Raising awareness about the impacts of underfueling with Project RED-S

Project RED-S aims to provide information and a safe space for athletes affected by Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport

A new organisation called Project RED-S aims to raise awareness about a disorder caused by nutritional underfueling in sports.

RED-S, which stands for Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport, is a shortage of available energy to keep up with the demands of exercise, on top of essential daily functions (e.g. growth, respiration and digestion). The condition, which can affect both males and females, is caused by consistently consuming insufficient calories for the amount of energy expended, either intentionally or unintentionally.

What are the symptoms of RED-S?

The condition can manifest itself in a number of ways, including unexplained fatigue, recurrent or persistent injuries and low iron levels. Another significant physical symptom is irregular or missing periods (hypothalamic amenorrhea).

Psychological symptoms can include poor concentration and depression, anxiety around meal times or avoidance of eating certain food groups, such as carbs or fats.

Pippa Woolven, GB distance runner and founder of Project RED-S, suffered with the condition for five years: “I went from competing on the international stage to struggling to find the energy to complete simple daily tasks,” says Pippa. “After years of uncertainty and frustration, I finally found a blog online which mentioned the condition. It was only then that I was able to piece together my symptoms, seek specialist support and receive the correct diagnosis.”

Expert guidance

With the support of a group of world-class athletes and clinical experts, Pippa and her team launched Project RED-S on Friday 9 September, aiming to address misinformation and provide a safe space for athletes affected by the condition. The web platform will also signpost athletes to the right medical, nutritional and psychological support.

“I created Project RED-S to provide others with what I desperately needed at the start of my struggle: reliable resources and athlete-to-athlete support.” Pippa says. “I wanted to create a space where athletes and their supporters feel listened to, understood and empowered to improve their situation.”

Over the coming months, Project RED-S will be releasing education materials, awareness videos and taking on some research projects, alongside delivering talks, one-to-one mentoring and working with governing bodies to reduce rates of the condition.

To find out more about RED-S, visit red-s.com. Click here for more information about nutrition for outdoor swimming.

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Abi writes swimming news stories and features for the Outdoor Swimmer website and manages the social media channels. She loves to swim, run, hike and SUP close to her home in Herefordshire. While she’s a keen wild swimmer, Abi is new to the world of open water events and recently completed her first open water mile. She has previously written for The Guardian, BBC Countryfile Magazine, BBC History Magazine and Ernest Journal.