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Camilla Care

How eating more can improve your exercise performance

Vaseline 1 month ago

Underfueling occurs when your total energy intake is not sufficient to meet your needs and perform your best. McGregor says it usually refers to not having enough carbohydrates – the nutrient considered ‘fuel for fitness‘.

Despite following a ‘healthy’ diet and making sure she didn’t leave out any important nutrients, Davis fell victim to this.

While Davis ate normal, daily meals, engaging in intense early morning exercise during long hospital shifts made it difficult to prioritize the extra nutrients and energy she needed. Sporadic breaks also made it difficult to know when her next snack or meal would be.

“I was tired from rushing and often worked out before breakfast… It wouldn’t be clear when I would get a break if I was working out (hospital ward or if I even got a break.

This led to Davis suffering from recurring stress fractures, fatigue and reduced performance. She was subsequently diagnosed with a serious medical condition RED-S (relative energy deficit in sports).

“RED-S is when there is not enough energy to support all movements and biological processes,” says McGregor, before adding: “It is further affected by internal stress on the body. Stress cannot be enough, losing weight quickly, training too intensively with little or poor recovery,” McGregor explains.

It can also lead to other health problems: “It can affect red blood cell production, so often we will see low iron levels in individuals who are in RED-S,” says McGregor.

Under-fueling can also affect hormone levels. “Under-fueling can lead to disruptions in female hormones, which can lead to irregular or even absent menstruation. If you don’t have a regular menstrual cycle, it starts to negatively impact other areas of your health and can lead to injuries such as stress fractures.”

Davis describes how losing your period was historically considered the norm among elite athletes: “It used to be seen that if you lost your period it meant you were training hard. Now we know that losing your period is a major sign of underfueling. It is a sign that you need to withdraw and that your body is under stress.”