If you have ever set a resolution to lose weight, then you have probably tried some kind of diet. But have you ever considered the long term implications of these very low energy diets- particularly if you have a decent training schedule? The thing is, it’s possible to cut your energy intake too low and end up worse off than when you started. The topic of Low Energy Availability (LEA) is one that is getting more attention amongst elite athletes, however, it’s one that recreational athletes need to be across as well.
Low Energy Availability (LEA) is the term used to describe the situation where the body does not have enough energy to run all the necessary physiological functions it needs to for good health. Energy availability can be roughly assessed by subtracting daily energy intake from daily energy expenditure. What is left once exercise energy expenditure is accounted for is the energy available to do all the other processes required for health. When this energy budget is too long for too long, performance tends to decline as does dietary compliance (i.e., the diet ends in a fiery ball of sugar, fat and fried foods).
Being in a state of low energy availability can happen via deliberately restricting energy but it can also happen accidentally when training volume increases without changes to energy intake- a common occurrence with people starting a new training program. So how low is too low and what can occur when this happens? Read on to find out more.