Energy Deficiency and Performance in Female Athletes


*I wrote this article for Figure Skater Fitness Magazine, published: July 2016, Vol. 2 issue 3.

An athlete’s optimal performance is achieved with a great amount of energy output. This means that nutrient intake is a key factor in an athlete’s energy availability (EA). Low EA can compromise sport performance as well as the overall health of athletes and is a growing concern in competitive sports, particularly for female athletes. The International Olympic Committee published a consensus statement in 2005 on the female athlete Triad pointing to three major elements of low EA including disordered eating, menstrual irregularities, and a decreased bone mineral density (BMD). More recently a statement was released in 2014 about Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S) expanding on the Triad to describe a “clinical status that results from energy deficiency affecting numerous aspects of physiological health and psychological health” (36). Understanding the fundamentals of both can improve the health of female athletes.

The amount of daily energy differs for every athlete and depends on factors such as duration and intensity of training. Essentially, EA is “dietary energy (kilocalorie) intake minus the energy used to support basal energy needs—thermoregulation, cellular maintenance, respiration, and immunity—as well as locomotion, thermic effect of food and growth” (36).