Hammer Nutrition Blog

Do female athletes performing at levels similar to males have the same nutrient requirements?

Running on Mount Jumbo

From Steve Born:

Our position is that a person’s vitamin/mineral needs are based more on body weight, activity level, and other factors, more so versus one’s gender. Generally speaking, there is very little, if any difference between a female athlete’s nutrient requirements and a male’s, aside from the aforementioned body weight, exercise intensity, and other variables (e.g. specific health issues that may require more nutrient support).

A couple nutrients that most-to-all women — athlete and non-athlete alike — may need (key word “may”) more than male athletes:

1) Calcium – The Optimum Daily Intake (ODI) for both men and women is between 1,000 and 1,500 mg/day, and if a woman — especially one over the age of 50 — is consuming the upper end of that recommendation, she will be meeting her daily calcium needs. The only variation in calcium needs (men vs. women) that I have noted is the National Institute of Health’s recommendation of 1,000 mg of calcium for men age 50-71 and 1,200 mg for women age 50-71.

2) Iron – Women lose iron through menstruation, thus needing more iron than men. Ditto for pregnant women. Ditto for older women, primarily because men tend to absorb iron more efficiently, and store it more thoroughly, then women. That’s why the ODI for men is within a range of 15-25 mg for men, and 18-30 mg for women. All this said, the overwhelming majority of people — both male and female — consume far more than the ODI amounts from their food. The consumption of too much iron is particularly problematic in that excess iron generates massive free radical reactions. According to one source, “Human epidemiological studies show that those with high iron levels are far more likely to contract cancer and heart disease. A growing body of evidence implicates iron in neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.”

So while iron is indeed a very important nutrient, too much of this particular mineral can present some very serious issues. This is why Premium Insurance Caps (and most other multivitamin/mineral supplements) do not contain iron, and it’s why we do not recommend that iron supplements be taken unless a blood test reveals a deficiency. More information on this topic can be found in the article “Iron – Yes or No?” 

Running on Mount Jumbo

3) When you look at the amount of nutrients in a 7-capsule dose and compare them to the Daily Value (DV) amount, you’ll see that most of them exceed this standard percentage-wise. This is because we don’t calibrate the product to the minimally needed DV amounts (or RDI/RDA amounts), but rather ODI amounts, which we believe are more appropriate. This is detailed in the article “Supplementation – A Necessity for Athletes”. In one section, entitled, “The Recommended Daily Intake: Recommended for what?,” I was given permission by Dr. Shari Lieberman and Nancy Bruning (the creators of the ODI standards), to reprint a portion of their book (which I highly recommend, BTW… great book). Here is that portion of the article…

The Recommended Daily Intake: Recommended for what?
The Reference Daily Intake standard (formerly known as the Recommended Daily Allowance, or RDA) doesn’t take into account the higher needs of endurance athletes. Dr. Misner states, “Researchers have established that athletes tend to deplete vitamins, minerals, enzymes, coenzymes, and other substrates more than sedentary people do.” It’s not just more calories that endurance athletes need; it’s the whole nutritional bag.

Moreover, conventional standards are tuned to deficiency avoidance rather than optimal health, so it’s questionable whether anyone should rely on them. In The Real Vitamin & Mineral Book: Using supplements for optimum health, 4th ed. (New York: Avery Publishing Group, 2007), Shari Lieberman, Ph.D., and Nancy Bruning devote a chapter to outlining the benefits of using a higher-dose vitamin/mineral supplementation regimen. I think the title of this particular chapter, “The RDIs – The Minimum Wages of Nutrition,” pretty much says it all. No one spells it out better than Lieberman and Bruning in their book, one that I highly recommend:

Just like the RDAs, the RDIs have three basic problems: (1) you cannot get all of the nutrients you need from today’s food; (2) the RDIs reflect amounts that are adequate to prevent nutrient-deficiency diseases, and are not tailored for individual needs; and (3) the RDIs do not address or consider optimum health or the prevention of degenerative diseases such as cancer and heart disease.”

In another chapter, “The Optimum Daily Intakes (ODIs),” they write:

In order to attain a state of optimum health and disease prevention, we must take into our bodies optimum–not minimum–amounts of vitamins and minerals. To distinguish them from the lesser amounts characteristic of the RDIs, I have called these amounts the Optimum Daily Intakes, or ODIs. The need for ODIs is based on six factors:

  • The RDIs are generally based on an amount that simply prevents overt deficiency diseases.
  • The RDIs do not take into account preventative or therapeutic levels of nutrients.
  • We cannot meet the RDIs even if we eat the “perfect” diet.
  •  Because of many factors, including the loss of nutrients through shipping, storage, and processing, the foods available to us do not contain the amounts of vitamins and minerals they should contain.
  • Owing to the constant bombardment of stress factors, from pollution to emotional stress, we require higher levels of vitamins and minerals than originally thought.
  • We do not absorb 100% of the vitamins and minerals in foods and supplements.

Are you convinced yet that you need to supplement? Remember, Dr. Lieberman has regular human welfare in mind, and not the even higher demands of endurance athletes.

4) Going back to my earlier statement: “When you look at the amount of nutrients in a 7-capsule dose and compare them to the Daily Value (DV) amount, you’ll see that most of them exceed this standard percentage-wise,” you’ll notice that the amounts of calcium and magnesium are lower than the DV recommendations. This is simply because the DV values are so high that it’s not practical (or even possible) to fit this much calcium and magnesium into a capsule that isn’t massively sized. So for these two minerals, supplementing with additional calcium and magnesium from another product is something I consider to be worthwhile.

5) Also, though 7 capsules of Premium Insurance Caps contain 500 mg of vitamin C (834% of the DV), I always supplement with more vitamin C— an additional 1,000 – 2,000 mg daily in divided doses—on a daily basis. I usually take an additional 1,000 – 2,000 mg daily in divided doses. Same thing for vitamin D. Though the amount of vitamin D in 7 capsules of Premium Insurance Caps (500 IU) is 125% of the DV, a huge body of ever-growing research suggests that much more than that is necessary for optimal health… it can be anywhere from 1,000 IU to 10,000 IU (sometimes more). The general consensus is 1,000 – 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day, though a specific blood test (Vitamin D, 25-Hydroxy) will let an individual know how much vitamin D they need to take to reach optimal vitamin D levels. Dr. Michael Holick, arguably the premier nutritional scientist on all things vitamin D-related, states: “I think you need to maintain your 25-hydroxyvitamin D level above 30 ng/mL. For my patients and for me personally, I like for it to be between 40-60 ng/mL of 25-hydroxyvitamin D to guarantee vitamin D sufficiency and its health benefits.”

Running on Mount Jumbo


While there is “no one size fits all” amount(s) in terms of nutrient requirements, in general — aside from the few nutrients mentioned earlier — male and female nutrient needs are very similar. Body weight, activity level, and specific nutrient needs addressing health issues, are the primary factors in determining how much nutrient support you require. Formulated with Optimum Daily Intake (ODI) amounts, Premium Insurance Caps covers the wide-ranging nutrient needs of both male and female athletes/active people, and much more thoroughly than multivitamin/mineral products that contain extremely low Reference Daily Intake (RDI), Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), or Daily Value (DV) amounts of nutrients.


Runners shown in this blog are Anna Zielaski, Daniel Zielaski and Cory Kaufman. Photos provided by Myke Hermsmeyer.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>