Home > Health & Nutrition

Elite female sprinters prone to low energy availability (LEA)

Like endurance athletes, sprinters are also prone to symptoms of RED-S, which may include amenorrhea and can lead to repeated stress fractures

U Sports Track and Field Championships

While low energy availability (LEA) and relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S) are known to be prevalent in endurance runners, until recently there was little data on their prevalence among sprinters. A recent study confirmed that the conditions are also alarmingly common in sprinters, even after a period of post-season rest.

RELATED: Tina Muir’s struggle with amenorrhea described in new book


The study by four Canadian researchers, published in the September 1, 2018 edition of the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolismexamined elite female sprinters both before and after a five-month period of indoor training.

Before the training period, four of the 13 subjects had symptoms of low energy availability (LEA), even after a period of rest. After the training period, that number had risen to seven. Five had a history of stress fractures.

Primary symptoms of LEA include (but are not limited to) amenorrhea (the absence of menstrual periods), a LEAF score of 8 or higher, or low bone mineral density. Secondary symptoms include low fasting blood glucose, high levels of LDL (the so-called “bad” cholesterol), and low blood pressure. 

The study noted that body fat is not a useful indicator of LEA. It concluded that coaches and medical staff need to be more aware of the symptoms, and intervene as appropriate to help athletes protect their health. This can usually be achieved by athletes increasing their energy intake.

British runner Tina Muir was plagued with amenorrhea for nine years. She recently published a book about her experience.