Purpose: To evaluate the effects of low energy availability (EA) on health and performance indices associated with the Male Athlete Triad and Relative Energy Deficiency in Sports (RED-S) models.
Methods: Over an 8 week period, a male combat sport athlete adhered to a phased body mass (BM) loss plan consisting of 7 weeks energy intake (EI) equating to resting metabolic rate (RMR) (1700 kcal·day) (Phase 1), 5 days of reduced EI (1200-300 kcal·day) prior to weigh-in (Phase 2) and one week of ad libitum EI post-competition (Phase 3). EA fluctuated day by day due to variations in exercise energy expenditure. Regular assessments of body composition, RMR, cardiac function, cardiorespiratory capacity, strength & power, psychological state and blood clinical chemistry for endocrine, bone turnover, hydration, electrolyte, renal, liver and lipid profiles were performed.
Results: BM was reduced over the 8 week period by 13.5% (72.5 to 62.7 kg). No consequences of Male Athlete Triad or RED-S were evident during phase 1, where mean daily EA equated to 20 kcal·kg·FFM·day (range: 7 to 31 kcal·kg·FFM·day) and BM and fat mass (FM) losses were 6.5 and 4.4 kg, respectively. However, consequences did present in phase 2 when mean daily EA was consistently <10 kcal·kg·FFM·day, as evidenced by alterations to endocrine hormones (e.g. testosterone: <5 nmol.L) and reduced RMR (-257 kcal·day).
Conclusion: Data demonstrate that 7 weeks of daily fluctuations in EA equating to a mean value of 20 kcal·kg·FFM·day permits reductions of BM and FM without perturbations to physiological systems associated with the Male Athlete Triad and RED-S. In contrast, a subsequent period of 5 consecutive days of EA <10 kcal·kg·FFM·day induced consequences of Male Athlete Triad and RED-S.