Worried, Emily’s friends suggested they couldn’t eat enough. The idea mocked him. “I was studying nutrition science, so I thought I had pretty much clarified what my body needed. The first thing I did in the morning was to control stress, I ate a big breakfast, had lunch with me in the library and had a snack all day and then came to a big dinner. home, ”he says. However, he could not shake the feeling that something had been created.

So he talked to his doctor, especially about his abnormal monthly cycles, and eventually went to an expert who told him that he was suffering from Relative Energy Deficiency in Sports (REDS). The most common among athletes (hence the name “sport”), REDS is becoming more common in everyday gym. However, for those who experience this situation, low energy does not feel like the main issue.

“I never noticed weight loss and I didn’t understand that food could be a problem for me,” says Emily. It seems that the relationship between exercise, diet and hormones is more difficult than many women think and the impact is severe.

What is energy deficiency?

“Energy is a disability when the body doesn’t have enough energy to do the work it needs to do,” explains Renee McGregor, a sports dietitian at the Strong Women Collective and a specialist in athletes ’health and energy deficiency. The way we define “work” is any workout you do, your overall movement – walking up and down the stairs for tea or coffee – and the biggest part that no one else pays attention to: our biological functions. ”

The body needs more energy than it thinks to do things, Rene explained. Except, we live in a world that emphasizes “moving more and eating less” as the key to health. Blocking didn’t help. Right now, Renee’s clinic is busier than ever, receiving 60 referrals a month from women with symptoms of malnutrition.

A woman watched and watched the statistics of her exercises on the phone.
Low energy availability: moving more and eating less is not the answer.

“What I’m noticing is that everyone is worried because they’re more seated than taking trains and buses every day. They’re trying to compensate too much by doing more activity, regardless of how much more exercise they do, the more food they need,” says Renee. “I think there’s a lot of fear of being‘ lazy ’. This term is linked a lot and people think they have to do something every day. I don’t know where it’s coming from, because it’s not the government’s advice. ”

In fact, he noted that the government implements physical health advice for only 150 minutes a week. And, if you look at mental health research, the recommendations are about 30 to 40 minutes, three to four times a week.

“I’m definitely noticing a boost from everyone who makes more moves. But I’ve been in sports and exercise for 20 years and I’ve never seen so much identity around food. It seems like how you eat now suggests who you are. We’ve lost sight of what we really look like and what we eat. that’s a very small part of overall health, ”Rene says.

How does REDS work?

If you don’t skip meals, calories and energy aren’t a problem for you, right? That’s what Emily thought. “I thought my relationship with the food was pretty positive,” says Emily. “When I explained my diet to people I knew or posted videos of what I ate that day on my Instagram, everyone seemed to agree that I ate pretty much.”

“The problem is that people don’t realize how much fuel their bodies need because we rely on arbitrary numbers,” Rene says.

“A fitness tracker can tell you that you have burned X amounts of energy, so it makes sense that if you eat X the amount of food, you will equalize. But what if your body is trying to create red blood cells? What if your body is trying to reduce bone mass “What happens when you’re in a certain menstrual cycle when your needs increase?” He asks.

“These numbers don’t take into account the energy factors of stress, that only 10-20% of the energy we eat is used to digest food, and let’s not forget the brain, which uses 20% of our energy. The demands every day. the number is quite a significant number, and then when the movement is added to that, it’s even more so. ”

REDS is not just about entering energy versus extracting energy. The type of food and meal schedule is more important than we have ever been taught.

“When we do physical exercise, we are stimulating all kinds of signals in our body. But those signals need certain nutrients in order to be able to deliver goods,” he says. The main nutrients they need? Carbohydrates. “I’ve seen women who are normal weight and probably eat the right amount for training, but they follow a keto or paleo diet so they don’t provide the carbohydrates they need,” says Renee.

While Emily did not intentionally cut out carbohydrates, she trained without eating anything before, which meant her body was not given the glucose it needed to send proper signals to the body.

“The first thing I trained for was the only time I adjusted to the workday, and then I always ate straight,” he says. He sought professional help and then realized that his body was struggling to train quickly, and that the post-workout porridge and blueberries meal didn’t provide enough fuel.

“There is ample evidence that your thyroid needs enough carbohydrates to release the hormone T3. Without carbohydrates, hormone production can be blurred, and then it affects the hypothalamus, the main hormone center in the brain,” Reneek explained. Once the hypothalamus is suddenly removed, there are all sorts of effects on your body.

How to detect a lack of energy

The clearest sign for many women is that they don’t have periods or change them. This is due to this slow working hypothalamus that lowers hormones and the body’s desire to prioritize movement over internal function.

“You will notice that they are lighter, shorter, longer or completely stopped. Basically, no period means that your body is reaching the point where it closes its biological function, ”Rene explains.

Therefore, another symptom of energy deficiency is poor digestion, because “if there is not enough energy in the system your body cannot break down food. You may have symptoms similar to the analysis, but the slow movement of the food is just across the gut, which is quite crippling and really painful. People often think they have a food allergy or food intolerance, but the worst thing they can do is get more food out of their diet. ”

Other symptoms may be low mood, as estrogen is responsible for taking serotonin. Without it, you will feel feelings of depression, poor memory and brain fog. When it comes to physical exercise, you may not be recovering properly between sessions and may increase muscle pain. You may not even be able to adapt to workouts, for example, you may be hoping for strength gains in a certain period of time that your body doesn’t meet.

“Another key thing about low energy availability is that it will try to keep your body awake by‘ hunting ’for food, so sleep can be significantly affected,” he added.

“All of these symptoms may also be linked to the pandemic, but I think it’s important to emphasize that they can be something more,” says Reneek.

How to properly nourish your workout

How do you know how much food your body needs? Obviously, there are no prescriptions, but overall, “most women shouldn’t fast on any workout,” Rene says. “This could be the starting point for low energy availability.” Forget that you think you know about fasting to burn more fat – it’s not true, Rene says. And there is certainly no reason to confuse your hormones.

It doesn’t mean you have to eat a big meal before your workout, but before you try to have a big banana, some toast, or some rice cakes, especially if you’re a morning athlete, it should give your body fuel.

Then it’s time to pay attention to your carbohydrate intake throughout the day. This does not mean telling your macros, but rather realizing their importance. It’s hard considering the main demonization of the nutrient, but it’s crucial.

Avocado sandwich on a plate.
Low energy availability: Eating carbohydrates is important, even on rest days.

“It’s hard to get into the numbers because they’re all different. One thing we know is that women should not eat less than 3g of carbohydrates per kilogram of weight. Never. Even on a day off. One day of exercise will probably require a lot more to help regulate hormones and help your body adjust, ”says Renee.

“Try to eat irregularly,” Rene says. “Don’t let the gaps last more than four hours, because then the blood sugar will start to go down. Having a regular meal time and being able to have those moments that suit you will save you a little energy. Besides, I think it helps with stress right now, knowing that you will have a break from work. ”

Aside from food, it’s also important to do your physical exercise. Whatever people say or show on the net, you don’t have to put your body, brain, and hormones under the stress of hilarious workouts. “Trying to move every day isn’t bad, but no one should do an intense workout every day. It’s okay if your movement is just a walk or a yoga session – that’s enough,” says Reneek. “And you never earn food through exercise.”

Give it to Emily, who had to re-learn everything she knew about exercise and eating to get back to where she is now, fully recovered from REDS and better known than ever for her exercise and nutrition. “My body was in survival mode, even though I looked good on the outside,” he says. “Aesthetically pleasing abs aren’t more important than your body actually working and my body wasn’t working.”