This is part two of my learnings from the Female Athlete Conference held here in Boston in June. You can read part one here. One of the key benefits of attending this conference is to learn about new research directly from the researchers themselves, sometimes before it’s published. And I was riveted by a presentation from Dr. Kristin Whitney on LEA in Boston Marathon runners and am looking forward to reading the research paper in detail when it’s published!
Dr. Whitney summarized recently completed research evaluating the performance and health consequences associated with low energy availability (LEA) in marathon runners which clearly demonstrates the negative consequences of not eating enough to fuel health & performance. This novel research followed 1,030 female & male 2022 Boston marathon runners (most were qualifiers) and evaluated their performance and medical outcomes relative to whether these individuals’ exhibited markers of “problematic” low energy availability (LEA) prior to the race. LEA status was derived from several questionnaires including the Low Energy Availability in Female Athletes Questionnaire (LEAF-Q) and the Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire (EDE-Q). The study found:
- More female marathon runners had indicators of “problematic” LEA as compared to male runners with 42.5% vs. 17.6% respectively
- Athletes identified as having problematic LEA (as compared to those that did not have problematic LEA):
- Did not perform as well in the race (timing chip)Were 1.95 times more likely to require medical support (of any type)
- Had a 3.55 times greater risk of a serious medical event (i.e. critical condition, hospital transport)
Dr. Whitney shared that a sizeable segment of athletes reported limited nutrition knowledge and did not consult additional resources to learn more which suggests a significant opportunity to educate athletes about the importance of eating enough and hydrating properly for health and performance.
Lack of education is often referred to as a key driver of LEA & one of the more common missteps is not increasing energy intake commensurate with training load increases. Investing in a comprehensive sports nutrition assessment provides an important baseline to improve health & performance. Schedule a complimentary introduction call to learn more.