Are You Suffering From Low Energy Availability?

Being a young active female athlete, there is a chance that you are may be subjected to having low energy availability, whats more the chances are that you will be unaware of the impact it can have on your performance in training.  

Looking from the outside-in on the sporting world, we tend to just get small glimpses and in doing so see fit, elite, strong athletes that we in turn perceive to be the obvious ideal body types for sport.

Whilst having a lower body fat percentage is a great advantage on athletic performance in sports like swimming and endurance running, beneficial to increased jump height and improved velocity etc, it does not necessarily tell the whole story.

I can guarantee from personal experience both as an athlete and in training athletes, the current FAD Diet or latest training routine used to chase down the “perfect body’, in many cases will have impacts you are unaware of.

So with an open mind what we are trying to say is that if an athlete has body dissatisfaction, eating less food, and differentiation in their body weight, we are opening the door to “LEA” (Low Energy Availability).

LEA also occurs in circumstances such as periods of increased training volume, back-to-back competitions and games, or when an athlete in a consistent state of high energy expenditure, such as rowing, swimming and triathlons.

Low Energy Availability

LEA has been heavily focused on female athletes and there are plenty of reasons why. Particularly the menstrual cycle and the relation to bone health. 

What is still lacking is the knowledge on the part of many coaches and athletes that are in female high performance programs. From experience in working within the female space, the lack of priority and implementation as to the awareness and impacts of LEA is a huge.

Impacts of Low Energy Availability

  1. Impact on hormone production and function 
  2. Decrease in reproduction mechanisms 
  3. Thyroid suppression 
  4. Mental health 
  5. Metabolic responses such as cardiovascular system 

Other Contributions to Low Energy Availability

  1. Dietary behaviour and disordered eating
  2. Lack of education and knowledge from coaching staff 
  3. Inappropriate comments about body image from staff
  4. Team mates that an athlete is training with 
  5. Social Media 

Low Energy Availability and the Research 

  • If the menstrual cycle is impacted by LEA it can increase the risk of negative hormonal impacts towards bone health within females 
  • Female Runners have a higher risk of low iron 
  • Females suffering from Amenorrhea (no period for 90 days) can suffer rapid bone loss
  • Just 4-5 days of LEA can have short term effects on a female athlete (Heikura, et al 2021)
  • In a VLFW squad studies showed that 96.3% of the squad were under the recommended dietary intake of Carbohydrates (Condo, et al 2019)
  • A Collegiate female soccer team showed that more than 60% of their squad had LEA and those that had less knowledge on sports specific nutrition were at even higher risk

How to Spot LEA? 

  1. Irregular Period / no period at all 
  2. Lethargic 
  3. Fatigue and sleepy 
  4. Mood problems, irritable and feeling down and out 
  5. If an athlete is unwell consistently 
  6. Frequency of getting injured / stress fractures / reactions 
  7. Decreased libido 
  8. Increase in GI Issues 
  9. Athletes having poor training adaptations and not recovering quick enough

What Can We Do About This Issue? 

Education is the best option that we have, coaches in particular need to be aware of this during their coaching sessions and training programs. Have an idea of the individual athlete and their personal background. 

Females are recommended to have 45cal / kg of fat free mass to meet their energy needs, it could be even more depending on the workload of the athlete.

If you calculate it, it is going to seem quite high but educating female athletes that they need to eat more and eat at the right times to improve performance to assist and decrease the risk of LEA is what the future of women’s sport should look like. 

Want To Know More

If you would like to know more or you’re a female athlete looking for a performance coach and environment to train in, please contact our Strength & Conditioning Coach Shona O’Connell-Shea to book in a session.

How Do I Book An Appointment with Precision Athletica for Help?

We’re taking the health of our clients, members and staff very seriously and our preference would be for you to call to book an appointment so that we can make sure to explain our approach to keeping you safe. You can call our bookings team to schedule a session:

Online Consultations

Evolving with the current environment, we are also now offering online appointments, meaning that we can support anyone who is unable to leave their home. Sessions are done via our state of the art Telehealth system and as long as you have a laptop or tablet with an inbuilt camera, or a phone with camera, we can help!

To learn more about online consultations, please call us on any of the numbers listed above.

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