What is RED-S, and why should you care?

There is no such thing as “normal," especially in running, as everyone is on their own journey, and what works for one person, may not work for the next. That said, there are certain traits that should not go unnoticed if they occur when your training increases in volume or intensity:

1. Frequent injuries
2. Irregular menstrual cycle
3. Under fueling pre, during, or post running

Unfortunately for a lot of individuals (especially females), the above are incredibly common, especially when there is a skewed focus on weight loss as opposed to performance.

What is Red-S?
Relative energy deficiency in sport, a condition of low energy availability affecting male and female athletes of all levels and ages. It is characterised by low energy availability due to a caloric deficit.
Simply put, it is when we are not eating enough to support all our body’s health functions in addition to the stress of exercise.

Having chats with clients after their runs allows me to understand where their performance is and how we can improve things. When they have a “bad run," I coach them through how we can improve things next time around. Meaning that I often delve into a number of things such as, external life stresses, nutrition, hydration, weather, sleep, and their menstrual cycle. Helping clients piece things together is one of my favourite aspects of my job.

Some of the warning signs of RED-S are:
- Perfectionist tendencies
- Disordered/restricted eating 
- Frequent injuries/niggles
- Illness
- Menstrual dysfunction

And often brought about by:
- Overtraining
- Fuelling inadequately
- Skipping rest days or rest between sessions

So, because both Coach and Athlete tend to want the same outcome....improvement and success, it is important that coaches notice the warning signs, and on the flip side, athletes are transparent and honest with their habits and training.

Failure to address such deficiency over time will lead to severe negative impacts on the athletes progression in their sport, and ability to succeed. Potential side effects range from increased risk of stress fractures, to decreased endurance and muscle strength, to impaired immune function. Unfortunately there are numerous side effectives that could be detrimental to not only the athletes sporting performance, but also their overall health and wellbeing.

Like most things in life, there is no simple fix or one size fits all for RED-S. But normalising conversations around nutrition and the menstrual cycle can certainly help. Missing your period, or having a delayed cycle is not normal, and is a sign that your body is under too much stress.

Your coaches are here to help you and only want the best for you, please follow their advice and speak up if things are not working, this is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Tune in to episode 68 of the Run Strong podcast to hear more about Red-S with Inez Griffin.