Coyle warns of dangers of energy deficiency disorder

Two times Olympian became anaemic ‘and I was getting injured and sick all the time’

Pentathlete Natalya Coyle and gymnast Rhys McClenaghan at the Olympic Federation of Ireland  announcement of Indeed as the new sponsor. Photograph:  Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography

Pentathlete Natalya Coyle and gymnast Rhys McClenaghan at the Olympic Federation of Ireland announcement of Indeed as the new sponsor. Photograph: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography

 

Two times Olympian from London 2012 and Rio 2016 Natalya Coyle has spoken about the dangers of developing RED-S (Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport), a condition in which elite athletes suffer an imbalance in energy intake and energy output.

Simple as it sounds the condition has detrimental effects on bone health, menstrual function, metabolic rate, immune function, cardiovascular health and psychological health.

Coyle, who came ninth in London and sixth in Rio in the Modern Pentathlon, developed RED-S in 2013 and it her took a long time to recover. It is different from an eating disorder in that it occurs when the calorific intake is too little for the elite athlete workload. Fully recovered, she currently consumes 4,000 calories a day.

“It has become very prominent,” said Coyle at an Olympic Federation of Ireland (OFI) announcement of recruitment company Indeed as a new sponsor. “I didn’t realise what I had. I had become anaemic and I was getting injured and sick all the time. I’d get two really good weeks of training and suddenly I’d get a hip problem and I’d have a cold.

‘Eat more’

“That’s when I learned I had to eat more. Everyone is different. I wasn’t doing it on purpose. I just wasn’t educated enough to know the calorie content. I’d to take six months off. It’s not like you can rest for a week and get better – you have to wait until your whole system rests. I’m lucky my system reset. It was a tough slog.”

Coyle, who will target qualification for next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, has a number of events before the first Olympic European qualifier in August, where the top eight qualify automatically. The World Championships take place in Budapest in September with three more qualifying places.

‘Hugely detrimental’

“It’s good more people are talking about it,” added the 28-year-old. “I didn’t know what it was. So many talented young athletes – girls and boys – come and break all these records at 16 and 15 and you never see them at 18.

“These women coming out now saying: ‘Oh I haven’t had a period in 12 years.’ That’s hugely detrimental not only if she wants to have kids but also [regarding] osteoporosis. These things are really important.”

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.