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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.

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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.