Q: What are some signs that you may not be refueling properly post-run?
A: Chronically under-fueling while training, is dangerous, and can inhibit your ability to train and impact on your long-term health. Our bodies are actually great at letting us know when we are not properly refueling and tuning in to it can prove to be very beneficial. To reference another of Trail Runner’s columnists, “Eat enough, always. Eat too much, sometimes. Eat too little, never.”
Some common acute signs and symptoms of under-fueling include the following:
- Muscle soreness
- Sleep disturbances
- Muscle cramping/pain
- Insatiable hunger
Chronically under-fueling can lead to a more serious condition called RED-S or Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport in men and women. Although symptoms tend to vary from person to person some common symptoms of RED-S include:
- Increase in injury prevalence
- Decreased endurance performance
- Decreased muscle strength
- Loss of menstruation
- Frequent illness
- Low bone mineral density
If you’re feeling under-fueled, there are some concrete steps you can take.
#1) If your symptoms are acute, simply focusing on bulking up your meals or adding in a high, calorie, high protein snack like a smoothie in the afternoon or evening could help you to reach your bodies’ fueling needs.
#2) If your symptoms indicate signs of RED-S, it is important to correct this condition immediately. A registered dietitian can help you evaluate your current intake and work on a plan to get you back on track. In some cases, it would be highly recommended to work in conjunction with a medical doctor, registered dietitian, and psychologist.
Consistently checking in with your body and even journaling about energy levels, mood, sleep quality, running performance, and hunger levels can all assist in catching under-fueling before it becomes a more serious issue.
Do you have a question for our RDN? Send your trail-running-nutrition quandaries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kylee Van Horn is a licensed Sports Registered Dietitian and competitive trail runner.