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Understanding the ravages of undernutrition and RED-S on sports performance

Beyond the limit: understanding the ravages of undernutrition and RED-S on sports performance

RED-S (Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport) syndrome is a medical condition caused by insufficient energy intake relative to the high energy expenditure associated with intense physical activity. It goes beyond simple undernutrition, affecting various systems of the body, including metabolism, hormonal system, bones, muscles and immune function. Rapid detection and treatment of RED-S is crucial to prevent potentially serious complications in athletes. Previously, we found in the scientific literature the name “athlete triad” which brought together the triptych of intensive sporting activity, amenorrhea (absence of periods for more than 3 months) and insufficient diet in relation to expenses. This syndrome is no longer just limited to women, men are also affected, particularly in endurance sports.

1) Understanding undernutrition and RED-S: sneaky threats

For a long time in sport, thinness was associated with a state of health. In weight category sports you sometimes have to lose weight and deprive yourself to reach the lower category to compete in another category. In endurance sports, such as cycling, athletics, triathlon etc., weight plays a crucial role since it correlates to power per kilogram. However, the lack of strength is much more problematic than the actual weight, as we will see below.

We also often extend the famous phrase “He or She is sharp”. The notion of sharpening here refers to the athlete's weight in the sense that he/she is dry and therefore he/she will perform, except that it doesn't work like that. The term “sharp” is basically used in the preparation cycle of an athlete. The sharpening period corresponds to the period just before the competition during which the athlete rests but maintains the intensity specific to his competition in order to perform well.

The goal for athletes is to find the delicate balance between weight management and maintaining power. Often, the idea for the athlete is to lose weight but sometimes the deficit occurs without the athlete's knowledge. He or she thinks he is eating enough because the food intake is substantial in terms of quantity but the needs between the macronutrients are poorly distributed. We also need micronutrients and if there is an exclusion of certain foods this can work to the disadvantage.

To learn more about the dangers of undernutrition and RED-S, download free of charge our eBook (only in Dutch at the moment) containing the entire article just HERE.


This article was written in partnership with Marine Lecuisiner uses cookies to provide the best user experience. Please accept cookies to continue exploring our site
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