Are you Running on Empty?
Updated: Sep 20, 2021
Are you getting enough nutrition to fill your tank? Nutrition deficiencies are stereotypically thought of as affecting young skinny female runners. You may have even heard the term "female athlete triad syndrome" which described female athletes who have disordered eating, loss of their period, and bone density loss (stress fractures).
It is very important that you know that nutritional deficiency can affect anyone! Male or female. Young or old. Novice or elite. If you do not take in as many calories as you burn, you are at risk.
This does not mean you have to have disordered eating. You might just be simply unaware that you are not taking in as many calories as you need or not getting the balance of nutrients that you need (protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals). This is why medical professionals, nutritionists, and mental health counselors are now using the term RED-S. RED-S stands for "relative energy deficiency in sport." It does not limit the condition to the more severe cases of female athlete triad. We no longer have to wait until you're depleted enough to have stress fractures and loss of period (or depleted testosterone for males) to raise the alarm about nutritional deficiencies.
As always, we'd like to remind you that the gains happen during the recovery (sleep, nutrition, slow/rest days) NOT during the workout!
Our colleague Rebecca McConville, RD, LD, CSSD, CEDRD (beccamcconville.com) put together this great infographic and gave us permission to share it.
In summary, if your energy demands are not met, you are compromising your health. Some of the side effects of RED-S include anxiety, gut health issues, hormonal dysfunction, bone density loss, and fatigue. From a performance standpoint, you are more likely to be injured, which will threaten your ability to participate at all. If you are able to participate, you are likely to have a decrease in endurance and/or power and strength.
Please reach out if you are concerned about your nutrition, health, or performance. We would love to help you find the resources you need to get on the right track.