UFC weigh in

Are you fueling for performance?

I wanted to use this opportunity to write about something that impacts our mental and physical health, which as athletes within a weight cutting, sport we need to be aware of. If you follow me on Instagram (lena.a.k) you will have seen that I have been posting a lot about RED-S- Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport. 

Relative energy deficiency is when an athlete or exerciser of any level is not matching their energy needs for their training, as well as their energy needs for daily life processes; resulting in a state of low energy availability; meaning overall the person is not eating enough to meet the needs of training, daily life and body functions.

You do NOT have to be underweight to be suffering from RED-S which can sometimes make it hard to diagnose.

This may not seem like a cause for concern but the long term impacts of RED-s can cause an athlete to retire from their sport if not managed in time.

What is the impact of RED-s long term:

–          Weakened immune system– I would not take this lightly, from personal experience I was ill with a virus for three months, it starts with regular colds and at some point can turn into something bigger. This may not be the same for everyone, but noticing how often you are getting ill can be a sign.

–          Females– If you are not have regular periods it is worth going to your doctor and asking for a blood test to check the hormones. If you are not having regular periods that means your body does not think it has enough energy and will prioritize other body functions over this; this may seem great but you need oestrogen for bone health, heart health and get the adaptations from training.

–          Bone health– Bones will start to become weaker leading to osteopenia and eventually osteoporosis; that is when the bones become brittle, weak making it more likely to get stress fractures; which in such a physical combat sport is not ideal. Osteoporosis if it is not caught in time is not reversible.

–          Mental health– Restricting food even for a few months has been shown to change the way the brain functions as well as losing grey matter (seen on MRIs); often the mind will be more sensitive to threat resulting in feelings of stress and anxiety. For others they may experience depression as an outcome of low energy availability.

–          Growth and development- For younger athletes it can impair their growth; but also for adults if you have low testosterone or oestrogen you will not get all the adaptations from your training ,meaning your performance will decrease or become stagnant.

Everyone responds to RED-s differently but not only will or can it affect your health long term it also means long term you will not be able to reach your performance potential.

Why is understanding RED-s important?

In Muay Thai weight cutting is part of fighting but we need to also be aware of the effects it has on the body and how the important refuelling after a fight is. I’ve often heard athletes talking about ‘binging’ after fights resulting in feelings of guilt for consuming these foods. Some athletes go straight back into training (me being one of those) which can be fine if you tailor post fight sessions as recovery sessions. In the lead up to a fight it is hard to get proper recovery especially if you are restricting your food to make weight; that is why it is important to give your body time to heal after a fight and restore energy availability.

Signs to look out for:

–          Notice what thoughts come up for you after a fight when you don’t have to train and you can eat what you want. If there is shame or guilt around eating that can be a sign; as well as noticing any signs of wanting to control your calorie/food intake. Are you noticing thoughts about needing to train to burn calories?

–          How often are you getting sick/ill?

–          What is your mood like? Are you anxious or low mood a lot of the time?

–          Have you noticed that your performance in the ring or training has not really improved?

To be diagnosed with RED-S it is important to get a blood test to check your hormones; seek out professional support registered dietitian and endocrinologist whom would be able to tell you how fair along you are within RED-s and how much damage has been done to the bones via a DEXA scan.

The idea behind this article is to just raise awareness around REDs because no athlete, gym enthusiast wants to quit their sport because of REDs.

If you want to know about how to recover from REDs please drop me a dm on Instagram (lena.a.k) as I am aware this article was not sport psychology focused.

 I wanted to use this opportunity to write about something that impacts our mental and physical health, which as athletes within a weight cutting, sport we need to be aware of. If you follow me on Instagram (lena.a.k) you will have seen that I have been posting a lot about REDs- Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport. 

Relative energy deficiency is when an athlete or exerciser of any level is not matching their energy needs for their training, as well as their energy needs for daily life processes; resulting in a state of low energy availability; meaning overall the person is not eating enough to meet the needs of training, daily life and body functions.

This may not seem like a cause for concern but the long term impacts of REDs can cause an athlete to retire from their sport if not managed in time.

What is the impact of REDs long term:

–          Weakened immune system– I would not take this lightly, from personal experience I was ill with a virus for three months, it starts with regular colds and at some point can turn into something bigger. This may not be the same for everyone, but noticing how often you are getting ill can be a sign.

–          Females– If you are not having regular periods it is worth going to your doctor and asking for a blood test to check the hormones. If you are not having regular periods that means your body does not think it has enough energy and will prioritise other body functions over this; this may seem great but you need oestrogen for bone health, heart health and get the adaptations from training.

–          Bone health– Bones will start to become weaker leading to osteopenia and eventually osteoporosis; that is when the bones become brittle, weak making it more likely to get stress fractures; which in such a physical combat sport is not ideal. Osteoporosis, if not caught in time is not reversible. However it can be stopped from getting worse and in some cases improving bone density depending on your age.

–          Mental health– Restricting food even for a few months has been shown to change the way the brain functions as well as losing grey matter (seen on MRIs); often the mind will be more sensitive to threat resulting in feelings of stress and anxiety. For others they may experience depression as an outcome of low energy availability.

–          Growth and development- For younger athletes it can impair their growth; but also for adults if you have low testosterone or oestrogen you will not get all the adaptations from your training ,meaning your performance will decrease or become stagnant.

Everyone responds to RED-S differently but not only will or can it affect your health long term it also means long term you will not be able to reach your performance potential.

Why is understanding RED-S important?

In Muay Thai weight cutting is part of fighting but we need to also be aware of the effects it has on the body and how the important refuelling after a fight is. I’ve often heard athletes talking about ‘binging’ after fights resulting in feelings of guilt for consuming these foods. Some athletes go straight back into training (me being one of those) which can be fine if you tailor post fight sessions as recovery sessions. In the lead up to a fight it is hard to get proper recovery especially if you are restricting your food to make weight; that is why it is important to give your body time to heal after a fight and restore energy availability.

Signs to look out for:

–          Notice what thoughts come up for you after a fight when you don’t have to train and you can eat what you want. If there is shame or guilt around eating that can be a sign; as well as noticing any signs of wanting to control your calorie/food intake. Are you noticing thoughts about needing to train to burn calories?

–          How often are you getting sick/ill?

–          What is your mood like? Are you anxious or low mood a lot of the time?

–          Have you noticed that your performance in the ring or training has not really improved?

The idea behind this article is to just raise awareness around REDs because no athlete, gym enthusiast wants to quit their sport because of REDs.

If you want to know about how to recover from REDs please drop me a dm on Instagram (lena.a.k) as I am aware this article was not sport psychology focused. If you want to get support please get in contact with nickyfitness and Renee Mc Gregor who have a clinic called En:Spire and a campaign called #TRAINBRAVE.

 

 

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