Artistic Swimming: Preventing Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S) Syndrome

By Margo Mountjoy

The Sport of Artistic Swimming is unique among the aquatic sports, requiring a mixture of endurance, power, agility, acrobatics, and flexibility which once combined produces an artistic performance, most often synchronized with other athletes in the duet and team events.

The extensive training demands of Artistic swimming require the athletes to spend a significant amount of time underwater, upside down, and without luxury of easily available oxygen.  Olympic–level Swimmers have a high volume and intensity training program of 7hrs/day for 6 days/weeks. Given the judged nature of the sport, a body aesthetic for both performance and appearance is ideal.

This short article explains the scientific evidence of a clinical entity characterized by low energy availability, which can negatively affect both the health of the athlete as well as the sport performance.

The term RED-S (relative energy deficiency in sport) is characterized by expending more energy through exercise than intake of energy through nutrition. The risk of acquiring this syndrome is a significant concern for male and female Artistic Swimmers as body shape, appearance and composition (although not a judge element), are prime foci for coaches and athletes.

The intense training demands and aesthetic nature of the sport, foster the presence low energy availability which can result in RED-S in Artistic Swimmers, that often manifests itself in one or more of health consequences, but it can also manifest in the following performance consequences.

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