Eating for Gold! Nutrition for the Aquatic Sports
A Review of Prevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport in Artistic (Synchronized) Swimming
Sherry Robertson and Margo Mountjoy
The syndrome of relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S) is a clinical entity characterized by low energy availability, which can negatively affect the health and performance of both male and female athletes. The underlying mechanism of RED-S is an inadequacy of dietary energy to support optimal health and performance. This syndrome refers to impaired physiological function, including metabolic rate, menstrual function, bone health, immunity, protein synthesis, and cardiovascular health, with psychological consequences that can either precede (through restrictive dietary habits) or result from RED-S. The term RED-S extends beyond the condition termed the “Female Athlete Triad.” Formerly known as synchronized swimming, artistic swimming is an Olympic sport requiring a high level of fitness as well as technical skill and artistry. The risk of RED-S is high in artistic swimming as it is an aesthetic, judged sport with an emphasis on a lean physique. RED-S is of significant concern in the sport of artistic swimming because of the potential negative effects on physical and mental health as well as consequences on athletic performance. This paper reviews health and performance consequences associated with low energy availability resulting in RED-S in artistic swimming. Medical and nutritional considerations specific to artistic swimming are reviewed, and methods to help detect and manage RED-S are discussed. Prevention and management of RED-S in this athlete population should be a priority for coaches, and the sport medicine professionals working with artistic swimming athletes should utilize the RED-S CAT, a Clinical Assessment Tool for screening and managing RED-S.
Nutritional Recommendations for Synchronized Swimming
Sherry Robertson, Dan Benardot, and Margo Mountjoy
The sport of synchronized swimming is unique, because it combines speed, power, and endurance with precise synchronized movements and high-risk acrobatic maneuvers. Athletes must train and compete while spending a great amount of time underwater, upside down, and without the luxury of easily available oxygen. This review assesses the scientific evidence with respect to the physiological demands, energy expenditure, and body composition in these athletes. The role of appropriate energy requirements and guidelines for carbohydrate, protein, fat, and micronutrients for elite synchronized swimmers are reviewed. Because of the aesthetic nature of the sport, which prioritizes leanness, the risks of energy and macronutrient deficiencies are of significant concern. Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport and disordered eating/eating disorders are also of concern for these female athletes. An approach to the healthy management of body composition in synchronized swimming is outlined. Synchronized swimmers should be encouraged to consume a well-balanced diet with sufficient energy to meet demands and to time the intake of carbohydrate, protein, and fat to optimize performance and body composition. Micronutrients of concern for this female athlete population include iron, calcium, and vitamin D. This article reviews the physiological demands of synchronized swimming and makes nutritional recommendations for recovery, training, and competition to help optimize athletic performance and to reduce risks for weight-related medical issues that are of particular concern for elite synchronized swimmers.
Nutrition, Illness, and Injury in Aquatic Sports
David B. Pyne, Evert A. Verhagen, and Margo Mountjoy
In this review, we outline key principles for prevention of injury and illness in aquatic sports, detail the epidemiology of injury and illness in aquatic athletes at major international competitions and in training, and examine the relevant scientific evidence on nutrients for reducing the risk of illness and injury. Aquatic athletes are encouraged to consume a well-planned diet with sufficient calories, macronutrients (particularly carbohydrate and protein), and micronutrients (particularly iron, zinc, and vitamins A, D, E, B6, and B12) to maintain health and performance. Ingesting carbohydrate via sports drinks, gels, or sports foods during prolonged training sessions is beneficial in maintaining energy availability. Studies of foods or supplements containing plant polyphenols and selected strains of probiotic species are promising, but further research is required. In terms of injury, intake of vitamin D, protein, and total caloric intake, in combination with treatment and resistance training, promotes recovery back to full health and training.
Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport: The Tip of an Iceberg
Margo L. Mountjoy, Louise M. Burke, Trent Stellingwerff, and Jorunn Sundgot-Borgen
Energy Availability in Athletics: Health, Performance, and Physique
Anna K. Melin, Ida A. Heikura, Adam Tenforde, and Margo Mountjoy
The reported prevalence of low energy availability (LEA) in female and male track and field athletes is between 18% and 58% with the highest prevalence among athletes in endurance and jump events. In male athletes, LEA may result in reduced testosterone levels and libido along with impaired training capacity. In female track and field athletes, functional hypothalamic amenorrhea as consequence of LEA has been reported among 60% of elite middle- and long-distance athletes and 23% among elite sprinters. Health concerns with functional hypothalamic amenorrhea include impaired bone health, elevated risk for bone stress injury, and cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, LEA negatively affects recovery, muscle mass, neuromuscular function, and increases the risk of injuries and illness that may affect performance negatively. LEA in track and field athletes may occur due to intentional alterations in body mass or body composition, appetite changes, time constraints, or disordered eating behavior. Long-term LEA causes metabolic and physiological adaptations to prevent further weight loss, and athletes may therefore be weight stable yet have impaired physiological function secondary to LEA. Achieving or maintaining a lower body mass or fat levels through long-term LEA may therefore result in impaired health and performance as proposed in the Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport model. Preventive educational programs and screening to identify athletes with LEA are important for early intervention to prevent long-term secondary health consequences. Treatment for athletes is primarily to increase energy availability and often requires a team approach including a sport physician, sports dietitian, physiologist, and psychologist.
Embracing Change: The Evolving Science of Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport
Megan A. Kuikman, Margo Mountjoy, Trent Stellingwerff, and Jamie F. Burr
Development of an Anthropometric Prediction Model for Fat-Free Mass and Muscle Mass in Elite Athletes
Erik Sesbreno, Gary Slater, Margo Mountjoy, and Stuart D.R. Galloway
The monitoring of body composition is common in sports given the association with performance. Surface anthropometry is often preferred when monitoring changes for its convenience, practicality, and portability. However, anthropometry does not provide valid estimates of absolute lean tissue in elite athletes. The aim of this investigation was to develop anthropometric models for estimating fat-free mass (FFM) and skeletal muscle mass (SMM) using an accepted reference physique assessment technique. Sixty-four athletes across 18 sports underwent surface anthropometry and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) assessment. Anthropometric models for estimating FFM and SMM were developed using forward selection multiple linear regression analysis and contrasted against previously developed equations. Most anthropometric models under review performed poorly compared with DXA. However, models derived from athletic populations such as the Withers equation demonstrated a stronger correlation with DXA estimates of FFM (r = .98). Equations that incorporated skinfolds with limb girths were more effective at explaining the variance in DXA estimates of lean tissue (Sesbreno FFM [R 2 = .94] and Lee SMM [R 2 = .94] models). The Sesbreno equation could be useful for estimating absolute indices of lean tissue across a range of physiques if an accepted option like DXA is inaccessible. Future work should explore the validity of the Sesbreno model across a broader range of physiques common to athletic populations.
A Review of Nonpharmacological Strategies in the Treatment of Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport
Megan A. Kuikman, Margo Mountjoy, Trent Stellingwerff, and Jamie F. Burr
Relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S) can result in negative health and performance outcomes in both male and female athletes. The underlying etiology of RED-S is low energy availability (LEA), which occurs when there is insufficient dietary energy intake to meet exercise energy expenditure, corrected for fat-free mass, leaving inadequate energy available to ensure homeostasis and adequate energy turnover (optimize normal bodily functions to positively impact health), but also optimizing recovery, training adaptations, and performance. As such, treatment of RED-S involves increasing energy intake and/or decreasing exercise energy expenditure to address the underlying LEA. Clinically, however, the time burden and methodological errors associated with the quantification of energy intake, exercise energy expenditure, and fat-free mass to assess energy availability in free-living conditions make it difficult for the practitioner to implement in everyday practice. Furthermore, interpretation is complicated by the lack of validated energy availability thresholds, which can result in compromised health and performance outcomes in male and female athletes across various stages of maturation, ethnic races, and different types of sports. This narrative review focuses on pragmatic nonpharmacological strategies in the treatment of RED-S, featuring factors such as low carbohydrate availability, within-day prolonged periods of LEA, insufficient intake of bone-building nutrients, lack of mechanical bone stress, and/or psychogenic stress. This includes the implementation of strategies that address exacerbating factors of LEA, as well as novel treatment methods and underlying mechanisms of action, while highlighting areas of further research.
Prevalence of Indicators of Low Energy Availability in Elite Female Sprinters
Jennifer Sygo, Alexandra M. Coates, Erik Sesbreno, Margo L. Mountjoy, and Jamie F. Burr
Low energy availability (LEA), and subsequent relative energy deficiency in sport, has been observed in endurance, aesthetic, and team sport athletes, with limited data on prevalence in athletes in short-burst activities such as sprinting. We examined prevalence of signs and symptoms of LEA in elite female sprinters at the start of the training season (PRE), and at the end of a 5-month indoor training period (POST). Four of 13 female sprinters (31%) presented at PRE testing with at least one primary (amenorrhea, low bone mineral density, low follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, or estradiol, resting metabolic rate ≤29 kcal/kg fat-free mass, Low Energy Availability in Females Questionnaire score ≥8) and one secondary indicator of LEA (fasting blood glucose <4 mmol/L, free triiodothyronine <3.5 pmol/L, ferritin <25 μg/L, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol >3.0 mmol/L, fasting insulin <20 pmol/L, low insulin-like growth factor-1, systolic blood pressure <90 mmHg, and/or diastolic blood pressure <60 mmHg). At POST, seven out of 13 athletes (54%) presented with at least one primary and one secondary indicator of LEA, three of whom had also presented with indicators of LEA at PRE. Five out of 13 (39%) athletes had previous stress fracture history, though this was not associated with current indicators of LEA (PRE: r = .52, p = .07; POST: r = −.07, p = .82). In conclusion, elite female sprinters may present with signs and symptoms of LEA, even after off-season rest. Medical and coaching staff should be aware of the signs and symptoms of LEA and relative energy deficiency in sport and should include appropriate screening and intervention strategies when working with sprinters.