Are you eating enough to fuel your performance?

PSA for female athletes: You need to eat to fuel your performance. A review by Ackerman et al suggests almost half of female athletes (n=1,000 across 40 different sports) may be at risk for low energy availability (LEA) but the incidence could be higher or lower depending on the sport, though risk tends higher sports that require a high volume of training e.g. endurance sports such as distance running.1,2,3

And while eating less than needed may not have noticeable consequences initially, extended periods of eating less energy than the body needs to function and to fuel performance can cause significant health issues including endocrine system dysfunction and increased risk of bone stress injuries.4 Further, not eating enough may mean an athlete is missing out on many important nutrients the body needs to perform at its best both in life and in sport.

And despite an increase in research and related social media on the prevalence, risk factors and impacts of LEA in female athletes, unfortunately, those closest to the athletes, the coaches, may not be fully aware of the implications of their athletes not fueling properly. A recent survey of 143 NCAA D1-D3 cross-country/track & field coaches (a sport where the risk of LEA is higher) found3:

  • 29% of coaches “have not heard of the Female Athlete Triad” i.e. that low energy availability (LEA) can lead to alterations in hormones, and can cause menstrual dysfunction and reduced bone mineral density. Additional symptoms may include anxiety, depression, and mood changes, among many others (read our post on LEA here).
  • 36% of coaches couldn’t identify any of the three components of the Female Athlete Triad
  • Slightly more than 1 in 10 coaches thought “the absence of a period is a normal result of exercise in female athletes” (note: it is NOT normal). And another 27% did not agree or disagree with this statement.

To help you adapt to training and improve performance and recovery, adding a sports nutritionist to your team can help ensure you are best positioned to reach your 2023 goals. What can a sports nutritionist do for you? A sports nutritionist:

  • Ensures athletes are taking in optimal energy, nutrients, and hydration to fuel performance
  • Provides nutrition strategies for before, during and after exercise or sport
  • Helps address gastrointestinal problems that can keep athletes from performing their best
  • Offers nutritional support to help reduce risk of injury or to recover from injury
  • Guides athletes in making informed food and supplement choices
  • Shares new food preparation and meal planning ideas
  • Stays up to date on the science of sports nutrition and applies the latest evidence-based guidelines in developing nutrition plans for athletes

Schedule a complimentary 15′ call to learn how Nutrify Performance Nutrition for Women can help you meet your goals this year.


1Ackerman, K.E., Holtzman, B., Cooper, K.M. et al Low energy availability surrogates correlate with health and performance consequences of Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport British Journal of Sports Medicine 2019;53:628-633.

2Jagim, A. R., Fields, J., Magee, M. K., Kerksick, C. M., & Jones, M. T. (2022). Contributing factors to low energy availability in female athletes: A narrative review of energy availability, training demands, nutrition barriers, body image, and disordered eating. Nutrients, 14(5), 986.

3Misra, M. (2022). Female athlete Triad recognition and knowledge of collegiate cross-country coaches. Journal of Women’s Sports Medicine, 2(2), 108–111.

4Wasserfurth, P., Palmowski, J., Hahn, A. et al. Reasons for and Consequences of Low Energy Availability in Female and Male Athletes: Social Environment, Adaptations, and Prevention. Sports Med – Open 6, 44 (2020).