Most cyclists know that proper fuel is essential for training, racing, and performing better. Despite that, under-fuelling is not that uncommon. This article will cover some of the possible negative effects and ways to repair the damage and get back on track if it happens to you.
Negative health effects
The previous article was all about how to spot whether you’re under-fuelling or not. Those symptoms can already give you a good idea about the possible negative health effects. Unfortunately, there are also things that are not that easy to spot. These sneaky adverse effects of the low-energy availability state may include unwanted hormonal changes, reduction in bone quality, and stress on the cardiovascular system.
The cumulative low-energy availability over days and months can also result in suboptimal growth and development in young athletes and decreased response to training, impaired coordination, and increased injury risk in adult athletes. The longer a low-energy availability situation continues, the harder it can become to restore health and performance from both the physical and psychological point of view.
Check for underlying conditions
Before you start dealing with under-fuelling, you have to rule out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms. Ask your doctor for a standard blood test. It will rule out hormonal conditions, infections, digestive problems, and specific nutrient deficiencies. If no other conditions are the cause, then your blood tests as well as a DXA scan to check bone density, if you have access to it, will show how severe your energy deficit was.
Review your nutrition
Now that you know that under-fuelling is the problem, the most important thing to do is to restore the balance between training, nutrition, and recovery. Let’s start with nutrition. Take a look at how much you eat overall and around training. Keep a detailed food log for one week. This will help you estimate your energy intake and make adjustments accordingly. It will also reveal whether you fuel your training sessions appropriately. If nutrition is not your thing, then don’t hesitate to consult a sports nutritionist to help you.
Reduce training intensity
Another thing you should do right away is to reduce your training intensity. After you get your nutrition under control, you can start gradually adding it back in. But be sure to compensate for the increasing energy expenditure with food intake accordingly to avoid issues with under-fuelling in the future.
Increase recovery days
The third thing that will help your body get back on track and reverse the negative health effects of under-fuelling is increased recovery. Add more rest days to each training week and keep monitoring all of the changes in nutrition, training intensity, and rest. Only return to the full training load after all symptoms disappear and your body feels fully restored.