Female athlete triad

Food and nutrition

Published on 22 June 2021
by Isabelle Huot

The female athlete triad can occur in active women and involves three medical conditions: energy deficiency with or without eating disorders, menstrual cycle disorders and low bone mineral density. The syndrome is caused by energy deficiency, which occurs when there is either insufficient caloric intake or increased energy expenditure, or both at the same time. However, diagnosing energy deficiency is difficult as there is no specific method for evaluating or measuring it. More research is needed to better diagnose the syndrome and prevent it from impacting the health of female athletes, particularly in terms of the reproductive system and bone health (e.g., osteoporosis).


Relative energy deficiency in sport


A new term has recently emerged in scientific research to describe a syndrome similar to the female athlete triad, but with a broader scope that also includes men. It is called the relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S) syndrome. Caused by an energy deficiency, RED-S can affect several systems, including the immune, cardiovascular and endocrine systems. More research is needed to better define its components, mechanism of action and impacts on health and sports performance.


Male athlete triad


The male athlete triad is not yet an official syndrome, but data suggests active men could also be affected by an energy deficiency. This deficiency appears to lead to reduced testosterone levels and adverse effects on bone health.




More research is needed to better define, diagnose, prevent and treat these syndromes in both men and women in order to educate athletes and avoid serious health issues.


Isabelle Huot
Doctor in nutrition