Athletes or very active people have a busy routine, balancing training, nutrition, sleep, and other factors like work and personal life. To do all that and still excel at their sport, they need to have enough energy to sustain their bodies.
Let’s talk about energy. It is required for our body to function normally. Not taking in enough energy to support all the body’s processes results in a low energy availability1. This can be accidental, such as when you’ve not increased your calorie intake, but have increased training volume2. This may also occur in athletes who may be looking to decrease their body weight to gain an advantage in performance or aesthetics3.
Carrying on in a low energy state in athletes is known as RED-S, Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport4.
What is RED-S
RED-S came about out of the so-called “female triad,” which affects female athletes that have a low energy state. This manifests itself in the lack of energy, menstrual dysfunction and also weaker bones5. However, there is a number of males that are also affected by RED-S, and they can find themselves lacking energy, having weaker bones and having lower levels of testosterone6.
It’s key to note that undereating while leading a highly active life affects almost every aspect of wellbeing and performance, including7:
- Decreased endurance and strength;
- Lower performance and coordination;
- Higher risk of injury;
- Increased irritability or sadness;
- Changes to bone and cardiovascular health;
- Compromised immune health;
- Shifts in menstrual health, such as longer menstrual intervals or light bleeding.
RED-S is especially common in athletes that participate in sports where leanness or weight are important, whether that is for performance, aesthetics, or a weight category that the athlete will compete in8.
RED-S can have many impacts on your performance. It might make you more tired or more prone to being sick9. It can affect general health, glucose usage and even protein synthesis, which directly impact performance and energy10. That’s why it’s important to make sure that when you train, you’re getting plenty of energy needed for your body to work well.
What should I focus on to avoid it?
One of the biggest things that you can do for yourself is to remember that your performance and your success comes from health and proper nourishment. It’s important to keep your body healthy and running smoothly to excel, and risking your health isn’t going to help you in the long run. Remember that food is fuel for your performance, so make sure you’re getting all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy11.
RED-S can be reversed through increasing your food intake or decreasing the amount of exercise you do12. You can try adding products high in energy into your routine. If you’re finding it hard to increase the number of meals you have, consider using a gainer shake, which will supply your body with both protein and carbohydrate.
Maxler Special Mass is a perfect product for increasing your energy intake. It has a balance of different carbohydrate sources for optimal energy. Alongside that, it provides multiple types of protein for quick and long-term absorption, which is helpful for recovery and muscle building. Alongside that, it contains creatine and BCAAs to support sport performance and iron to support energy levels.
You can also modify your diet to support your bone health, you can increase intake of foods with a high calcium and vitamin D content. These can be animal products, like dairy, or plant products, like leafy greens. Otherwise, consider adding Maxler Calcium Citrate + D3 for an easy way to increase your calcium intake. The added vitamin D helps your body absorb and use this mineral.
It’s also important to stay conscious of your eating patterns and habits. This is especially important for athletes who might periodically have to lose weight quickly through short-term diets. If you notice a change in your eating patterns or a fluctuating weight, speak to your coaches or doctors13.
Top tips to stay fuelled during the day
If you’re looking to increase your energy levels during the day, there are a few things you can do. You can make sure you’re drinking plenty of water, sleeping enough, and de-stressing regularly14. Ensure to eat breakfast. Alongside that, you may find it useful to increase your calorie intake during the day.
Snacking is a great way to boost your energy and increase your nutrient intake. This is especially useful if you’re not typically very hungry15.
Here are some tips to make snacking work for you:
- Plan your snacks. Decide what times you might need a pick-me-up or when it’s convenient to eat one. Pre-making snacks can make it easier to stick to eating them. You can prepare these and keep them in your gym bag for ease of use.
- Choose nutrition. Snacks with protein and fibre not only keep you full but contain nutrients that are going to benefit your performance16.
- Consider adding foods with a low glycaemic index to avoid sugar spikes and the “crashes” you might experience after eating high-sugar foods17. Pairing carbohydrates with fats and protein can decrease their glycemic index.
Remember that good performance requires good nutrition. Nutrition supports good health and energy levels, helping you achieve the goals you set for yourself. There are ways to ensure you’re getting enough food and micronutrients to support your well-being. If you find yourself worried about your eating patterns or energy levels, consult with your coaches or doctors.