Low energy availability (LEA) is a state in which the amount of energy taken in from food is not sufficient to support normal physiological functioning, including menstrual function, bone health, and immune system function. This can occur when the energy intake is low relative to the amount of energy expended during physical activity and other daily tasks, or when excessive exercise or restrictive eating behaviours disrupt the balance between energy intake and energy expenditure.
Low energy availability (LEA) can lead to a range of health problems, including decreased athletic performance, menstrual dysfunction, and increased risk of injury and illness.
Who is at risk?
Individuals who engage in activities that require a high level of physical activity are at higher risk for LEA. Additionally, individuals with disordered eating behaviours, such as restrictive eating or binge eating, are also at risk for LEA. Women and girls are particularly at risk due to cultural and societal pressure to maintain a certain body shape or weight.
However, low energy availability can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or lifestyle. It’s important for everyone to monitor their energy balance and seek help if they suspect that they may be at risk for LEA.
How do you recover from LEA?
Recovering from low energy availability requires addressing the underlying causes and restoring a healthy balance between energy intake and energy expenditure. Some steps to recover from LEA include:
- Increase energy intake: Gradually increase your calorie intake to meet your energy needs and support your normal physiological functions.
- Eat a balanced diet: Consume a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats.
- Reduce excessive exercise: Reduce excessive or intense exercise and incorporate more moderate and restorative activities, such as yoga or stretching.
- Seek professional help: Consult with a registered dietitian, mental health professional, or sports medicine doctor to address any disordered eating behaviours or other psychological factors that may be contributing to low energy availability.
- Monitor progress: Regularly monitor your weight, body composition, and overall health to track your progress and make adjustments as needed.
It’s important to remember that recovery from low energy availability is a gradual process and may take time. It’s also important to work with a healthcare professional to ensure that the recovery plan is safe and appropriate for your individual needs.
If you need help learning how to fuel your workouts, contact me!