Spotlight on Low Energy Availability
We have all heard of low-carb diets, no sugar challenges and calorie deficits, but what happens if we decrease our energy needs too much? Particularly for those that are extremely active, you can develop low energy availability (LEA). This simply means that you are not putting in enough energy in the tank. Therefore, the amount of energy in and energy out is unbalanced. This can be a problem because along with not supporting your exercise needs, everyday body functions including growth, metabolism, and hormone balance can also be compromised.
LEA is predominately common in female athletes and it is normally due to a high demand for energy. Most athletes may not realise that what they are putting in isn’t sufficient to support their needs, therefore, it is important to recognise the signs of LEA. Detecting LEA early on will help prevent exercise performance impairments along with harm later in life.
So, what signs can you look out for?
- Frequent lethargy and fatigue, tired, low energy
- Decrease in performance e.g times, skills
- Concentration is low
- Loss of or irregular menstrual cycles
- Stress fractures or injuries
- Low immunity/gets sick easily
If one or more of these signs are present, it is important to seek advice from a Dietitian or Nutritionist for further advice. Getting on top of LEA can take a long time, however, the sooner you seek help, the sooner you will be back to a healthy, active lifestyle. It is important to get help because you want your body to be performing optimally, inside, and out. Long durations of LEA can be detrimental to your body’s development and can seriously impact your future health. Detection and prevention are key!
Here are some recommendations to implement in your life to prevent developing LEA:
- Have at least healthy balanced 3 meals a day*
- Make sure each meal has a high nutrient carbohydrate and protein component
- Include energy-dense snacks throughout the day*
- Alter nutrition around training days, specifically pre, during and post
- Listen to your body – if its hunger feed it
- Don’t restrict certain food groups
LEA is more common than you think and overcoming it can be extremely difficult. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help, because at the end of the day your body takes priority. Ditch the low-carb diets, no sugar challenges and calorie deficits, and fuel your body with healthy, nutritious food!
*If you are unsure what this looks like, I would recommend coming into Studio Rubix for further advice.