When Kyniska in ancient Sparta was riding her chariot at the Olympics and running to increase her fitness, she always had plenty of energy available.
Female runners (and their coaches) need to be aware of the factors of the Female Athlete Triad (which has recently been renamed Relative Energy Deficiency in Sports, or RED-S), and how each can be dealt with so that they can train and compete healthy:
1. Decreased bone density
2. Menstrual irregularities
3. Disordered eating
As the name RED-S suggests, female runners need to eat appropriately for the amount of energy they expend through training so that they don’t experience decreased bone density (osteoporosis and osteopenia) or menstrual irregularities.
Energy availability is the most significant factor in the Female Athlete Triad/RED-S.
ENERGY AVAILABILITY = Caloric intake minus caloric expenditure, divided by fat-free body mass.
Plugging in various numbers into the equation, you’ll see that for ENERGY to be available, you need to consume at least as many calories as you burn, otherwise ENERGY AVAILABILITY will be a negative number. And negative numbers are a big No-No, because that means you don’t have any energy available after you run to serve all your body’s needs (like adaptation to your training!).
Low Energy Availability Symptoms:
• Chronic fatigue
• Recurring illnesses/infections
• Decreased muscle strength
• Inability to gain or build muscle or strength
• Poor running performance
• Absent or irregular menstrual cycles
• Chronic injuries, including stress fractures or other bone injuries
• Training hard but not improving performance
• Gastrointestinal distress
• Weight loss