Starving For Success

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Discussion' started by Simon, Dec 9, 2018.

  1. Simon

    Simon Administrator Admin Supporter MAP 2017 Koyo Award

    This item was covered in a BBC news programme this morning and I found it incredible the effects of under eating could have on the body, including one female athlete who hadn't had a period for 8 years.


    Anna Boniface seemed to have the world at her feet when finishing as the 2017 London Marathon's fastest amateur female runner.

    Her performance earned her an England team place in that autumn's Toronto Marathon. The then 25-year-old finished the London race in two hours, 37 minutes and travelled to Canada six months later.

    But 10 miles into her international debut, Anna's ankle fractured.

    "It was the breakthrough that broke me," she tells BBC 5 live Investigates.

    "It was horrible, I'd never not finished a race in my life. I thought I could just struggle to the end somehow, but I realised I would not be able to go on, I just had to sit on the kerb and wait."

    But worse was to come for the Reading runner. In addition to the stress fracture of her ankle, tests found poor bone density, including osteoporosis in her spine, which made fractures a real risk.

    These symptoms were all hallmarks of a condition called Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (Red-S).

    This occurs when sports people restrict their diet in the belief that constant weight loss will keep improving performance, to such an extent that some of the body's functions begin to shut down.


    The condition can cause a range of health problems in men and women including a drop in hormone levels, a deterioration in bone density, a drop in metabolic rate and mental health problems.

    Anna, who works as a physiotherapist, admits she was aware of the condition but was so desperate to keep improving that she ignored the warning signs, which included not having a period for eight years.

    "It was a lot to do with my training volume and not eating enough - not being wide enough in my food groups, being restrictive with carbohydrates," she says.

    "I was training twice a day, I was running 100-plus miles a week at times, and you burn up a lot of energy with that, and from a runner's perspective you get it into your mind that you need to be this race weight.

    "You get caught up in this cycle of running really fast, wanting to lose a little more weight, push that race weight a little bit more, running faster, and then just breaking, which is what happened."

    The state of Anna's health was discovered before any more serious damage could be done and, after a year's rest, she has been able to slowly return to running.

    Red-S can affect male and female athletes and became a recognised condition in 2014 - replacing another condition called female athlete triad, which recognised the affect of too few calories among sportswomen only.

    There have been few studies into the prevalence of the condition but it is understood to be most common in sports such as athletics, cycling and dancing, where being light could make a significant difference to performance.

    On Sunday, the #Trainbrave campaign is being launched to raise awareness of the risks of Red-S, particularly among promising amateur sportspeople who may be trying to improve their performance without giving enough thought to their diet.


    It was the same drive for performance perfection which led cyclist Sam Woodfield, 28, from Northamptonshire, to lose up to one-third of his body weight in a year, after taking up the sport in 2016.

    Having previously been a bodybuilder and a natural sportsman, losing some weight helped him to rapidly progress to a competitive level in the sport and he began to take it seriously.

    But his drive for better performance spiralled to the point that he was frequently enduring gruelling training rides without eating.

    For Sam the equation was simple: "Lighter meant faster which meant I stood more chance of winning."

    'Like an 80-year-old'

    For a time it worked but his victories came at a huge cost. By 2017 Sam had so little energy he could barely walk upstairs, he could not sleep and his mental health was suffering.

    He accepted he needed help and had a series of tests which revealed the true cost of his pursuit of performance.

    "I was told I had very low visceral fat around my body which is essential fat you need to keep you alive," he says.

    "I was also told that, as well as having no testosterone, I had the bone density of an 80-year-old in my spine and my hips. It was a very scary point in my life."

    Dr Nicky Keay, a sport and dance endocrinologist, says Red-S occurs when the athlete's body does not have enough energy to sustain it and begins to shut down.

    She says: "The body partitions the energy you get from your diet. You need an amount to cover training, then the remaining energy is what you need for day-to-day life.

    "If you're not getting enough spare energy you go into survival mode. Oestrogen levels drop in women and testosterone for men which is key for bone health.

    "It's like when your phone's battery drops to a low level, it switches off lots of non-essential apps, this is what the body is doing."

    Five live Investigates asked British Athletics what it was doing to raise awareness of the risks among athletes.

    In response, it said it works with a number of partner organisations, including the English Institute of Sport, to ensure awareness and treatment of the conditions that are part of the Red-S.

    The athletes starving themselves for success
    Mushroom and axelb like this.
  2. axelb

    axelb Master of Office Chair Fu

    The lengths they do through for an extra fraction of a second better.

    I read recently about the weight cutting for fights, particularly MMA, where the repeated extreme malnutrition to their bodies causes so sorts of failures in the body. :(
  3. Mitlov

    Mitlov Shiny

    After seeing what a classmate of mine in high school did to make weight for wrestling, I won't let my kids do a sport where they need to "make weight." I hadn't even thought about similar risks in sports where you don't have to make work, but nevertheless low weight is a competitive advantage.

    I realize some folks here do sports where they need to regularly make weight. More power to you, and I'm sure there are ways to do it right without hurting yourself. I just don't want my own kids getting caught up in that scene, because it's so tempting to not do it right.
  4. Mushroom

    Mushroom De-powered to come back better than before.

    I've never had to lose weight to the point of rabdo and peeing out (what looks like) coke. Thankfully.

    Followed a calorie restricted diet. Plenty of green leafy greens (not included in the calorie count) and worked out 2 or 3 times a day.

    I did do a little bit of dehydration but never ever the level of Olympic wrestlers or pre 2015 MMA fighters, who would lose 20lb in a night to weigh in once for a second, and try and rehydrate the next day.

    That stuff is scary to me and I just couldnt think what the benefit is. But, Im not in their position, getting paid 1000s for fights and sponsorships.
    Im simply a slightly active hobbyist.
    axelb likes this.
  5. BohemianRapsody

    BohemianRapsody Valued Member

    There’s two types of making weight especially with youth sports. One is to eat whatever you want and only worry about it in the last few days before competition, where you’re forced to drop extreme amounts of water weight.

    The other is to maintain a healthy diet year round, stay in shape during the off season and at worst add an extra morning run to your workout the day before or day of.

    I was in the latter category and didn’t have any issues.

    A few of the kids I went to high school with on the wrestling team would come into the season completely out of shape and struggle all the way through.

    Nothing wrong with sports where you have to make weight and they can actually reinforce healthy lifelong diet and exercise habits if approached properly.

    Those last three words being the key point.

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