This week we're talking about underfuelling, or in science-y terms: Relative Energy Deficiency Syndrome (RED-S).
This just means a mismatch between energy requirements and your actual energy intake- so you could be training too much, not eating enough, or a combo of this.
Up to 67% of women in an endurance athlete cohort have low energy availability.
This is more common in active populations due to large training demands, but women in general are more susceptible to underfuelling.
This often happens by accident and then continues for a few months, or even years. They learn the hard way (through burnout) that they’re not supporting their health, fitness or strength goals and they also don’t have enough energy to cope with the demands of their hectic everyday schedule.
So, if you somehow manage to feed all of your kids their million different preferred foods at multiple times of the day, but you find yourself eating a square of cold toast for breakfast at 11am, (unless the 4 coffees counts as a meal??) this probably applies to you.
The good news:
You can nip it in the bud and ensure you’re matching your nutrition intake to your needs, you’ll be energetic, you’ll enjoy training, recover well, and see the results you want whilst ALSO having enough energy left for everyday life.
Don't worry if you're not a calorie tracker and you don't know how many calories you need because you can refer against this list.
Here are ten red flags that you're not eating enough:
- You get sick easily
- Your body composition has plateaued and you struggle to see visual results from the gym
- Excessive sleeping or fatigue
- You haven’t progressed your weights at the gym (however this is also a sign of poor/no programming)
- You constantly think about food
- You’ve lost your period
- Your hair is falling out
- You’re ravenous at night
- You always feel cold
- You find it hard to focus
Ouch.. if you've ticked a few of these boxes, it could be a sign that you've underfuelling.
Now I just want to stress, this likely isn’t your fault because underfuelling is generally not intentional* (exception - dieting too long) and thus, it can fly under the radar.
Underfuelling can happen due to:
- A busy schedule with family demands or work
- Poor food availability & lack of preparation
- Putting your needs last
Now, for the solution:
- Prioritisation. You are the most important person to look after first. No exceptions. If you can’t look after yourself, you sure as sh*t can’t look after anyone else to the best of your capacity. ALLL of the mums I’ve helped through coaching can move mountains once they start eating enough.
- Carve out time for meals. Set a timer to remind you (seriously). Press pause on everything and actually eat. The washing, paying that bill, or booking an appointment can wait for ten minutes.
- Eat enough. This one is harder to provide general guidance on because everyone is different, but around 600-800 calories per meal will ensure you’re fuelling well across the day. If this number scares you, you’re not eating enough right now.
- Eat regularly. No extensive fasting or backloading calories; your body thrives with meals throughout the day. Menstrual disturbance is linked with within-day low energy availability, meaning you should eat regularly and potentially time your food around exercise or higher energy-demand times.