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RED-S: The condition all runners need to know about

Fatigue, food preoccupation and missing periods are just some of the signs.

You’ve heard it a million times before – if you want to run faster, you need to run more.

In a culture that promotes a ‘no excuses’ attitude towards working out, pushing yourself beyond your limits is often celebrated as a sign of discipline, agility and physical strength.

As we fixate on improving our performance and reaching new goals, we rarely consider the future losses of our present gains.

An unhealthy endurance athlete may seem like the ultimate paradox, but it’s a lot more common than you may think. RED-S is a syndrome that affects countless sports fanatics – many of whom don’t even know it exists.

What is RED-S?

RED-S refers to Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport, and it is exactly what it sounds like. Previously called the Female Athlete Triad, it is characterised by low energy availability due to a caloric deficit.

The condition, which was termed in 2014 by the International Olympic Committee, can affect both males and females, including elite and non-elite athletes. It can lead to irreparable damage, impairing almost every system of the body if left untreated.

With little known about RED-S in the general medical and athletic community, it often goes overlooked. It prevails under the radar, only drawing attention after a drastic injury or mental collapse.

‘It is still a relatively new condition,’ explains Sports and Eating disorder specialist dietitian, Renee McGregor. ‘It is a clinical condition within a sporting community, so only practitioners trained in both clinical and sports science/medicine will have a full understanding.’

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