Causes of low energy in athletes? You need to know about RED-S

Energy is the currency by which athletes spend, save and take in fuel for optimal performance. It is key to know what your body needs to spend, needs to take in and how much to save. This is all needed to improve day to day with your training. Ultimately leaving you game day ready when the time comes.

Body’s Needs not wants

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First and foremost is the currency that your body has to have to spend on:

  • digestion
  • blood pumping through the body
  • learning
  • memory
  • hormone production
  • immune system
  • many more functions

Do you want science or “guesstimations”?

As great as science is we still are using “guesses” to know how much an athlete need’s calorically to meet their energy needs. What happens when you miss the mark in guessing how much energy you need?  You may end up with a lack of energy for day to day functioning especially in sport. This is where the terms RED-S came from which stands for relative energy deficit in sport. Previously this phenomenon was termed the female athlete triad which focused more on the intersection of weight loss, amenorrhea (loss of period) and stress fractures.

The hallmark article that explained and coined the term RED-S is the International Olympic Committee  consensus statement . This paper replaced the previous guideline on how to assess risk, treatment guideline and when to return to play. It expanded to include males as well as other functioning that is impaired by a lack of energy.  You can see by the images within the blog the more holistic look of the athlete not only physically but finally psychologically as well.

In time with more research and athlete case studies it is understood that it is not only chronic (season long) energy deficiency but also acutely (daily) that impacts the athlete. At this point they moved to the term RED-S to make the energy imbalance the focus.

Find a Professional

It is important to work with a trained specialist that can help sort out if any psychological stressors either preceding or resulted from the energy imbalance. You can find a dietitian that specializes in sports by looking for the credential CSSD (certified sports specialist dietitian) as well as a sports psychologist at the Associate of Applied Sport Psychology.

Podcast episodes discussing RED-S

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Listen to this podcast interviewing Renee McGregor sports dietitian and founder of #trainbrave . Click here to learn more about – #Trainbrave is a campaign  that aims to inspire more athletes to share their stories and raise awareness of the risks of eating disorders and RED-s.

Dr. Kate Ackerman from The Female Athlete Clinic in Boston and a lead investigator in the IOC consensus statement. Click here to listen.

  The next few blogs will discuss what happens as the body’s energy balance is disrupted.