Written and developed by Morgan Muchez, Dietetic Intern
What is it?
RED-s (Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport) is a fairly new term that describes the consequences and physiological effects of not consuming enough calories. Unlike the Female Athlete Triad, which describes the combination of disordered eating and the loss of a menstrual cycle leading to bone health consequences, RED-s encompasses several other health complications. These include, metabolic slowing; immune system decline; GI complications like delayed gastric emptying and constipation; hormone imbalances like hunger and growth hormone suppression; cardiovascular risks; and decreased rate of protein synthesis or building. When an athlete restricts caloric intake for long periods of time, the lack of nutrients can hinder both performance and lead to long-term health consequences.
Who is at Risk?
Athletes participating in highly competitive sports or those that require skin-tight uniforms that show more of their physique. Often times, an individual can be triggered to start “clean” or restrictive eating to improve sports performance or due to comments by parents, coaches, and teammates.
There is a fine line between disordered eating and an eating disorder. Be aware of some signs of disordered eating so that the individual can be helped before it develops into an eating disorder:
- Significant weight changes
- Avoiding eating out
- Avoiding eating with people
- An obsession with healthy foods
- Cutting out specific foods or food groups
What Can I do if I notice someone who has these tendencies?
Navigate a conversation with them – let them know you are there to support them. It is important to intervene before it becomes an eating disorder. Please tread with caution as food is always a tricky subject to talk about. You can talk to a dietitian, like Allison, who specializes in sports nutrition and eating disorders. She can give you suggestions on how a conversation can go, or even meet with the individual.
Want a print out that you can share with others? See the attached printable handout below!