Baixa disponibilidade energética: efeitos na saúde e desempenho

Low energy availability: effects on health and performance

Low energy availability: effects on health and performance

You know that food is the fuel for the body to function, right? And with the increase in volume and intensity in training (in addition to work, routine, social life...), it is necessary to offer even more fuel! The “lack of fuel” is known as low energy availability and in this post I, Gabi, will tell you about the effects and consequences (which are various and negative) of this situation.

Low energy availability is a phenomenon that occurs when a person's caloric intake is not sufficient to meet the body's energy needs, resulting in a negative energy imbalance. This imbalance can be caused by extreme dietary restrictions, poor diets, excessive physical activity or even eating disorders. One of the most obvious impacts is weight loss and reduction in muscle mass, resulting from the breakdown of muscle proteins to obtain energy. This reduction in muscle mass compromises strength and the ability to perform physical activities, which negatively affects sporting performance and, of course, quality of life.

Furthermore, low energy availability is associated with a series of health problems. Reducing caloric intake can lead to deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals, weakening the immune system and increasing the risk of infections. It can also cause hormonal disturbances, affecting the regulation of the menstrual cycle in women, which can result in amenorrhea (absence of menstruation), osteoporosis and other bone health problems.

Another worrying effect of low energy availability is cognitive impairment. The lack of energy available to the brain can result in difficulties with concentration, memory and decision making, negatively affecting professional performance and clearly sporting performance. And that's exactly the opposite of what we want. After all, sport is supposed to be something healthy and not the other way around.

Studies have also shown that low energy availability can lead to changes in metabolism, such as a reduction in basal metabolic rate, which is the amount of energy the body burns at rest. This is because the body is so intelligent that it knows it cannot “spend” much, because after all it “receives” little.

“Gabi, how do I know if I have low energy availability?”

It can be difficult to identify on your own as the symptoms are often not immediately obvious. There are signs and symptoms that may indicate the presence of this problem, some of which are:
- extreme fatigue; decreased performance; menstrual disorders; mood changes; reduced bone density.

To avoid the adverse effects of low energy availability, it is essential to maintain a balanced diet that meets the body's energy needs, taking into account the practice of physical activities, volume, intensity and, of course, routine. It is important to be aware of the signs and seek medical or nutritional help when necessary.

Thanks for reading and we’ll see you in the next post! Spoiler alert: heat, summer, sweat…

Gabi.

References:

Loucks, A. B. (2007). Low energy availability in the marathon and other endurance sports. Sports Medicine, 37(4-5), 348-352.

Nattiv, A., Loucks, AB, Manore, MM, Sanborn, CF, Sundgot-Borgen, J., Warren, MP, & American College of Sports Medicine. (2007). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. The female athlete triad. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 39(10), 1867-1882.

Mountjoy, M., Sundgot-Borgen, J. K., Burke, L. M., Ackerman, K. E., Blauwet, C., Constantini, N., ... & Ljungqvist, A. (2018). IOC consensus statement on relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S): 2018 update. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 52(11), 687-697.