When you're training hard for an event like the Seattle Marathon, you need to consume enough calories to match those that you burn with exercise. If you don’t, you could be setting yourself up for trouble.
“Low energy availability is not eating enough calories to replace those burned,” says Sarah Gustafson, M.P.T., physical therapist at the UW Medicine Sports Medicine Center at Husky Stadium.
This condition—of low energy availability—is what is known as Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport or RED-S. The term was introduced to the world of sports in 2014 by the International Olympic Committee Medical Commission.
A condition that affects both men and women
Previously, the phrase “female athlete triad” described a trio of conditions that had been observed in female athletes: low energy availability (with or without an eating disorder), menstrual irregularities and decreased bone density.
“The coining of the term 'RED-S' was a way of creating a new definition relative to all athletes, and not just women,” explains Gustafson.
When an athlete’s body experiences a deficiency in available energy, it is not able to carry out its normal functions. Over extended periods of time, not only is an athlete’s performance affected, but their overall health.
Which athletes are most likely to suffer from RED-S, and why?
The athletes most likely to suffer from RED-S are those who compete in sports like distance running, ballet, gymnastics, figure skating, diving and bicycle racing.