Athletes striving for success may feel pressure from themselves and others to achieve ‘optimal’ physique, but reducing energy availability may compromise their health for life.
Low energy availability (EA) in women is now known to be central to the negative health consequences described in the female athlete triad. In the 2014 Female Athlete Triad Coalition Consensus Statement, this triad was defined as a medical condition involving three interrelated components – low EA, with or without disordered eating; menstrual dysfunction; and low bone mineral density (BMD) – each of which exists on a continuum of severity (Figure). Recent research and clinical experience have shown energy deficiency to be the underlying cause of this condition, with insufficient dietary energy to support physiological function after expenditure in exercise is accounted for. There is now a substantial body of scientific literature regarding the consequences of low EA in female athletes.
Picture credit: © Warren Goldswain/Dollar Photo Club