Nick's Fitness Answers #96 - What is RED-S? | Fit Futures

Hey what’s up guys, it’s Nick from Fit Futures here with yet another answer to yet another question.

Today’s question comes from Terry in Otago and Terry’s question is; ‘Nick, I’ve heard about a thing called RED-S, what is it?’

Very interesting question, Terry. RED-S was typically only observed in female athletes and was referred to as the female athlete triad. It was reclassified in a sense to RED-S, relative energy deficiency in sport, because they were starting to see a lot of those same symptoms in male competitors. What it is, is essentially someone who has restricted their calorie intake excessively over chronic periods of time and still elected to workout vigorously, and intensely, and consistently, almost seven day a week stuff. In some cases even twice a day, which is really, I wouldn’t necessarily say normal, because there are some people that train two a day but without that rest in there, it’s really difficult to recover from any training content.

What they found is that with the restriction in calories, there’s a low energy availability and the lack of energy availability is the key driving factor behind this particular condition. What it does is, it impairs significantly on our ability to function physiologically. That means it impacts on running, jumping, squats, deadlifts, any sort of thing that we would typically perform in our workouts and our various training related activities. This ties into people that experience overtraining because a recent publication I read on RED-S suggested that those that are experiencing overtraining are on a downwards spiral towards heading straight towards developing relative energy deficiency in sport. Remember that overtraining is based on the general adaptations syndrome, which is a model described by Hans Selyewho is a researcher, and it talks about, I’ve actually spoken about this in a previous video, but it discusses how, when we train, we want the training content to be optimal. If the training content is optimal, we’re going to perturb our homeostasis, we’re going to breakdown some muscle tissue or whatever depending on the component of fitness that we are exploring, and then we also need our rest and recovery to be optimal. If that’s the case, we will experience what is called a super-compensation, which in layman’s terms just means we are going to adapt to the training stimulus that has been applied to our body. However, if the training wasn’t’ optimal and the rest and recovery is optimal, we’re not necessarily going to improve, but we’re not going to burn ourselves out.

However, if we train continuously and excessively, it is frequent, it is prolonged, and rest and recovery either isn’t there or it is suboptimal, then we will find ourselves on this decline never getting back to our baseline homeostasis and never surpassing it, and therefore never adapting to the exercise. That means we’re going to see declines in strength, declines in fitness and wellbeing, and other measures of physical fitness and wellbeing as well, power, and all these other components of fitness will be negatively impacted. You will find that you will stagnate and not just stagnate, but start to go backwards in a lot of those components of fitness as well. If you experience that, that means you’re pretty much on the road to RED-S. But, fortunately, enough, the way to recover from RED-S is to just rest, and to eat some food, and to eat a good amount of it, and to make sure you’re getting it from good sources. Typically, what people will do is they will restrict the calories because they’ve got concerns about getting fat and having that negatively impact on what they’re trying to do from a physical standpoint or a competition standpoint, but they’re still training vigorously in pursuit of health and fitness goals. When you do that, you get that low energy availability and the low glycogen stores just mean that eventually you’re going to burn yourself out. So, eat, rest, repeat. Eat, rest, repeat. And make sure that you’re training in there and make sure the training is optimal, and if you can do that then you can avoid RED-S.

So, Terry, I hope that answers your question, hope that gives you a little more insight into what the condition is and I hope that you can avoid it too.

Guys, for more video content, check the link and, as always, until next time, please keep safe.

Disclaimer: The exercises and information provided by Fit Futures Learning Institute (T/A Fit Futures Academy) ( are for educational and entertainment purposes only, and are not to be interpreted as a recommendation for a specific treatment plan, product or course of action. Read the full content disclaimer.