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Relative Energy Deficiency In Sport

What is Relative Energy Deficiency?

Relative Energy Deficiency is when the body is not taking in energy to meet the demands placed on it by the amount of exercise being performed. This leads to insufficient energy to maintain optimal health, with a wide range of body functions being affected.

In simple terms, REDs occurs when Energy Expenditure > Energy Intake = Decreased Energy Availability.

REDs was formerly known as Female Athletic Triad which described three interrelated conditions: disordered eating, irregular menstruation and bone loss. The International Olympic Committee updated to the term of Relative Energy Deficiency to include male athletes and cover the broader consequences of low energy availability on an athlete’s health and performance.

How does Relative Energy Deficiency affect sports performance?

Relative Energy Deficiency can have a big impact on sports performance as it impacts overall function.

These effects include:

  • Decreased endurance and stamina
  • Impaired strength and power
  • Increased risk of injury
  • Disruptions to the menstrual cycle

Who is at risk of REDs?

Sports that tie athletic success to a thin body can increase an athlete’s risk of RED-S. Sports such as figure skating, gymnastics, and diving, for instance, often emphasize ultra-slim body types that are unrealistic for many athletes. Sports with frequent weigh-ins, such as lightweight rowing and wrestling, increase the risk that athletes will severely cut back on calories to make weight. Endurance athletes, such as marathoners and cyclists, also experience RED-S at high rates.

How to prevent REDs?

Preventing and addressing RED-S requires a multifaceted approach that prioritises adequate nutrition, rest, and monitoring of energy balance. Here are some key strategies:

  • Regular Monitoring: Keep track of your energy intake, expenditure, and overall well-being to identify any signs of energy deficiency early on. Make sure to develop a balanced meal plan that meets your energy needs.
  • Rest and Recovery: Incorporate sufficient rest and recovery into your training regimen to allow your body to repair, rebuild, and adapt to the demands of exercise.
  • Education and Awareness: Increase awareness among athletes, coaches, and healthcare professionals about the risks and consequences of RED-S to facilitate early detection and intervention.
Sophie O'Flaherty

Sophie completed a Bachelor of Physiotherapy at the University College of Dublin and relocated to Sydney from Dublin in 2023. She uses a combination of manual therapy and exercise-based rehabilitation to get the optimal results for her patients, while encouraging them to take an active role in their recovery. Sophie is committed to staying up-to-date with the latest advancements in the field of physiotherapy and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to every treatment session. Sophie has an interest in Women’s Health, including pregnancy and pelvic floor dysfunction and has recently completed further study in this area. Sophie has completed clinical Pilates training and uses these skills and exercise-based techniques in both group classes and one to one rehabilitation.

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