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» Reference List

  1. Mountjoy, M., et al., International Olympic Committee (IOC) Consensus Statement on Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S): 2018 Update. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab, 2018. 28(4): p. 316–331.
  2. Loucks, A.B., Callister R., Induction and prevention of low-T3 syndrome in exercising women. Am J Physiol, 1993. 264(5 Pt 2): p. R924–30.
  3. Hulmi, J.J., et al., The effects of intensive weight reduction on body composition and serum hormones in female fitness competitors. Frontiers in Physiology, 2017. 10(7): p. 689.
  4. Halliday, T.M., J.P. Loenneke, and B.M. Davy, Dietary Intake, Body Composition, and Menstrual Cycle Changes during Competition Preparation and Recovery in a Drug-Free Figure Competitor: A Case Study. Nutrients, 2016. 8(11).
  5. Fagerberg, P., Negative consequences of low energy availability in natural male bodybuilding: a review. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab, 2018. 28(4): p. 385–402.
  6. Burke, L.M., et al., Pitfalls of Conducting and Interpreting Estimates of Energy Availability in Free-Living Athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab, 2018. 28(4): p. 350–63.

Please keep questions on topic, write clearly, concisely, and don't post diet calculations.

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Michael Simmons
Michael Simmons
January 3, 2020 02:25

Hi Andy,

I went down from 17% body fat to 9% body fat and had many tell tale signs of Red-S. Always cold, insatiable hunger, low heart rate, low testosterone etc. I was at maintenance for 3 weeks but did not observe any restoration in my hormones or otherwise.
Once I regained the weight, all hormones restored. Now I’d like to cut again but I am questioning whether it is even possible to optimize your hormones at a lower body fat % (even say 10-12%). Constant hours of searching for studies and sifting through forums have yielded no scientific evidence that shows that neutral energy balance at a lower body fat can restore hormonal function after a cut.
Am I doomed to never be lean?

Andy Morgan
Admin
Andy Morgan
January 3, 2020 07:31

Hi Michael,

What you’re describing sounds more like someone who dieted for too long, too fast, or didn’t take enough breaks. But let’s set aside whether this is technically RED-S or not for a moment and focus on what to actually do moving forward.

One possibility is that your body may just be unhappy at 9% and you might find a balance at a slightly higher percentage.

However, 3 weeks was too short of a time period to truly tell. I’d diet again, take diet breaks, push maintenance for as far as possible, and then track these measures over a couple of months.

9% is low, but not outrageously low. I’ve guided plenty of people to that level before and having issues like you have described is the exception rather than the norm.

Michael Simmons
Michael Simmons
January 5, 2020 12:26
Reply to  Andy Morgan

Are their any studies that you’ve found that confirm the idea that you can change the bodys set weight (body fat %) without hormonal imbalance? Additionally, how many months would you estimate it takes at maintenance to have everything restore?

Andy Morgan
Admin
Andy Morgan
January 5, 2020 13:12

1. No specific study comes to mind, people do/achieve this all the time.
2. It varies from person to person.

David García
David García
June 24, 2019 17:44

Hi Mr. Morgan,

Great article, like usual!

For clients that need to lose a fair amount of body fat and will be in a low energy availability state for quite a long time, can including Diet Breaks, at certain points, not only be beneficial on the psychological aspect but also to help prevent some or all of the low energy availability symptoms?

Thanks in advance for your time.

Andy Morgan
Admin
Andy Morgan
June 24, 2019 20:32
Reply to  David García

Hi David, thank you for the question.

We are both proponents of periodical diet breaks. My article on that here.

David García
David García
June 25, 2019 13:58
Reply to  Andy Morgan

Thank you Andy!

Andy Morgan
Admin
Andy Morgan
June 25, 2019 21:02
Reply to  David García

Most welcome.

D
D
December 15, 2018 01:15

Great article and a very interesting concept. Thanks for posting it! I’m hoping you can clear some things up for me, though.

First, regarding the case study of the female bodybuilder not regaining her cycle despite regaining lost weight post-competition, is the idea that she was somehow maintaining a leaner physique even though she weighed the same, or perhaps that she was doing far more training post-contest compared to pre-contest? If she regained the weight, then how would she be in RED unless it was one of those two cases?

Second, 10-12 cal/lb seems like a pretty common cutting target for men, and yet that would seemingly put you below the EA threshold for developing RED-S if you’re training. Is the idea here that you’d get the cut over with before RED sets in? Or something else? Is there much data on how long RED takes to set in, or is there something I’m misunderstanding? Thank you!

D
D
January 23, 2019 02:30
Reply to  D

Hey Andy, still wondering about this if you have the time to answer. Thanks so much

Andy Morgan
Admin
Andy Morgan
January 23, 2019 18:41
Reply to  D

Hi D., sorry for missing this. I’ve pinged Eric who is better equipped to answer. His day for answering comments is Monday so check back on Tuesday.

D
D
February 2, 2019 01:56
Reply to  Andy Morgan

No problem! Thank you!

Eric Helms
Editor
Eric Helms
January 23, 2019 18:54
Reply to  D

D – relative energy deficiency can occur at any body weight or body composition. Let’s say you got ready for a show, binged for 3 weeks, put back on most of the weight, and then went through a long phase of on and off periods of being in a caloric deficit and then surplus over time, in a cyclical fashion, constantly coming in and out of a deficit. You’d be in a state of frequent restriction and low energy availability, and could very easily result in not having a menstrual cycle return. After three weeks you also haven’t seen a full recovery of sex and metabolic hormone levels, which while they would come up a good bit from the initial weight gain, sometimes take months to completely recover. So it’s not just body weight or body comp, it’s what you have to do to get/stay there.

Secondly, almost anyone who diets reaches a state of low energy availability, it’s not a matter of getting in and out before it sets in, or avoiding it. Rather, it’s mitigating it as much as possible and understanding what are reasonable expectations; i.e. someone overweight trying to achieve a healthier weight should take a moderate approach and probably take a diet break when symptoms crop up, and then do another block of dieting after. A competitor, may not have that luxury and should understand that eventually, they will experience many of the symptoms, even doing everything right, and that then the focus becomes recovery afterwards.

It’s not an on and off switch, it’s a continuum related to the severity of the energy availability, and the time spent in a state of low energy availability.

Hope this helps. If you have additional questions here is the IOC position stand most updated https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/52/11/687.share it’s a free full text

D
D
February 2, 2019 01:56
Reply to  Eric Helms

Thank you, Dr. Helms! That makes so much more sense now. I appreciate the clarification.

Celine
Celine
December 12, 2018 15:54

Excellent article! Could lack of weight loss theoretically also be a symptom?

Andy Morgan
Admin
Andy Morgan
December 13, 2018 08:22
Reply to  Celine

I wouldn’t say it’s very useful to think like that, because you could just be at caloric maintenance in a normal metabolic state. In which case, the vast majority of people would be said to have a symptom of REDS.

If you increase calories and didn’t gain weight, that would be a sign of it.

Freddie
Freddie
December 12, 2018 06:27

Great article on a topic that is really important as the internet encourages more people – even non-bodybuilders – to keep chasing lower body fat percentages. I found the following quote the most interesting: “an energy deficit does result in decreased production of metabolic and sex hormones in both men and women, but what is critical to understand is this can occur at energy balance (caloric maintenance, where weight is maintained) as well.” Is it an accurate summary to say that maintaining weight is not the key to avoiding hormonal downturn, rather maintaining weight at an “appropriate” body fat percentage is key?

Andy Morgan
Admin
Andy Morgan
December 12, 2018 09:50
Reply to  Freddie

Absolutely.

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