable amounts of weight due to the increased height and muscle mass they build during puberty. The average girl gains 30-40 pounds during puberty, boys even more. Remind your students that at some point they stop losing “fat” and start losing “muscle” which will negatively affect their performance.

Discouraging your athletes from participating in unhealthy behaviors to “make weight” or restricting their intake to reach unhealthy weights is the most important things you can do as a coach or advisor to protect young athletes from the development of eating disorders.

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