Amongst the active population it is often more likely to be under-fueling than over-fueling. As an athlete or active individual have you ever stopped and asked yourself “Am I eating enough?”
It can be difficult to decide if you are eating enough when all you see are diets and cleanses on your social media feeds. We are constantly bombarded with messages telling us we are eating too much and need to lose weight. If you are an athlete struggling to figure out if you are fueling properly for your activity level this blog is for you! If you also like to listen to podcasts check out our Mind Your Fitness Podcast here for more activity and fueling content.
Athletes who underfuel put themselves at risk for something called low energy availability (LEA). There are also lifestyle habits that can lead to LEA which you can read more about here. For those who are not familiar with LEA we will define it.
LEA is a state where, after the energy needed to support exercise has been used, there is insufficient energy left over to maintain normal body functions. This can cause physiological changes like low blood pressure, decreased resting metabolic rate, GI dysfunction, and negatively impacted immune system health. It can also cause psychological changes like decreased body satisfaction and behavioral changes such as decreased concentration. To read more about what happens with concentration and your brain when you are under-fueling click here. For female athletes specifically, LEA can lead to menstrual cycle dysfunction. Research is still ongoing as to what specifically LEA means for male athletes.
So what are some signs your body might be giving you to tell you that you might be under-fueling?
Many things can tie into a lack of energy throughout the day. The two most important factors can be nutrition and sleep. If you aren’t sleeping enough and aren’t eating enough your body won’t have the energy it needs to get you through an exercise session and also maintain normal body functioning.
If thinking about food takes up a lot of your mental space throughout the day this can be a sign you are under-fueling. Your body is trying to get you to eat more.
Without enough overall energy intake your body won’t be able to maintain normal physiological functioning and have enough energy left over to help recover and repair muscles after exercise.
If you are an athlete or active person watch out for these signs and symptoms of under-fueling.
If you’re looking for a sports dietitian to help you optimize your performance and health through optimizing your fueling and hydration plan, we’re here to help. Check out our performance packages HERE.
Logue, D., Madigan, M.S., Delahunt, E., Heinen, M., McDonnell, J.S., & Corish A.C. (2018). Low energy availability in athletes: a review of prevalence, dietary patterns, physiological health, and sports performance. Sports Med, 48(1), 73-96. DOI 10.1007/s40279-017-0790-3