Let’s talk about relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S), a condition formerly known as the “female athlete triad.” RED-S involves declining health and athletic performance due to food intake that does not support the energy required for training. Although more prevalent in sports that focus on aesthetics such as gymnastics and figure skating, any athlete can be at risk if they are overtraining and not fueling their body appropriately.
This is a condition that involves three related health concerns - low energy availability, menstrual dysfunction (irregular periods) and impaired bone health. This can occur due to a lack of knowledge surrounding proper nutrition as well as some athletes believing this gives them a competitive advantage.
Some signs and symptoms include:
- Weight loss
- Missed periods
- Irritability and depression
- Difficulty warming up
- Getting sick often
These systems need to be functioning properly in order to prevent injury and perform optimally. Some of the negative effects of RED-S are decreased strength, endurance and coordination, stress fractures, decreased concentration and impaired judgment.
Tackling this condition starts with screening! Coaches, trainers and physiotherapists can help to recognize the signs and symptoms in their athletes and connect them with the proper health care provider who can modify their training and nutrition to restore a healthy balance in these systems.