Date of Award

Summer 6-6-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Dan Benardot

Second Advisor

Desiree Wanders

Third Advisor

Nomeli Nunez



Title: Relative Energy Deficiency in Female Collegiate Track & Field Athletes.

Background: Energy deficiency and its consequences have long been studied in female athletes because of it’s potential for increasing risks of illness and injury. Sustaining an energy deficient diet while training and during competition may result in muscle loss and reduction in performance. Studies suggest that athletes competing in sports focusing on appearance or a lean physique are at high risk for energy deficiency. In 2014, the IOC developed the concept of ‘Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport’ (RED-S) to include new components not previously included in the Female Athlete Triad. A study has not yet been completed applying the RED-S paradigm in collegiate track and field athletes.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence of RED-S in female collegiate track and field athletes. It was hypothesized that the majority of collegiate track and field athletes experience RED-S. It was also hypothesized that a greater percentage of distance runners experience RED-S than other track and field athletes, including throwers, jumpers, and sprinters. The components of RED-S assessed were menstrual function, bone health, and energy expenditure.

Methods: This study was a descriptive cross-sectional study, obtaining data through the use of a questionnaire and a relative energy expenditure index on a population of 12 female collegiate track and field athletes. Data were obtained through the use of a LEAF-Q questionnaire, a three-day food and exercise recall, and body composition analysis.

Results: The 12 athletes were a combination of distance runners (n=5), throwers (n=2), and sprinters (n=5). Average subject characteristics were: age (20.6 ±1. 44 years), height (165.6 ±7.5cm), weight (63.58 ± 16.97kg), and body fat percentage (20.9± 7.2). Average energy intake over three days was 2146 kcal (±627), and the average predicted energy expenditure was 2380 kcal (±458). Average hours spent in a catabolic (52.8 ± 24.0), highly catabolic (37.5 ± 25.0), anabolic (19.2 ± 24.0), and highly anabolic state (12.4 ± 21.0). Subjects were in a negative energy balance state the majority of the days analyzed, and 75% of the population had at least one day of dietary recall below 45 kcal/kg FFM/day. Spearman’s rho analysis found a significant inverse correlation between Day 1 hours spent in optimal energy balance (± 400 kcal) and body fat percent (p=0.024, rs= -0.643), and significant positive correlation between Day 1 hours spent in optimal energy balance (± 400 kcal) and fat free mass percentage (p=0.03, rs=0.625). Spearman’s rho analysis also found an inverse correlation between Day 1 hours spent in an energy deficit (s= -0.626), and a positive correlation between Day 1 hours spent in an energy deficit and body fat percentage (p=0.026, rs=0.636). Seven out of twelve participants scored ≥ 8 on the LEAF-Q putting them at risk for RED-S.

Conclusion: The study highlights the misleading effect of averaging multiple days of dietary recall on energy balance. When participant’s dietary recalls were assessed day by day the majority of hours were spent in a catabolic state, however when the three days of the recall were averaged the severity of the hours spent in a catabolic state lessened. The associations in this study are consistent with previous studies evaluating the relationships between energy balance deficits and body composition, indicating that longer duration spent in an energy deficit is associated with lower lean and higher fat mass. The findings from the LEAF-Q show that 58% of participants were at risk for RED-S, and half of all participants had or were experiencing menstrual dysfunction.